Primrose path

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For other uses, see Primrose Path.
Not to be confused with "led up the garden path", an idiom suggesting that one is being deceived or led astray.

The primrose path refers to a life of ease and pleasure, or to a course of action that seems easy and appropriate but can actually end in calamity.[1][2]

An early appearance of the phrase in print occurs in Shakespeare's 1602 play Hamlet (Act I, Scene III), where Ophelia, rebuffing her brother Laertes' insistence that she resist Hamlet's advances, warns Laertes against hypocrisy:[2]

Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,

Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads

And recks not his own rede.

In the popular American film Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the Dean of Students, Mr. Rooney, has the following exchange with the protagonist Ferris's mother:[3]

Mr. Rooney: It usually is. So far this semester he has been absent nine times.
Katie: Nine times?
Mr. Rooney: Nine times.
Katie: I don't remember him being sick nine times.
Mr. Rooney: That's probably because he wasn't sick. He was skipping school. Wake up and smell the coffee, Mrs. Bueller. It's a fool's paradise. He is just leading you down the primrose path.
Katie: I can't believe it.

Mr. Rooney: I've got it right here in front of me. He has missed nine days.


  1. ^ "primrose path - definition by the Free Online Dictionary". Free Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2013-09-24. 
  2. ^ a b "What's the origin of 'primrose path'?". The Straight Dope. 2001-08-23. Retrieved 2013-09-24. 
  3. ^ "Ferris Bueller's Day Off quotes". MovieQuotedb. Retrieved 31 January 2016.