Friday, June 11, 2021

Living in infamy with Dylan, Roosevelt, and Shakespeare

Bob Dylan's "Murder Most Foul" begins by connecting the Kennedy assassination to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's speech after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941: "Twas a dark day in Dallas – November ‘63 / The day that will live on in infamy." Although it's now permanently associated with Roosevelt's "a date which will live in infamy", I wondered if the phrase "live in infamy" predated his speech – and discovered that it goes back to the seventeenth century. The most prominent example I've found is in William Shakespeare's "Henry the Fourth, Part II", when the Lord Chief Justice addresses Falstaff: "Well, the truth is, Sir John, you live in great infamy." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 11 June 2021)
Robert Smirke, Falstaff Rebuked, 1795. Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection

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