All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts...
~ Jaques in As You Like It
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings. Cassius, Act I, scene ii.

William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) – 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist.

Please note: these quotes are from Shakespeare's works, not his actual words.

See also:
King Lear
Romeo and Juliet
and more works on Wikiquote.


But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be reliev'd by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
~ Prospero in The Tempest
Time's glory is to calm contending kings,
To unmask falsehood, and bring truth to light.
Blese be the man that spares these stones
And curst be he that moves my bones
  • Time's glory is to calm contending kings,
    To unmask falsehood, and bring truth to light.
    • The Rape of Lucrece.
  • That deep torture may be called a hell,
    When more is felt than one hath power to tell.
    • The Rape of Lucrece.
  • On a day — alack the day! —
    Love, whose month is ever May,
    Spied a blossom passing fair
    Playing in the wanton air
    • Sonnets to Sundry Notes of Music, II. Not to be confused with The Sonnets; this poem is not a sonnet
  • Crabbed age and youth cannot live together:
    Youth is full of pleasure, age is full of care
    • The Passionate Pilgrim: A Madrigal; there is some doubt about the authorship of this.
  • Good frend for Jesus sake forbeare
    To digg the dust encloased heare
    Blese be the man that spares these stones
    And curst be he that moves my bones
    • Shakespeare's epitaph

Richard III (1592–3)

  • Now is the winter of our discontent
    Made glorious summer by this sun of York.
    • Richard, Act I, scene i.
  • Off with his head!
    • Richard, Act III, scene iv.
  • A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!
    • Richard, Act V, scene iv.

Romeo and Juliet (1595)

  • What light through yonder window breaks?
    • Romeo, Act II, scene ii.
  • What's in a name? That which we call a rose,
    By any other name would smell as sweet.
    • Juliet, Act II, scene ii.
  • O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
    • Juliet, Act II, scene ii.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595)

  • The course of true love never did run smooth.
    • Lysander, Act I, scene i.
  • Lord, what fools these mortals be!
    • Puck, Act III, scene ii.
  • Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
    And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind.
    • Helena, Act I, scene i.

The Merchant of Venice (1596–7)

  • If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces.
    • Portia, Act I, scene ii.
  • All that glisters is not gold.
  • I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
    • Shylock, Act III, scene i.

Henry IV, Part 1 (1597-8)

  • The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life.
    • Falstaff, Act V, scene iv.

Henry IV, Part 2 (1597-8)

  • A man can die but once.
    • Feeble, Act III, scene ii.
  • Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
    • King Henry, Act III, scene i.

Much Ado About Nothing (1598)

  • As merry as the day is long.
    • Beatrice, Act II, scene i.
  • Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
    Men were deceivers ever;
    One foot in sea, and one on shore,
    To one thing constant never.
    • Balthazar, Act II, scene iii.
  • Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.
    • Hero, Act III, scene i.

Julius Caesar (1599)

  • Beware the ides of March.
    • Soothsayer, Act I, scene ii.
  • Men at some time are masters of their fates:
    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
    • Cassius, Act I, scene ii.
  • Cowards die many times before their deaths;
    The valiant never taste of death but once.
    • Caesar, Act II, scene ii.
  • Cry 'Havoc!,' and let slip the dogs of war.
    • Antony, Act III, scene i.
  • Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones.
    • Antony, Act III, scene ii.

As You Like It (1599–1600)

  • All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts.
    • Jaques, Act II, scene vii.
  • 'The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.'
    • Touchstone, Act V, scene i

Hamlet (1600–1)

  • Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
    For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
    And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
    This above all: to thine ownself be true.
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.
    • Polonius, Act I, scene iii.
  • Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.
    • Polonius, Act I, scene iii.
  • The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
    That ever I was born to set it right!
    • Hamlet, Act I, scene v.
  • There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
    • Hamlet, Act II, scene ii.
  • What a piece of work is a man!
    How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty!
    In form and moving how express and admirable!
    In action how like an angel,
    in apprehension how like a god!
    • Hamlet, Act II, scene ii.
  • To be or not to be, that is the question.
    • Hamlet, Act III, scene i.

Twelfth Night (1601)

  • If music be the food of love, play on.
    • Orsino, Act I, scene i.
  • Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.
    • Malvolio, Act II, scene v.

Othello (1603–4)

  • Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit and lost without deserving.
    • Iago, Act II, scene iii.
  • Of one that lov'd not wisely but too well.
    • Othello, Act V, scene ii.

Timon of Athens (1605)

  • We have seen better days.
    • Flavius, Act IV, scene ii.

King Lear (1605–6)

  • Nothing can come of nothing.
    • Lear, Act I, scene i.
  • How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
    To have a thankless child!
    • Lear, Act I, scene iv.
  • I am a man,
    More sinn'd against than sinning.
    • Lear, Act III, scene ii.

Antony and Cleopatra (1606)

  • The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
    Burnt on the water.
    • Enobarbus, Act II, scene ii.

