Wordy… Thursday – “Brave new world”

It’s time to learn a new phrase created by Shakespeare! Today we’re going to talk about the phrase “brave new world.”

Yes, this is the title of a novel by Aldous Huxley, which you may have read in school, but did you know that the phrase is actually from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest? The phrase was not actually all that popular until Huxley used it as the title of his book. There are also a lot of quotes from Shakespeare’s play in the novel, which was published in 1932.

The exact phrase in The Tempest goes like this:

O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people in it!

It’s Miranda speaking here, and she’s talking about all the new people who have just arrived, shipwrecked, onto the island where she’s lived alone with her father Prospero for so long. Naturally, she is surprised and excited to see so many other people for the first time.

In Shakespeare’s time, “brave” was sometimes used to mean “beautiful.” Since Miranda falls in love with one of these shipwrecked men, this makes perfect sense! When she sees all these people, suddenly she feels as though she has entered a whole new world full of possibility. (Think of the song “A Whole New World” from Aladdin!)

So originally, the phrase had a positive connotation – meaning that a “brave new world” is good or exciting. But after Huxley used the phrase ironically in his novel, it came to mean something very different.