As the year winds down, I tend to reflect on my accomplishments, my goals (whether realized, in progress, or forgotten), and all the memories made with friends and family. As I reflect, I sometimes think of the song Good Riddance (Time of Your Life). I tend to think of the phrase as a positive, hopeful sentiment for things to come based on the things I’ve learned from past experiences. This is encouraged by the many times I’ve heard the song played at graduation ceremonies. However, I am discovering that I may be misinterpreting its meaning, and as a consequence, misusing the phrase.
According to phrases.org.uk, ‘good riddance’ means: An expression of pleasure on being rid of some annoyance – usually an individual.
I certainly don’t think of the events and achievements of the past as an annoyance, though I’m happy to be past the more difficult, challenging moments. In the context of my personal graduating experiences, I’ve been proud to have earned my way to graduation. Sure, I was happy to be rid of the stress of completing assignments and studying for exams, etc., but I wouldn’t have used the term good riddance to describe my sentiments upon completion of the overall experience. If anything, I felt grateful for all the opportunities I was able to take advantage of, and proud of all the obstacles I was able to overcome.
How does this all relate to Shakespeare you ask? The phrase “good riddance” appears to have been coined by Shakespeare in Troilus and Cressida.
Thersites. I will hold my peace when Achilles’ brach bids me, shall I?
Achilles. There’s for you, Patroclus.
Thersites. I will see you hanged, like clotpoles, ere I come
any more to your tents: I will keep where there is
wit stirring and leave the faction of fools.975
Patroclus. A good riddance.
In this context, it appears that Shakespeare used the phrase in the same way as defined above.
A variation is also seen in The Merchant of Venice.
Morocco. Then, farewell, heat, and welcome, frost! Portia, adieu. I have too grieved a heart To take a tedious leave: thus losers part. Exit with his train. Flourish of cornets
Portia. A gentle riddance. Draw the curtains, go. Let all of his complexion choose me so.
I’ve also heard “good riddance” used as a euphemism in the same way we might use the phrase “good grief”.