By Chester Campbell
Now, that's a question. While trying to decide what to write about today, this phrase came to mind: To blog, or not to blog? Thinking about where that came from, I realized how much of everyday speech we derive from literature. I looked up Hamlet's soliloquy and those once-familiar lines I had memorized in high school seventy years ago spread rhythmically down the page:
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,And by opposing end them?
Farther down the quote from Hamlet's soliloquy I found other familiar sayings like perchance to dream and ay, there's the rub. Then there's shuffled off this mortal coil.
While writing this, my wife told our grandson to do something and he said a loud, "No." When she repeated it, he began the old "why, why?" To which I replied rather automatically, "Yours not to reason why, yours but to do or die."
So where did that come from? I began ruminating around in my mind and remembered it had to do with the Crimean War. I found it in The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson. The correct quote is:
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die.
If we use such quotations in a mystery, are they cliches? I use a few in my Sid Chance books as part of his character. His mother was an American Literature major who taught high school English. She named him Sidney Lanier Chance after the Southern poet of the late nineteenth century. He occasionally comes out with an appropriate quote, which he is then forced to relate to its author. It isn't original, of course. There have been other literature-quoting PI's, but at least mine has a good excuse.
Do you feel that familiar quotations should be avoided in mystery writing, or do you agree with how Shakespeare might have put it: Much ado about nothing?
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