Adapted from Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2
This well-known line is actually a rearrangement of the original quote from the play. The meaning is the same, but Shakespeare phrased the line differently than it is usually used today.
‘It’s not in the stars to hold our destiny but ourselves’ is used to assert that one’s fate is not in the stars or in someone else’s hands, but, instead, it is within “ourselves.” Or, it is within a person’s control how their life turns out. One should not blame others or an uncontrollable force for how their life turns out, it’s all in one’s hands what happens in their future.
This is an opinion that is contrary to what many believed during the time that the play was written and is still antithetical to some belief systems today. Many may find themselves disagreeing with the quote.
When this quote appears in Shakespeare’s play, the character uses it in a propagandistic fashion, encouraging the listener, Brutus, to push back against the “stars” or force that would determine his life for him:
“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
Mia Warner is a traditional signpainter, calligrapher and hand-lettering artist based in East London.