FACT CHECK: Did Shakespeare Say A Quote About A ‘Battle Of Wits’?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Reporter

A post on Facebook claims English playwright William Shakespeare once said, “I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed.”

Verdict: False

This quote is apocryphal and does not appear in any of Shakespeare’s writings.

Fact Check:

While Shakespeare authored many famous sayings, this quote on wit does not come from him. It doesn’t appear in the Shakespeare Quartos Archive, an online database of all his plays, or a complete collection of his poems.

Furthermore, scholars told the Daily Caller News Foundation that they do not recognize the expression. “I don’t know where it’s from, but it is not Shakespearean,” said Paul Budra, author of “Shakespeare Early and Late: A Textbook,” in an email to the DCNF.

Similar expressions have appeared in print since at least the 1860s, according to the website Quote Investigator, though earlier variations may exist. Writer Abby Buchanan Longstreet included a comparable line in her 1866 novel “Remy St. Remy, or, The Boy in Blue,” which reads, “A battle of wits was to be fought, and the Boy in Blue was unarmed tonight.” (RELATED: ‘Sail Away From The Safe Harbor’ – Did Mark Twain Say This Quote About Taking Chances?)

Versions of the phrase have also been attributed to the likes of Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and Winston Churchill.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Reporter
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