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In Much Ado About Nothing, there is at one point the following sentence (Act 2, Scene 1, spoken by Benedick):

I am not so reputed; it is the base, though bitter, disposition of Beatrice that puts the world into her person and so gives me out.

Here the phrase "puts the world into her person and so gives me out" means "claims to speak for everyone else, representing her own opinion as the world's, and so portrays me according to that opinion", according to my annotated edition.

I quite like this turn of phrase, but is there an idiomatic expression that captures this meaning eloquently in modern English?

Edit: here's an example with David Tennant: https://youtu.be/UNIQm7vEa2o?t=30s

Edit 2: I really feel I should say that I think the (rest of the) play does seem to make it clear that it's not a habitual fault of Beatrice, but something one-off. So the phrase is describing a single instance of such behaviour (by Beatrice), not an indelible permanent personality fault, as some answers seem to assume. Maybe it's ambiguous in my question, but I mean to ask about the phrase as it was used in the play.

Bounty note: in the absence of consensus (most answers had 0 votes, the highest only 2), and given that the suggestions are quite far from the original phrase's meaning, I'll award the bounty to the answer that says it can't be done.

  • Maybe "makes herself the mouthpiece for the world at large"? – Sven Yargs Aug 26 '16 at 6:43
  • @SvenYargs Google gives me zero hits for that expression. I was really hoping for an expression that already exists and that would be recognizable. After all, even "claims to speak for everyone" is already a decent-enough paraphrase, but doesn't sound as good as "puts the world into her person". Many other Shakespearean phrases were adopted directly into modern English, so I'm wondering about this particular one. – Kirill Aug 26 '16 at 18:24
  • This might be a bit broad for one expression to capture all of it at once. Do you have some examples where you would want to use your phrase contemporary? – Helmar Sep 3 '16 at 11:35
  • @Helmar In the play, Beatrice had said something that hurt Benedick (who speaks this sentence), so in this sentence he's explaining to himself why things might not really be as Beatrice described them. That's the same meaning I'm looking for. – Kirill Sep 3 '16 at 16:42
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    @Helmar I'd say explanatory, maybe slightly combative. For example: youtu.be/UNIQm7vEa2o?t=30s I'm a little surprised, I didn't really think the phrase was ambiguous. – Kirill Sep 4 '16 at 2:44
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It's nowhere near so gorgeous nor eloquent as the original, but the closest to the sense that I can think of is "to take it upon oneself" to speak for everyone.

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    I think you have it with purporting to speak for everyone. – stevesliva Sep 4 '16 at 3:58
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As per the OP:

Here the phrase "puts the world into her person and so gives me out" means "claims to speak for everyone else, representing her own opinion as the world's, and so portrays me according to that opinion".

I quite like this turn of phrase, but is there an idiomatic expression that captures this meaning eloquently in modern English?

The OP's text describes a person with a god complex:

god complex: A person with a god complex may refuse to admit the possibility of their error or failure, even in the face of irrefutable evidence, intractable problems, or difficult or impossible tasks. The person is also highly dogmatic in their views, meaning the person speaks of their personal opinions as though they are unquestionably correct. Someone with a god complex may exhibit no regard for the conventions and demands of society, and may request special consideration or privileges.

god complex: A person is who is said to have a "God complex", does not believe he is god, but acts so arrogantly that he might as well believe he is is God or appointed to act by God.

Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing has a god complex in that she "claims to speak for everyone else, representing her own opinion as the world's, and so portrays [everyone in the world] according to that opinion".

God complex may or may no be sufficiently eloquent to address the OP's question. If not, the term god complex suggests at least one obvious alternative:

high and mighty: thinking or acting as though one is more important than others. Synonyms: self-important, condescending, patronizing, pompous, disdainful, supercilious, superior, snobbish, snobby, haughty, conceited, above oneself.