Macbeth (1606)

  • Come what come may,
    Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.
    • Macbeth, Act I, scene iii.
  • Is this a dagger which I see before me,
    The handle toward my hand?
    • Macbeth, Act II, scene i.
  • Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.
    • Macbeth, Act V, scene v.

Sonnets (1609)

  • Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer's lease hath all too short a date
    • XVIII
  • So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
    • XVIII
  • Let me not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit impediments.
    • CXVI

Cymbeline (1610)

  • Golden lads and girls all must,
    As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
    • Guiderius, Act IV, scene ii.

The Tempest (1611)

  • Full fathom five thy father lies;
    Of his bones are coral made;
    Those are pearls that were his eyes;
    Nothing of him that doth fade,
    But doth suffer a sea-change
    Into something rich and strange.
    • Ariel, Act I, scene ii.
  • Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.
    • Trinculo, Act II, scene ii.
  • We are such stuff
    As dreams are made on; and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep.
    • Prospero, Act IV, scene i.


  • Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. The saying goes you live by the sword you shall die by the sword...It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.
    • This statement by an unknown author has also been wrongly attributed to Julius Caesar, as well as to Shakespeare's play on his assassination and its aftermath, but there are no records of it prior to late 2000. It has been debunked at
  • Nothing is more common than the wish to be remarkable.
    • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858), ch. XII : Nothing is so common-place as to wish to be remarkable.
  • Children wish fathers looked but with their eyes; fathers that children with their judgment looked; and either may be wrong.
    • Derived from A Midsummer Night's Dream on p. 269, Aphorisms from Shakespeare (1812), Capel Lofft, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, a book which rewrites in aphoristic form Shakespeare quotations, in this case the exchange between Hermia and Theseus: "I would my father look'd but with my eyes", "Rather your eyes must with his judgment look".
  • However wickedness outstrips men, it has no wings to fly from God.
    • Derived from a longer quote in Henry V, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 283.
  • He who has injured thee was either stronger or weaker than thee. If weaker, spare him; if stronger, spare thyself.
    • Truly from Seneca the Younger, in De Ira, Book III, Chapter V:
      Aut potentior te aut inbecillior laesit: si inbecillior, parce illi, si potentior, tibi.
  • The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.
    • Not by Shakespeare, but from Finding Your Strength in Difficult Times: A Book of Meditations, a 1993 self-help book by David S. Viscott.[1]

Quotes about Shakespeare

Shakespear's Magick could not copy'd be,
Within that Circle none durst walk but he. ~ John Dryden
The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good — in spite of all the people who say he is very good. ~ Robert Graves
Shakespeare led a life of Allegory; his works are the comments on it. ~ John Keats
Alphabetized by author
  • Shakespeare one gets acquainted with without knowing how. It is a part of an Englishman's constitution. His thoughts and beauties are so spread abroad that one touches them every where, one is intimate with him by instinct.
  • History adds that before or after dying he found himself in the presence of God and told Him: "I who have been so many men in vain want to be one and myself." The voice of the Lord answered from a whirlwind: "Neither am I anyone; I have dreamt the world as you dreamt your work, my Shakespeare, and among the forms in my dream are you, who like myself are many and no one."
  • Shakespeare's drama, where ideal women walk
    in worship, and the baser sort find sympathy.
  • Shakespeare's name, you may depend upon it, stands absurdly too high and will go down. He had no invention as to stories, none whatever. He took all his plots from old novels, and threw their stories into dramatic shape... That he threw over whatever he did write some flashes of genius, nobody can deny; but this was all.
    • Lord Byron, letter to James Hogg (24 March 1814), as quoted in Chambers Dictionary of Quotations (1997), p. 221.
  • Consider now, if they asked us, Will you give up your Indian Empire or your Shakespeare, you English: never have had any Shakespeare? Really it were a grave question. Official persons would an swer doubtless in official language: but we, for our part too, should not be forced, to answer: Indian Empire, or no Indian Empire we cannot do with out Shakespeare!
    • Thomas Carlyle, "On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History" (1841), Lecture 3. The Hero as Poet. Dante; Shakespeare.
  • The souls most fed with Shakespeare's flame
    Still sat unconquered in a ring,
    Remembering him like anything.
  • The greatest genius that perhaps human nature has yet produced, our myriad-minded Shakespeare.
    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (1817), Chapter XV. Borrowed from a Greek monk who applied it to a Patriarch of Constantinople.
  • He is of no age — nor, I may add, of any religion, or party, or profession. The body and substance of his works came out of the unfathomable depths of his own oceanic mind.
  • He was not only a great poet, but a great philosopher.
  • The true description of us is the complex, ever-changing pattern of interactions of billions of them [neurons]... The abbreviated and approximate shorthand that we employ every day to describe human behavior is a smudged caricature of our true selves. "What a piece of work is a man!" said Shakespeare. Had he been living today he might have given us the poetry we so sorely need to celebrate all these remarkable discoveries.
    • Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (1994)
  • I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.
    • Charles Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. I (1860), as quoted in Webster's New World Dictionary of Quotations (2005), p. 253.
  • 'I'm always ill after Shakespeare,' said Mrs Wititterly. 'I scarcely exist the next day; I find the reaction so very great after a tragedy, my lord, and Shakespeare is such a delicious creature.'
  • But Shakespear's Magick could not copy'd be,
    Within that Circle none durst walk but he.
  • To begin then with Shakespeare; he was the man who of all Modern, and perhaps Ancient Poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the Images of Nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily: when he describes any thing, you more than see it, you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation: he was naturally learn'd; he needed not the spectacles of Books to read Nature; he look'd inwards, and found her there. I cannot say he is every where alike; were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of Mankind. He is many times flat, insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches; his serious swelling into Bombast. But he is always great, when some great occasion is presented to him: no man can say he ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not then raise himself as high above the rest of the poets.
    • John Dryden, An Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668), "Shakespeare and Ben Jonson Compared".
  • If I would compare him [Jonson] with Shakespeare, I must acknowledge him the more correct poet, but Shakespeare the greater wit.
    • John Dryden, An Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668), "Shakespeare and Ben Jonson Compared".
  • Shakespeare was the Homer, or father of our dramatic poets; Jonson was the Virgil, the pattern of elaborate writing. I admire him, but I love Shakespeare.
    • John Dryden, An Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668), "Shakespeare and Ben Jonson Compared".
  • Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third.
    • T. S. Eliot, "Dante" (1929), from Selected Essays (1932).
  • What point of morals, of manners, of economy, of philosophy, of religion, of taste, of the conduct of life, has he not settled? What mystery has he not signified his knowledge of? What office, or function, or district of man's work, has he not remembered? What king has he not taught state, as Talma taught Napoleon? What maiden has not found him finer than her delicacy? What lover has he not outloved? What sage has he not outseen? What gentleman has he not instructed in the rudeness of his behavior?
  • England's genius filled all measure
    Of heart and soul, of strength and pleasure,
    Gave to the mind its emperor,
    And life was larger than before:
    Nor sequent centuries could hit
    Orbit and sum of Shakespeare's wit.

