One late night of internet surfing, I was searching for new post ideas. I was looking for something new and fun to write about. I came across a website which debunked many historical myths or legends. Song lyrics are often misheard and misquoted for years that the wrong words are so ingrained in our memory that we can’t help but sing the wrong words. Movie lines are misquoted and become a part of the movie’s legacy when the words were never actually said as quoted. I started thinking about the famous quotes which people still believe and they were never said.
First, “Let them eat cake” was never said by Queen Marie Antoinette of France (1755-1795). This quote was claimed to have been said when she learned of the invasion of the Bastille Prison on July 14, 1789. It was actually written by Jean Jacques Rousseau in his autobiography “Confession” which was about his life up to 1765. The book was completed in 1769 and published in 1783. He was writing about an incident with “a great princess” when she was informed the peasants had no bread, she reportedly said, “Let them eat cake.” Many historians speculate that the princess Rousseau was referring to was Maria Theresa of Spain and that the French Revolutionaries falsely assumed it was Queen Marie Antoinette and used it to show the apathy of the monarchy and further support for the revolution. It worked because the queen and her husband, King Louis XVI, both lost their heads in 1793.
Second, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is paraphrased from the William Congreve 1697 play The Mourning Bride. The play is a tragedy about Zara, a queen held captive by Manuel, King of Granada and a web of love and deception that results in the mistaken assassination of Manuel and Zara’s suicide as a result. The actual quote is “Heaven had no rage like love to hatred turned/Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.” The quote is about how love turned to hatred has greater power than the wrath of heaven and that even hell can’t compare to a woman who has been betrayed. Either way it is quoted, the line does not paint a pretty picture.
Third, “Theirs but to do or die!” is a misquote from “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The actual quote is “Their’s not to reason why,/Their’s but to do and die.” The poem is about the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War (1853-1856). The quote is about a soldier’s willingness to follow orders. They must not question why or how but to do and often die following their orders. Tennyson wrote this poem as a celebration of those soldiers who heroically gave their lives in the battle. In Saving Private Ryan, Corporal Upham paraphrases this quote when he says “ours is not to reason why, but ours is to do and die.” The misquote says “do or die” when the actual quote is “do and die.” The changing of the word from “and” to “or” changes the whole meaning of the phrase.
In conclusion, it is funny how one wrong quote can take a life of its own that some are unaware or don’t believe it when they are corrected with the actual quote. What quote can you think of that are often misquoted?