1

"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one" is apparently a quote by William Shakespeare. I have searched through the complete works of Shakespeare here: https://www.opensourceshakespeare.org/ and couldn't find it.

What is the work of Shakespeare that proves he is the author?

If there isn't one, why this quote is accredited to him?

enter image description here

4
  • 4
    Where have you seen it attributed to Shakespeare? All comments and answers to your previous question on English Language & Usage, and the one it is linked to as a duplicate, dispute this. Nov 2, 2023 at 10:05
  • My original question was misunderstood and edited by someone which turned it into a duplicate. Where I saw it? - it was a youtube video which accredited this quote to WS and a quick google search was inconclusive, hence my question.
    – Ziarek
    Nov 3, 2023 at 12:50
  • 1
    It looks as though the maker of the video was simply mistaken. Nov 3, 2023 at 13:03
  • This is the video: youtube.com/watch?v=QOMMfUkwktQ - I would mark your answer as the most correct one.
    – Ziarek
    Nov 6, 2023 at 8:54

1 Answer 1

7

A version of this phrase was possibly said about Shakespeare, but not by him.

In 1592, a pamphlet entitled "Greenes Groats-worth of Witte" was published in London. It is attributable to the author Robert Greene, who had died earlier in the year; it's not known whether he or somebody else assembled the text. Following a story about two playwright brothers, the author addresses some of his contemporaries "that spend their wits in making Plaies", without naming them specifically. In this allusive passage, there is the following:

there is an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.

This has often been interpreted as referring to William Shakespeare. "Iohannes fac totum" is "Jack-of-all-trades".

  • The "Tygers hart" line is from Henry VI, Part 3, in an early speech from York to Queen Margaret. It appears in the 1595 version, "The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke". The textual and performance history of the play is debated but this is surely a reference to it.
  • "Shake-scene" seems to refer to Shakespeare, but some readers have thought it to be a generic reference to a different person, a leading actor of some kind.
  • The overall tenor is critical of a person who is seen as an "upstart", writing plays and verse, as well as acting, but lacking some quality of learning or elegance according to Greene, who was a graduate of Cambridge and Oxford.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.