The idiom “the game’s afoot” is used to mean that a challenge has been accepted or begun, or that something new and exciting is about to happen. It is often used in the context of competition or mystery, and it can be said with a sense of anticipation or excitement.
Shakespeare – the origin of “the game’s afoot”
The phrase is thought to have originated in the 1500s, and it is first recorded in the works of William Shakespeare. In his play Henry V, King Henry says the line “the game’s afoot” just before leading his troops into battle. In, King Henry gives a speech to his troops before he leads them into the Battle of Agincourt. In this speech, he uses the phrase “the game’s afoot” to signal that the battle is about to begin. Here is that famous speech.:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends,
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a comet press
The watery element with fear.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height! On, on, you noblest English!
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought,
And sheath’d their swords for lack of argument.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in his eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit; and upon this charge,
Cry ‘God for Harry! England! and Saint George!’
In this example, the phrase “the game’s afoot” is used to signal that something exciting or dangerous is about to happen.
The Game’s Afoot With Sherlock Holmes
The phrase “the game’s afoot” became more widely known in the early 1900s, when it was used in the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes is known for his many memorable catchphrases, but perhaps none is more iconic than “the game’s afoot.” This phrase, which Holmes first utters in the story “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange,” is a declaration of his excitement and anticipation at the start of a new investigation.
Holmes’s use of the phrase is a nod to Shakespeare, but it also has a deeper meaning. For Holmes, solving a mystery is a kind of intellectual battle, and “the game’s afoot” is his way of signaling that he is ready to engage in the challenge.
The phrase is also a reminder of Holmes’s love of competition. He is always eager to pit his wits against the criminal mind, and “the game’s afoot” is his way of declaring that the contest has begun.
In addition to its literal meaning, “the game’s afoot” also has a metaphorical significance. It can be seen as a symbol of Holmes’s passion for life and his zest for adventure. For Holmes, every new case is an opportunity to learn and grow, and “the game’s afoot” is his way of expressing his excitement at the prospect of new challenges.
“The game’s afoot” has become synonymous with the character of Sherlock Holmes. Here are some other quotes from Sherlock Holmes.
- “Come, Watson, come. The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!” (The Adventure of the Abbey Grange)
- “The game is afoot. I see the first glimmerings of light. Aha! it glimmers brighter now!” (The Adventure of the Speckled Band)
- “The game is afoot. Now for our little problem.” (The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle)
Other works of literature and popular culture
The phrase “the game’s afoot” has been used in many other works of literature, including the novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It has also been used in films, such as The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) and Sherlock Holmes (2009).
The phrase “the game’s afoot” has also been used in popular culture, such as in advertisements, magazines, sports reports, and comics. For example, the phrase was used in a 1980s advertisement for the video game Pac-Man, and it has also been used in articles about the NFL playoffs.
The idiom “the game’s afoot” is a versatile phrase that can be used in a variety of contexts. It can be used to express excitement, anticipation, or the challenge of a new undertaking. The phrase can also be used to add a sense of drama or suspense to a situation.