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The Worm Has Turned

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“The worm has turned” suggests a reversal of fortune, particularly the kind of situation in which a meek person begins behaving more confidently or starts defending himself. In other words, even the lowliest of creatures will still strike back if sufficiently provoked, an idea Shakespeare used in Henry VI, Part 3, where Lord Clifford observes, “The smallest worm will turn being trodden on, and doves will peck in safeguard of their brood.” This is part of a complete episode.

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  • In Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta “Princess Ida”, Lady Blanche sings about how she’ll get back at Ida, who she thinks has had the upper hand for too long: “She shall learn that the worm will turn.”

  • In the game “Team Fortress 2“ the soldier character has a cheer, “The worm has turned, gentlemen!”

    According to Wikipedia, the documented origin for that phrase predates Shakespeare:

    “The phrase was first recorded in a 1546 collection of proverbs by John Heywood, in the form ‘Treade a worme on the tayle, and it must turne agayne.’”

    Who knew that a comically funny, multiplayer, first-person shooter game would be so erudite?

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