Satisfying Shakespearean Ways To Tell Someone To Go Away #2: Get Thee Hence!

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There are times when each of us needs to tell someone to go away. Adding a Shakespearean flavour to it lends both style and emphasis to any ejection of a bothersome person.  It can also deliver a most satisfying sense of accomplishment to lovers of Shakespeare or of language in general.

The Problem of Female Agency in Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’
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Get thee hence! is equivalent to “Get out of here!” or “Get away from here!” It often seems stronger and more urgent than begone! or get thee gone!

Upon hearing of the royal decree that the Duke of Suffolk must be exiled – later in that same scene of Henry 6, part 2 in which she previously bid him “get thee gone”– Margaret of Anjou urges the Duke of Suffolk to leave her presence in a hurry before her husband, King Henry VI, finds them together:

“Now get thee hence, the King, thou know’st, is coming.
If thou be found by me, thou art but dead.”

Margaret’s pleas escalate from “get thee gone” to “get thee hence” in proportion to the danger of Suffolk being found in her company. demonstrating the increased urgency of her tone and command.

The Problem of Female Agency in Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’
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A sense of impatience rather than imperiative is captured in Act 4, Scene 4 of The Two Gentlemen of Verona where Proetus bids Launce, who has just screwed up Proteus’ gift to Silvia of a puppy,
“Go, get thee hence, and find my dog again,
Or ne’er return again into my sight.
Away, I say! Stayest thou to vex me here?”

The Problem of Female Agency in Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’
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In Antony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra uses the phrase twice in the course of her conversation with an  Egyptian messenger who delivers unwelcome information regarding Marc Antony: that Antony is good friends with Caesar, and finally that he is married to Octavia.

Obviously angry, Cleopatra repsonds to the messenger with considerable hostility: after wishing a most infectious pestilence upon him, striking him to the ground, threatening him with torture and saying that he has “liv’d too long”, this exchange occurs:

CLEOPATRA
Is he married?
I cannot hate thee worser than I do,
If thou again say yes.

MESSENGER
He’s married, madam.

CLEOPATRA
The gods confound thee, dost thou hold there still?
MESSENGER
Should I lie, madam?

CLEOPATRA
O, I would thou didst;
So half my Egypt were submerg’d and made
A cistern for scal’d snakes! Go get thee hence!

The repetition of “get thee hence” just a few lines later highlights the strength of the command and is proof positive that Cleopatra wasn’t messing around.

The Problem of Female Agency in Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’
#women #Shakespeare #ShakespeareSunday

Get thee hence! is certainly expressive and delivers a satisfying sense of Shakespearean drama to your demand to be left alone.

Of course, if they don’t go, you can always try mixing it up a little with the words of Imogene from Cymbeline, Act 5, Scene 5: “O, get thee from my sight… Dangerous fellow, hence!”

Misunderstood Shakespeare: “What The Dickens”

Many people assume that “What the dickens?” is a reference to the author Charles Dickens. 

Considering that Shakespeare wrote this expression in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ in 1600 and Charles Dickens was born in 1812, that is entirely impossible. 

Instead, ‘dickens’ is a euphemism for ‘devil’, as is ‘deuce’. When Mrs Page says “I cannot tell what the dickens his name is…” she really means ‘what the devil”.

It’s a more polite way of expressing strength of an idea or emphasising their intent, in this case, that she has no idea of the identity of the person she is being asked about. It’s exactly the same as people saying ‘heck’ instead of hell, ‘gosh’ instead of ‘God’ and ‘jeez’ instead of ‘Jesus’, and is probably  done for the same reason: superstitious avoidance of using religious terms, or “using in vain” the names of religious entities. 

There’s also a chance that, for some folks, old-fashioned good manners may enter into it, too. 

In short, this is a euphemism: an inoffensive word or phrase used to replace an impolite or offensive one. We use euphemism when we talk about “powdering my nose” or “going to see a man about a dog” instead of “going to the bathroom”, or “bathroom” instead of “toilet”.

Like many of Shakespeare’s words and phrases, “what the dickens” has stood the test of time and is still used as a euphemism today.