“Be happy” quote attributed to Shakespeare is fake

FactCheck August 5, 2019

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from July 31, 2018 by Heart Touching featuring an image of English writer William Shakespeare.  

This Facebook post from July 31, 2018 attributes a “be happy” quote to English poet, William Shakespeare.

The post contained a quote that reads: “Shakespeare said: I always feel happy. You know why? Because I don’t expect anything from anyone. Expectations always hurt, Life is short. So love your life. Be Happy. And keep smiling. Just live for yourself & before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you pray. Forgive. Before you hurt, feel. Before you hate, love. Before you quit, try. Before you die, live.”

Heart Touching describes itself as “an inspirational page offering you enlightening quotes, heart touching stories and motivational articles to make your life more beautiful”. Its Facebook page has over 150,000 likes.

The post had been shared more than 11,000 times and attracted more than 80 comments and 3100 reactions.

The Analysis

Tiffany Stern, Professor of Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at the University of Birmingham, advised AAP FactCheck the quote had “nothing in common with Shakespeare … and is not even a parody of the way he wrote”.

“It is not in early modern (‘Shakespearean’) English. It is not written beautifully. Its sentiments are easy and unabashedly upbeat (Shakespeare is often melancholy and usually complex),” she said.

Dr David McInnis, a senior lecturer in Shakespeare Studies from The University of Melbourne agreed with Professor Stern, advising AAP FactCheck, “Shakespeare never wrote anything to that effect”.

“For one thing, he only uses the word “expectations” on one occasion, when Roderigo says (in Othello), “The jewels you have had from me to deliver to Desdemona would half have corrupted a votarist: you have told me she hath received them and returned me expectations and comforts of sudden respect and acquaintance, but I find none,” Dr McInnis said

“I have no idea who made up this quotation but it has nothing to do with William Shakespeare.”

A poem titled “Before You” by American writer William Arthur Ward poem was appropriated to William Shakespeare.

AAP FactCheck analysed the image and found the second part of the quote was attributed to American poet William Arthur Ward from a poem titled, “Before You”. The second part of the Facebook quote was: “… before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you pray. Forgive. Before you hurt, feel. Before you hate, love. Before you quit, try. Before you die, live”. 

Mr Ward was born in 1921 in Louisiana and died in 1994. He wrote more than 100 poems, articles and meditations published in various magazines including Reader’s Digest and This Week. He’s listed as one of America’s most quoted writers of “inspirational maxims”.

AAP FactCheck found Shakespeare did mention the phrase “life is short” in at least one of his works. In Henry IV Part 1, he wrote: “O gentlemen, the time of life is short! To spend that shortness basely were too long, If life did ride upon a dial’s point, Still ending at the arrival of an hour.”

The Verdict 

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found the quote attributed to William Shakespeare to be false. Part of the quote was taken from a poem by American writer William Arthur Ward. 

  • False – The Facebook post is false.

 First published August 5, 2019 12:12 AEST

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