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Meaning of “Grasp the Nettle” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

Grasp the Nettle


Tenderhearted stroke a nettle

And it stings you for your plans;

Grasp it like a man of mettle,

And it soft as silk remains.

—Verse written on a window in Scotland.

The idiomatic meaning of the phrase “to grasp the nettle” is to act in given circumstances with courageous determination.

This caption, from an old German proverb, “Though you stroke the nettle ever so kindly, it will sting you,” gives the real meaning of the phrase, namely, Courage. Nettles are most unpleasant things to encounter when seeking the pleasurable warp in Nature’s beauty spots; yet Shakespeare tells us: “The strawberry grows underneath the nettle, and wholesome berries thrive and ripen best neighboured by fruit of baser quality” (Henry V, 1. i); and Chaucer pro-claims that “Next the foule nettle, rough and thikke, the rose waxeth swete, and smooth and softe” (Troylus and Cryseyde). Hence, if we would obtain the good things of life, it behaves us not to be afraid to tackle the obstacles which may confront us. “Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety” (I Henry IV, tr. iii). Thus, Shakespeare again; as, also: “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt” (Measure for Measure, r. v).

There is only one safe way with this troublesome though useful plant, and • that is to grasp it fearlessly and firmly. Timidity in the presence of danger is the surest road to disaster; while, contrariwise, a bold frontal attack is often as sure a method of success. This is clearly demonstrated in The Taming of the Shrew; for only by a firm hand was the willful Katharine brought to realise the real worth of her Petruchio.


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