  • Doesn't "god complex" refer to someone who habitually does this, to a very great extent? The bit about "may exhibit no regard for conventions…" also doesn't describe what "puts the world into her person" is saying here. Here it's specifically that Benedick disagrees with something specific that Beatrice said (she said the whole world knows it), but she's not habitually wrong at all. – Kirill Sep 3 '16 at 16:47
  • @Kirill Yes, it does refer to a person who habitually does this, as part of their nature. I have not read the play in some time. I responded based entirely on the content of you question, taking what Benedict said at face value. He attributed Beatrice's characterization of him as being due to her base, though bitter, disposition, which I took literally. And taking that to be so -- that what she said about Benedick was not a "one-off" comment but something about her "true" self, -- I inferred and suggested that she had a god complex. – Richard Kayser Sep 3 '16 at 18:41
  • Hm, I didn't think of that. See edit in the question. Also, according to my annotated edition, there's some confusion about what "base" and "bitter" mean there, they might not have the usual modern meanings in that sentence. – Kirill Sep 4 '16 at 3:01
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+50

I feel that the phrase as writ is the best "idiomatic expression that captures this meaning eloquently in modern English." The idiom suggests a couple of implications which rely on the context of the play to drive the dramatic irony home, but Shakespeare's precise diction encapsulates the general sense of the irony within the idiom.


For context, see first how Beatrice "gives [Benedick] out":

Why, he is the prince's jester: a very dull fool; only his gift is in devising impossible slanders: none but libertines delight in him; and the commendation is not in his wit, but in his villany; for he both pleases men and angers them, and then they laugh at him and beat him. I am sure he is in the fleet: I would he had boarded me.

And then she goes on to describe his imagined response to hearing these impressions secondhand:

Do, do: he'll but break a comparison or two on me; which, peradventure not marked or not laughed at, strikes him into melancholy; and then there's a partridge wing saved, for the fool will eat no supper that night.

Later, in his monologue, Benedick employs the idiom to describe the mechanism of her error in appraising his Real Reputation™.

But that my Lady Beatrice should know me, and not know me! The prince's fool! Ha? It may be I go under that title because I am merry. Yea, but so I am apt to do myself wrong; I am not so reputed: it is the base, though bitter, disposition of Beatrice that puts the world into her person and so gives me out. Well, I'll be revenged as I may.

In doing so, he unintentionally fulfills Beatrice's conjecture about his response, and—with great dramatic irony—validates that his sulking rebuttal is true to his "reputation".

TL;DR Irreducibly good idiom.

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    Good point. But why "Oscar Wilde"? – Kirill Sep 5 '16 at 0:21
  • Also, I'm not sure about the "merely repeating what others have said". As I understand it, Beatrice knew she was talking to him, so she deliberately said some things to infuriate him, and those things aren't actually true (nor did anybody else say them or agree with them, for all we know), only calculated to hurt him. So Benedick deduced to himself "Is it really true? No, it's just her. And if I believe her, I'll do myself wrong.". I thought the plot point was that she could have such an effect on him, like nobody else. But maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. – Kirill Sep 5 '16 at 0:32
  • Ooooh thank you for the added context and explanation Kirill, that clarifies several points. – karan.dodia Sep 5 '16 at 0:39
  • [Oscar Wilde because my brain done goof'd, corrected in the edit. Thanks!] – karan.dodia Sep 5 '16 at 0:48
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I think the phrase to put words in someone's mouth fits.

"to say that someone means one thing when the person really meant something else" - Cambridge Dictionary

It's a well-known idiom.

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    Unless I am missing something, this means something quite different, compare with the description I gave in the question. – Kirill Aug 22 '16 at 2:30
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You asked for something eloquent, so I'm not sure if this will fit the bill, but here goes (from the urban dictionary):

SPEOE - noun, pronounced "Spee-Oh"

acronym for Self Proclaimed Expert On Everything The annoying know-it-all in everyone's social circle, or quasi-member thereof, who always insists on one-upping the person controlling a current conversation with useless factoids or name-dropping to make himself appear more knowledgable or superior to the audience in question. Considers himself (herself) the perfect candidate for "Jeopardy"

Did you hear how many times he interrupted her description of her trip to New York to correct her and brag about his trip to Boston. Dude, he is such a SPEOE

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In the context of the play, Beatrice is speaking ill of Benedict.

From Collins:

To speak ill of someone

Synomyms: malign, knock (informal), rubbish (informal), run down, blacken, slag (off) (slang), denigrate, belittle, disparage, decry, revile, vilify, slander, defame, bad-mouth (slang, mainly US & & Canadian), besmirch, impugn, calumniate, asperse

From Thesaurus.com:

To speak ill of

Synonyms: slander, defame, besmirch, denigrate, disparage, insult, misrepresent, revile, smear, sully, taint, tarnish, vilify, abuse, accuse, asperse, backbite, befoul, bespatter, blacken, calumniate, curse, decry, defile, depreciate, derogate, detract, dirty, harm, injure, pollute, rap, roast, scandalize, slur, soil, spatter, stain, traduce, vituperate, bad-mouth, cast aspersion, mudsling, opprobriate, run down, take a swipe at, tear down, villainize

Scanning through the synonyms for applicable idioms, and taking into account that Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy, I suggest the following as possible answers to the OP's question:

  • to speak ill of someone, to speak ill of

  • bad-mouth (My favorite. All things considered, Beatrice is merely badmouthing Benedick. He's saying something to the effect, "Who does she think she is, badmouthing me?")

