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Session 21

William Shakespeare's daughter has fallen in love... again. But should she wear her heart on her sleeve - or keep her feelings hidden? We'll help you use the phrase wear my heart on my sleeve, and explore some other great phrases for talking about revealing - or hiding - your feelings. We also bring you plenty more heart idioms to expand your vocabulary.

Session 21 score

0 / 19

  • 0 / 6
    Activity 1
  • 0 / 8
    Activity 2
  • 0 / 5
    Activity 3

Activity 1

The whole world can see how you feel!

Many of Shakespeare's characters conceal their true feelings.
Shakespeare often explored the theme of appearance in his plays and many of his characters wear masks or disguises to conceal their true identity. He was very interested in the idea that people and events are often not what they appear to be! 

To do

Look at this image of Shakespeare's daughter, Iago from Othello and American actress Kristen Stewart. They all appear in this episode, but do you think they hide their feelings well? Or are they very open and honest about their feelings?

Then watch the video to find out if you are correct. (The answer is under the video.) 

Watch the video and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

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…

Shakespeare's daughter and Kristen Stewart are both very open about their feelings -  they wear their hearts on their sleeves! Iago pretends to show his feelings, but really he hides his feelings - he says "I am not what I am." Well done if you guessed correctly.

To do

Answer these questions about the video to find out how well you understood this episode.

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

6 Questions

Answer these questions about this episode and the meaning and form of the phrase wear my heart on my sleeve

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

How did you do?
4-6 correct - congratulations, you don't need to hide this score!
0-3 correct - oh dear, go back and try again - we won't tell anyone!


On the next page we'll introduce you to some great idioms to talk about people who are open and honest, like Daughter, and people who hide the truth, like Iago.

Session Vocabulary

  • For more great Shakespeare content visit our partner,The OU


    Wear my heart on my sleeve

    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.

    Example sentence
    I wear my heart on my sleeve.
    If I'm in a mood, my mood shows.


    Extra vocabulary

    in disguise 
    the state of changing someone's appearance to hide their true identity

    always reliable and very supportive


    easily hurt or harmed

    a mask
    a covering used to hide or disguise your face

    bend the truth
    say something that is not true (usually not a serious lie)

    be economical with the truth
    say things that are not true, or to not tell everything that you know

    keep your cards close to your chest
    not tell people what you are thinking or planning

    a poker face
    a facial expression that doesn't show your thoughts or feelings

    lay/put (all) your cards on the table
    tell people exactly what you are thinking

    above board
    completely honest and legal

    completely honest and not hiding anything

    an open book
    completely honest and not hiding anything

    pour your heart out
    tell someone all your secrets and worries

    my heart sank
    I suddenly felt very sad and disappointed

    his/her heart's in the right place
    he/she only has good intentions

    my heart's not in it
    I don't feel very interested and enthusiastic 

    by heart
    from memory

    a heart of gold
    a kind and generous character

    a heart of stone
    an unfriendly and unkind character


    About Shakespeare Speaks

    Shakespeare Speaks is a co-production between:

    BBC Learning English

    The Open University


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