have greatness thrust upon them

Derfel84

Member
Korean
"Be not afriad of greatness.
Some are born great.
Some achieve greatness.
And others have greatness thrust upon them."

The expression is from Shakespeare.
I don't get the meaning of the last sentence.
Could you please explain what it implies?
 
Last edited:
  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    A little typo: greatness thrust.

    When you thrust something to someone, you push it to them unceremoniously. They didn't ask for it or didn't necessarily deserve it. Someone is suddenly made great without having done anything to get the new-found status.
     

    Derfel84

    Member
    Korean
    Thank you for pointing out the typo.
    I revised it.

    I thought that some people do great things and some people pass greatness to others and do nothing great.
    Now I guess I misunderstood.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    When you thrust something to someone, you push it to them unceremoniously. They didn't ask for it or didn't necessarily deserve it. Someone is suddenly made great without having done anything to get the new-found status.
    Interesting ... I think of "have greatness thrust upon them" as someone being put into a position they didn't necessarily ask for, but once in that position they react with honor, courage, bravery, or something great, in any case.

    It never occurred to me that they didn't do anything, although now that I think about it, it's possible, I suppose. But I wouldn't think of it as real greatness if it were just appearance rather than action.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I suppose I'm thinking of the original context of those words. There, Malvolio gets a letter apparently from the wealthy countess Olivia which suggests that she loves him. Malvolio is a steward in her household. Some others have played a trick on Malvolio because of his snooty behaviour towards them.
    If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)
    .
    The letter suggests that Olivia will show favour towards Malvolio and by doing that he will have greatness (high status) thrust upon him.
     

    goldencypress

    Senior Member
    India - Malayalam
    I suppose I'm thinking of the original context of those words. There, Malvolio gets a letter apparently from the wealthy countess Olivia which suggests that she loves him. Malvolio is a steward in her household. Some others have played a trick on Malvolio because of his snooty behaviour towards them.
    .
    The letter suggests that Olivia will show favour towards Malvolio and by doing that he will have greatness (high status) thrust upon him.

    What would some are born great mean? Some are inherently great or some are born in high places like the son of a king?

    I think that some have greatness thrust upon them means some who are unworthy of greatness is made to look great my the machinations of vested interests. Would you agree?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, if someone is born great, it means they are great by virtue of their birth - like the son of a king, as you suggested.

    On its own, people with greatness thrust upon them would just be people who suddenly find themselves raised in status. It may be that they inveigled themselves into the good books of others to get that raised status, but it could be as well that they did nothing but suddenly found themselves raised in status.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    A king may be born great (= he inherits it at birth from his father).
    A businessman may achieve greatness (= he may work hard all his life to win it).
    A vice-president may have greatness thrust upon him (= he may step into the shoes of the president after an assassination, without expecting it).

    In the Twelfth Night scenario, Malvolio thinks he has been chosen by Olivia to become her next duke. Note that "greatness" in Shakespeare's time meant something different from our understanding; in those days it depended very much on noble birth and wealth, not talent or a democratic vote.
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    A king may be born great (= he inherits it at birth from his father).
    A businessman may achieve greatness (= he may work hard all his life to win it).
    A vice-president may have greatness thrust upon him (= he may step into the shoes of the president after an assassination, without expecting it).

    In the Twelfth Night scenario, Malvolio thinks he has been chosen by Olivia to become her next duke. Note that "greatness" in Shakespeare's time meant something different from our understanding; in those days it depended very much on noble birth and wealth, not talent or a democratic vote.
    :thumbsup:
     

    goldencypress

    Senior Member
    India - Malayalam
    A king may be born great (= he inherits it at birth from his father).
    A businessman may achieve greatness (= he may work hard all his life to win it).
    A vice-president may have greatness thrust upon him (= he may step into the shoes of the president after an assassination, without expecting it).

    In the Twelfth Night scenario, Malvolio thinks he has been chosen by Olivia to become her next duke. Note that "greatness" in Shakespeare's time meant something different from our understanding; in those days it depended very much on noble birth and wealth, not talent or a democratic vote.
    Brilliant explanation! Thank you, Keith
     

    goldencypress

    Senior Member
    India - Malayalam
    Yes, if someone is born great, it means they are great by virtue of their birth - like the son of a king, as you suggested.

    On its own, people with greatness thrust upon them would just be people who suddenly find themselves raised in status. It may be that they inveigled themselves into the good books of others to get that raised status, but it could be as well that they did nothing but suddenly found themselves raised in status.
    Thank you, natkretep. I greatly appreciate your explanation
     
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