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Interactive video lesson plan for: Wear my heart upon my sleeve

Activity overview:

Shakespeare's daughter is in love... again. Learn a new English phrase to use when someone can't hide their feelings.

For the transcript click 'SHOW MORE'

For activities and extra materials connected to this episode: http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/course/shakespeare/unit-1/session-21

Shakespeare Speaks is a co-production between BBC Learning English and The Open University.

It was a sunny day. William Shakespeare's daughter and Bess the barmaid are at the fair.


You're very happy today aren't you my duck?

Oh Bess, I'm in love.

You're not still after that Robert Harley are you?

Nooooo! It's Henry Bull. He's wonderful: handsome and brave… and he loves me too… but Bess, father mustn't find out. Henry hasn't got any money. Father wouldn't approve.

Well my duck, you need to hide your feelings better then! You're wearing your heart upon your sleeve; the whole world can see how you feel! Oh! Hello Mr Will…


Good afternoon Bess; Daughter… and what are you two gossiping about? Who's wearing their heart upon their sleeve?

We were …err… discussing that evil Iago, in your play Othello. He wears his heart upon his sleeve, doesn't he Mr Will?

Ah, yes, Othello, my tragedy. A very good topic for discussion. Iago says: I will wear my heart upon my sleeve…

Robert Harley as Iago
I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.

But, even though Iago talks about wearing his heart on his sleeve he doesn't actually intend to do it. Iago never reveals his true feelings, except perhaps to the audience, and even they cannot fully trust him!

Well, showing your true feelings certainly can lead to trouble.

What feelings does Iago hide, father? Is he in love?

No: quite the opposite. Iago pretends to be loyal to Othello so that he can destroy him! That's why he says: I am not what I am.

We'll leave them there for now. Many of Shakespeare's characters conceal their true feelings. Some hide their love, while Iago, Shakespeare's most hateful villain, hides his plans to destroy everyone around him. Nowadays, the phrase to wear your heart upon - or on - your sleeve still means: to make your feelings and emotions obvious, even if it makes you vulnerable. In a 2015 interview, US actress Kristen Stewart, star of the Twilight movies, said:

Clip 1
I wear my heart on my sleeve. If I'm in a mood, my mood shows.

It's often used to talk about love and romance.

Clip 2
When I told him I loved him, he broke up with me. I'll never wear my heart on my sleeve again.

Now, dear daughter, who is this young man who's made you so cheerful?

Oh… errr… nobody…

Didn't I tell you not to wear your heart on your sleeve?!

Oh dear. To wear, or not to wear: that is the question…

Pick up some useful everyday English phrases and learn about the life, times and language of the world's best-known playwright with our 20-part series: #ShakespeareSpeaks

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