S. Adams relies on Shakespeare's reference to a "tide in human affairs" for which wise men watch.  Can someone tell me the source?Samuel Adams said to Richard Henry Lee in a letter "Shakespeare...

S. Adams relies on Shakespeare's reference to a "tide in human affairs" for which wise men watch.  Can someone tell me the source?

Samuel Adams said to Richard Henry Lee in a letter "Shakespeare tell us, there is a tide in human affairs, an opportunity which wise men carefully watch for."  He referred to the time in history when colonists should be looking for the opportunity to move for liberty.

 

I am trying to find the source for Shakespeare's statements to which he refers.

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The origin of the quote is Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3.  Here is the entire quotation:

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

The metaphor of the tide as our rising or falling fortunes is a common metaphor in English.  We talk about "the tides of fortune," and we say things like "A rising tide lifts all ships."  If we wish to set out on a sea voyage, it is far easier at high tide when the water will do our work for us, to lift and launch our ship. If fate can be thought of as high tide or a low tide, then if we want to launch a metaphorical ship and a high tide comes along, if we do not take advantage of the high tide, we will miss our opportunity.  It is up to us, when that high tide presents itself, for us to seize that opportunity and set off on our adventure.  Even though we might be taking a huge risk, if we do not avail ourselves of this opportunity, we will live to regret it the rest of our lives.