Some People are Born Great Meaning
Definition: Some people are born into power; others work for it; still, others are forced to accept it.
The full phrase is some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
Origin of Some Are Born Great
This expression comes from the famous English playwright William Shakespeare. He wrote this in his play Twelfth Night, which was written around the year 1602. This play is a comedy about two twins who got caught in a storm that caused their ship to wreck. This shipwreck caused the twins to become separated.
One of the characters in the play, Malvolio, utters this quote as he reads a letter.
- 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.
The letter says that the writer of the letter was born into greatness, due to having noble or high ranking parents. The letter urges the addressee to accept his fate, and therefore accept his greatness.
Examples of Some Are Born Great
This example shows two women discussing what happened while they were out having dinner together.
Bella: Wow! You are a hero! I can’t believe you did that. You saved that baby’s life!
Hannah: I’m not a hero. I was just in the right place at the right time.
Bella: You are a hero. No one else knew how to stop that baby from choking on its food.
Hannah: I’m not a hero. I just knew CPR.
Bella: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. You were the only person who could help, and you did it well!
The following example shows two college students in class with their English Literature professor, who is asking for examples analyzing the expression.
Professor: Can anyone analyze this quote from the play: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.
Hanh: Someone who is born great could be a prince or princess, who was born into royalty.
Professor: Good. What about someone who becomes great?
Zhongyi: Maybe Ray Kroc? He wasn’t born with powerful connections, but he worked hard and made a big difference in the world.
Professor: Great! And someone who had greatness thrust upon him or her?
The professor hasn’t come yet, and we’ve waited half an hour. We should just go back home.
Hanh: Maybe Harriet Tubman? She probably didn’t want to risk her life to save others, but had to in order to do the right thing.
The excerpt is from an article about William Shakespeare that discusses his fame now as compared to when he was alive.
- “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” It’s hard to argue that William Shakespeare wasn’t born great, but in truth, the success he enjoyed during his own life didn’t come close to the reverence we pay him now. –New York Daily News
The second example is about shared office space for Chinese startups.
- On a recent morning, Meituan employees flitted back and forth among sleek glass-walled offices with dark wooden floors, stopping to pour tea into bright orange 3Q branded mugs in a communal kitchen. Behind a receptionist desk, a quote from William Shakespeare was emblazoned on the wall: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.” –Wall Street Journal
The saying some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em is a famous line from Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, which retains its original meaning.