Today’s Wordy Wednesday is the phrase the ‘truth will out’.
Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of
the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his
own child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of
your son: give me your blessing: truth will come
to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man’s son
may, but at the length truth will out.
The Merchant of Venice [II. ii. 640-45]
Launcelot Gobbo is telling Old Gobbo not to worry, as the truth will surely be discovered in the end. He shortens his previous assertion ‘the truth will come to light’ with an even more emphatic declaration of certainty – ‘the truth will out’. In this scene, however, Launcelot can afford to proclaim with such a level of certainty that the truth about Old Gobbo’s son will soon be uncovered, as he is in fact that very son – fooling his blind father who did not recognize his voice.
O heavens, this is my true-begotten father!
who, being more than sand-blind, high-gravel blind,
knows me not: I will try confusions with him.
The Merchant of Venice [II. ii. 600-02]
The phrase ‘the truth will out’ had been in use in England from the Fifteenth Century and appeared in print when The Merchant of Venice was first published in the First Quarto in 1600. Dictionary.com defines the phrase as meaning: ‘One way or another, in spite of all efforts to conceal it, the truth will come to be known’. A related idiomatic phrase with similar connotations is ‘murder will out’. The Dictionary.com definition for this phrase is: ‘Crime or wrongdoing will eventually be discovered and punished as certain news cannot be suppressed’. This expression had already appeared in Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale: “Murder will out that we see day by day.” [Circa 1390]
The phrase ‘the truth will out’ has travelled from the mouth of the actor playing Launcelot Gobbo on ‘The Theatre’ stage during the first performances of The Merchant of Venice in 1598, to being uttered by Mark Williams – playing Arthur Weasley in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
“As the Muggles say, truth will out”
– declares Arthur Weasley, as he leads Harry down to the Ministry of Magic’s underage wizardry hearing.
By Linda Nicoll
The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy – Third Edition. 2005 Houghton Mifflin Company
The British Library: ‘Shakespeare in Quarto’ – The Merchant of Venice Early Performances and Publication. London 2013 http://www.bl.uk/treasures/shakespeare/merchantbibs.html [Accessed 17 April 2013]
Open Source Shakespeare: ‘The Merchant of Venice’ George Mason University 2013 http://www.opensourceshakespeare.com/views/plays/play_view.php?WorkID=merchantvenice&Act=2&Scene=2&Scope=scene [Accessed 17 April 2013]
Dictionary.com: ‘Cultural Dictionary’ 2013 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/truth+will+out [Accessed 17 April 2013]
Dictionary.com: ‘Cultural Dictionary’ 2013 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/murder%20will%20out [Accessed 17 April 2013]
The English Club: ‘Reference – Sayings’ 2013 http://www.englishclub.com/ref/esl/Sayings/Quizzes/Truth/Truth_will_out_942.htm [Accessed 17 April 2013]
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Dir. David Yates) Warner Bros. 2007 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0373889/ [Accessed 17 April 2013]