  • backbite

  • mudsling

  • take a swipe at

Not sure about the elegance factor, so maybe none of these fit the bill. :-) But maybe the thought process will help someone else come up with a better answer.

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I suspect the closest contemporary phrase would be

She's projecting.

In its classical, "neurotic" form,

Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. (Wikipedia)

This would suggest that Beatrice fears that she, herself, is "a very dull fool" whose "only . . . gift is in devising impossible slanders."

(All Much Ado quotes are to the same scene as referenced in the question.)

There's actually a bit of support for this theory in the text, as Beatrice's diatribe begins with a defensive response to her (correct) assumption that it was Benedick who said that she was disdainful and got her "wit" out of "The Hundred Merry Tales", and she concludes with the statement that if Benedick were confronted with her description, "he’ll but break a comparison or two on me." It would certainly be very plausible to play Beatrice as fearing that she's not as funny as she thinks she is, and is thus "projecting" this trait onto Benedick.

Of course that's not exactly what Benedick himself means—but there's actually a secondary definition of "projection" that is a fairly good approximation of his meaning:

Complementary projection occurs when individuals assume others feel the same way they do. For example, a person with a particular political persuasion might take it for granted that friends and family members share those beliefs. (Source)

This sounds very similar to the interpretation in the OP's annotation: Beatrice assumes that the whole world shares her views, and thus attributes her views to the world.

Random-ish examples of usage from around the web:

Dr. Copeland always says she's a snob; that she judges people harshly because she's projecting her own insecurities onto them. (Suzanne Still, Commune of Women)

She’s woven that accusation out of whole cloth, because she’s projecting her own subjective worldview onto her enemies. (Miscellanea Agnostica Blog)

[Maybe] Mom, Ray, and everyone in exile in Elliot’s neighborhood are real, but Elliot’s cracked mind is simply distorting his experience of them . . . he’s projecting his own feelings, biases, and meanings onto them. (Mr. Robot column)


The best thing about this phrase is that the obvious comeback to You're projecting is I know you are, but what am I? Repeated several times back-and-forth, this would be a fair approximation of Beatrice and Benedick's courtship ;-).

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For the first part of the line you seek to modernize (“put the world into her person”), along the lines of the well known “seeing the world through rose-colored glasses,” used to point out someone’s overabundance of optimism, there are a few Ngram hits for “seeing the world through a mirror,” including Avril Lavigne’s use of it in her song Too Much To Ask to suggest that someone is suffering from an inflated sense of self worth and importance.

Someone who, through a mirror, “sees the world in her/himself” (in his/her person) could also be viewed as having “put the world into her/his person."
(quote attributed to Ms Lavigne from Great Quotes for Great Educators by Dale Lumpa & Todd Whitaker, via ‘GoogleBooks’ and her lyrics from AZLyrics)

For the second part of the line (“and so gives me out”), you could consider the somewhat idiomatic, per N-grams “presents/expresses/spouts her opinion/s “as if it/they were fact/s”, or with a synonym for “fact/s,” such as “common knowledge” as used with “spouts” in the linked example from The Art of Public Speaking by Stephen Lucas, via GoogleBooks,
which could be combined as follows (include the bracketed clause if Beatrice is not always like this):

[At her sarcastic worst,] Beatrice sees the world through a mirror and so spouts her opinions (of me) as if they were fact/s (or “… and so represents me with opinions presented as fact/s”).

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"You are entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts"

This is common idiom expressing the above sentiment.

This comes from the same line as:

Comment is free, but fact is sacred

  • Mr. C.P. Scott

The word utilizes the word 'entitled' to convey the expression.

Entitled

adjective

believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

Essentially, the expression comes from the concept of Balance Fallacy, which is defined as:

A logical fallacy that occurs when two sides of an argument are assumed to have equal or comparable value regardless of their respective merits, which (in turn) can lead to the conclusion that the answer to a problem is always to be found between two extremes.

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