6 Misconceptions about Popular Quotes in Literature

  • In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet asks, ““O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?”. This actually means: “Why are you Romeo?” rather than “Where are you, Romeo?”. Juliet is wondering why Romeo must be a Montague, an enemy of the Capulets.
  • Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” is often used in love letters in modern day, but many do not know that Shakespeare’s sonnet was written to his friend, a man.
  • Many quote the Bible in stating “money is the root of all evil.” In actuality, the love of money is the root of all evil, or at least according to Timothy 6:10 in the King James Bible. So, you may have money, just don’t love it.
  • It is commonly interpreted that Robert Frost’s “I took the road less traveled” connotes a positive message of taking the untraveled path, but it appears Frost arbitrarily selected his path and the result of his choice didn’t appear to matter. This interpretation strays from the modern idea that Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” advocates individualism.
  • Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland features the quote, “Oh, ‘tis love, ‘tis love that makes the world go ‘round.” Reading it out of context, you may think it is a beautifully romantic message. In context, Carol uses the Duchess as a means to criticize the double life that many Victorians led at home and in public. At home, the Duchess beats her child, yet in public she advises others on moral issues. The discrepancy between how the Duchess acts at home and in public strips this sarcastic quote of a romantic value.
  • While many understand the phrase “star-crossed lovers” from Romeo and Juliet to mean that Romeo and Juliet were deeply in love, it actually means that they were crossed by the stars, or doomed by fate.

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