Did Shakespeare Say It First? No. Interestingly, Shakespeare never used the phrase four corners of the world, but he did use a humorous variation, three corners of the world.
Earliest Known and Confirmed Appearance.
1. all corners of the world:
1577, The golden booke of the leaden goddes, by Stephen Batman.
"his wynges at head &; feete betoken the expedition of marchates, which to gett worldly pelfe, post through all corners of the world."
2. four corners of the world:
1481, the historye of reynart the foxe, by William Caxton.
"I shal not reste nyght ne day ne alle they that wyl doo ony thyng for me but Renne and praye / Thretene and aske alle the four corners of the world."
3. all corners of the earth:
1548, An ansvver to the deuillish detection of Stephane Gardiner, Bishoppe of Wynchester, by Anthony Gilby.
"and thys body (that was borne of of the woman) can you not proue to be scatterred throught out all corners of the erthe and to be in heauen also."
4. four corners of the earth:
1526, the Tyndale Bible, a translation by William Tyndale.
Examples of Pre-Shakespearean Usage.
1. all corners of the world.
We find the expression all corners of the world appearing not once, but twice, in a 1578 book-length poem entitled The image of Irelande by one John Derricke. Here is one excerpt, in which Derricke describes Henry II:
He is that seconde Salomon,
as writynges doe importe,
Whiche filde all corners of the worlde
with fame of his reporte.
2. four corners of the world.
The expression four corners of the world appears in the 1560 Geneva Bible, in Isaiah 11:12:
"And he shal set vp a signe to the nacions, and assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather the scattered of Iudah from the foure corners of the worlde."
Isaiah 11:12 is on the right-hand page, first column.
3. four corners of the earth.
The expression four corners of the earth made its first appearance in the 1526 Tyndale Bible; note that the number 4 is written in Roman numerals, which was a common way to write numbers in the 16th century:
"And after that I sawe iiii angels stonde on the iiii corners of the earthe"...
Rev 7 appears in the middle of the third column.
Appearances in Shakespeare.
1. Cymbeline (1623), Act III, Scene iv:
No, 'tis slander,
Whose edge is sharper than the sword...whose breath
Rides on the posting winds and doth belie
All corners of the world.
2. King John (1623), Act V, Scene vii; Shakespeare employed a variation on the familiar four corners of the world:
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them.