The World Wide Web is a wondrous resource, brimming with useful facts, relevant data, and accurate information—except when it isn’t. For example, if you google “Shakespeare quotes,” one of the sites to which you will be referred ascribes the following quotation to the Bard of Avon:
“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”
Anyone who has read ten lines of Shakespeare’s should know that he could not have written these words. In the first place, no source, either play or poem, is given, and that immediately arouses some suspicion about the authenticity of the quotation. The diction of the passage could not possibly be earlier than late nineteenth century; more likely it is mid-twentieth or later. The style is pedestrian, lacking any of the poetic imagery that infused every line Shakespeare wrote. And the cloying sentiment, with its message of uncritical encouragement of personal self-fulfillment, is a contemporary notion, something you might expect to find in a New Age sermon to a happy-clappy congregation—not in the rigorous ethos of Elizabethan England with which Shakespeare was imbued.
No, this is a spurious Shakespearean quote—which is attributed to him on more than 7,000 websites! It was initially posted either as a hoax or as the result of exceedingly careless research, and then picked up and replicated by thousands of others without checking. Beware the Web.
That other Bard, who splashes about in the sepia waters of Buffalo Bayou, was duly impressed by the alleged work of his colleague:
Who knew that Will, our best of bards,
In his spare time wrote Hallmark cards?