Meaning of a Shakepeare verse?

Hi, I'm an Allistair Macclean fan, and the title of one of his books/movies (Where Eagles Dare) is taken from Shakespeare's "Richard III", specifically the lines,

I cannot tell: the world is grown so bad,

That wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch:

Since every Jack became a gentleman

There's many a gentle person made a Jack.

What is the exact meaning of this statement? And if anyone can point out some good websites where I can:

1) find Shakespeare's plays/sonnets in their entirety

2) get interpretations of language of his works (In high school we covered Macbeth, and the book we used had the interpretations of the words right along with the work itself, VERY useful)


6 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I think that maybe what Gloucester is saying here is that his world is topsy turvy and nothing is the way that it was; everything is upside down from point of view.

    Here are some websites with all kinds of Shakespeare information:

  • Mandi
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    I've been searching and have found the quote five times over, but not an online meaning.

    I used to be a rabid Shakespeare fan, before I realized that I could watch the plays instead of read them (they're so much more satisfying when viewed.)

    When I went to the bookstore to pick up another new play, I always saw his plays, rewritten by a company called No Fear Shakespeare. What the company has done is give the regular text on one page and, on the opposite page, the words are translated into modern-day language so it is easily understood.

    I never read any of these book, but have flipped through them and I believe they are very good at explaining. If a run to the bookstore is in your immediate future, I think these books would provide the best help.

  • 5 years ago

    This is actually a falconry reference--one of many found in Shakespeare s works. "Since every Jack became a gentleman, There s many a gentle person made a Jack" definitely refers to a topsy-turvy world. Jack would have been slang for a Jack Merlin (the male Merlin, a small falcon, larger than our American Kestrel and much smaller than a peregrine) and gentle is language of the time for a peregrine falcon, the word falcon presumes the female, the larger of the two sexes. The male in raptors is roughly one-third smaller than the female of the same species. So, the smaller [in both status and size] Jack [Merlin] is made the gentleman while the more highly prized peregrine falcon is made the Jack, thus diminishing her status. Since Shakespeare s work is littered with falconry references, the knowledge of falconry language gives a deeper understanding to his works.

  • 1 decade ago

    1) I'm not sure but if you google Shakespear sonnets you may have some luck.

    2) again, try google.

    The quote very simply means (to me at least) that there are no more men in the world.

    "Since every Jack became a gentleman" means to me the term "Jack" refers to any slob. And since society has lowered standards of behavior, these Jacks are now considered good men when indeed they are not.

    "There's many a gentle person made a Jack" means to me that because of societies downgrading of behavioral standards, many people who would otherwise be fine, upstanding citizens now behave like slobs/jerks/various other epithets because society now allows them to.

    Ultimately the idea of the Wren (a foul bird of prey) hunting where an eagle (a stately bird that can represent high society) will not, seems to add weight to the idea of society lower it's standards, and all the 'good men' finding other places to 'nest.'

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    This is the common lament of someone grown old to whom the world no longer makes sense. Eagles are timid, little wrens are predators, peasants act like gentleman and gentleman like peasants. The world seems turned upside down.

  • ?
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    It's been a very long time since I read this play, but on this website: they have the full text of the play with a simplified, easy to understand explanation on the facing page. Hope it helps.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.