Aesop's Fables

by Aesop
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"Familiarity Breeds Contempt"

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Last Updated on May 25, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 158

Context: The most recent and accurate translation tells the Aesopic tale with a twist from the familiar story: "A fox who had never seen a lion happened somehow to encounter one and at first sight was so frightened he almost died. When he happened on him a second time, he was frightened, to be sure, but not so much as before. When he saw him a third time, he had gotten so much confidence that he went right up and talked to him. The story shows that familiarity makes even frightening things seem harmless." Shakespeare makes a trenchant comment in The Merry Wives of Windsor: "If there be no great love in the beginning, yet heaven may decrease it upon better acquaintance, when we are married and have more occasion to know one another: I hope, upon familiarity will grow more contempt." The familiar, proverbial form comes from Publilius Syrus in 2 B.C. as Maxim 640:

Familiarity breeds contempt.

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