Both Baked In That Pie.

There are two quotes from Shakespeare that I’ve heard cited several times as evidence of The Bard contradicting himself. First is probably the most famous:

O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…

That, of course, is from Romeo & Juliet, Act II, scene 2. Then there’s:

Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

That’s from Othello, Act III, scene 3, and it’s spoken by Iago. It’s a noble thought and I understand why people quote it but of Shakespeare’s villains Iago is one of the worst.

Even if these ideas are contradictory, and I think they’re much too complicated to say they are, Shakespeare didn’t speak through his characters. Maybe he spoke through his plays—there have been whole books written about how the death of his son Hamnet might have prompted him to stop writing light comedies and turn to the darker subjects of his tragedies—but that’s a controversial idea.

Anyway both Juliet and Iago understood that names carry a lot of weight which is why the Oprah tag I’ve noticed around Nashville caught my attention. And it’s been noticed by others too. Is it a callout to Oprah Winfrey? She did live in Nashville and attended both high school and college here, winning Miss Black Nashville in 1972 and Miss Black Tennessee and started her career at a local radio station.

Maybe it’s just someone else named Oprah, or someone who chose it as their tag for aesthetic reasons. Whatever the story behind it is I don’t think the famous Oprah has anything to worry about. If she were inclined to quote Shakespeare herself she might say, “Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.”

And if you recognized the line from Titus Andronicus, Act V, scene 3, “Why, there they are both, baked in that pie,” give yourself ten bonus points.

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  1. mydangblog

    I recognized that line from the title. I used to teach Titus to my seniors—now that’s a crazy play! Have you ever seen the Anthony Hopkins film version? It’s equally insane!
    mydangblog recently posted…Reactine WellMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I haven’t seen the Anthony Hopkins film yet even though it’s directed by Julie Taymor, a brilliant director who’s done a lot of amazing stuff. I had no idea you taught Titus, of all plays, to high school seniors. A guy at a party told me Titus Andronicus was his favorite Shakespeare play. I kept a careful eye on him after that.

  2. Anonymole

    No doubt experiencing Shakespeare’s words through oration in the early 1600’s would have been entertaining; their diction and pronunciation being part of one’s own understanding. Reading them as a 14-year-old high schooler, with the scantest English interpretation, was not.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I remember my own struggles to get through Shakespeare in my youth. Even some of the simpler comedies, like The Merry Wives of Windsor, needed heavy annotations when I read them. And yet several phrases coined, or at least popularized, by Shakespeare, show up in our everyday conversations. Go figure.


    I love all the Shakespeare quotes and I’m also aware that Oprah backwards is Harpo and Oprah is aware of that, too.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I remember that in The Color Purple Oprah’s character had a husband named Harpo as well which I thought was a funny coincidence.


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