    The men who lived with him became
    Poets, for the air was fame.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Solution," lines 35–42, Poems (1918), p. 222. These lines are inscribed above the fireplace in the old reading room of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.
  • The passages of Shakespeare that we most prize were never quoted until within this century.
  • Ultimately, Anthony Burgess's emphasis on the multiplicity of meanings latent in the text of Shakespeare's life foregrounds his own appropriation of Shakespeare … Clearly this is not an inconsistency on Burgess's part but a deliberate pointer at the inevitability of appropriating any given text, particularly that most irresistible one of Shakespeare's life.
  • If Shakespeare required a word and had not met it in civilized discourse, he unhesitatingly made it up.
  • Do you know how they are going to decide the Shakespeare-Bacon dispute? They are going to dig up Shakespeare and dig up Bacon; they are going to set their coffins side by side, and they are going to get Tree to recite Hamlet to them. And the one who turns in his coffin will be the author of the play.
    • W. S. Gilbert, letter quoted in Chambers Dictionary of Quotations (1997), p. 426.
  • The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good — in spite of all the people who say he is very good.
    • Robert Graves, in The Observer, "Sayings of the Week", (6 December 1964).
  • Far from the sun and summer-gale,
    In thy green lap was Nature's Darling laid.
    • Thomas Gray, The Progress of Poesy (1754), lines 83-84.
  • For there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.
  • This figure that thou here seest put,
    It was for gentle Shakespeare cut,
    Wherein the graver had a strife
    With Nature, to out-do the life:
    O could he but have drawn his wit
    As well in brass, as he has hit
    His face; the print would then surpass
    All that was ever writ in brass:
    But since he cannot, reader, look
    Not on his picture, but his book.
    • Ben Jonson, on the Portrait of Shakespeare, from Mr William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1623), "To the Reader", as quoted in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999), p. 420.
  • Soul of the Age!
    The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage!
    My Shakespeare...
    Thou art a monument, without a tomb,
    And art alive still while thy book doth live,
    And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
    • Ben Jonson, To the Memory of my Beloved, the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare (1623)
  • He was not of an age, but for all time!
    • Ben Jonson, To the Memory of my Beloved, the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare (1623)
  • I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, "Would he had blotted a thousand".
    • Ben Jonson, Timber: or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter (1640)
  • There was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned.
    • Ben Jonson, Timber: or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter (1640)
  • He was honest, and of an open and free nature[, and] had an excellent fantasy, brave notions, and gentle expressions.
    • Ben Jonson, Timber: or, Discoveries; Made upon Men and Matter (1641), p. 98
  • He that tries to recommend him by select Quotations, will succeed like the Pedant in Hierocles, who, when he offered his House to Sale, carried a Brick in his Pocket as a Specimen.
    • Samuel Johnson, The plays of William Shakespeare, Vol. I (1765), Preface.
  • Shakespeare has united the powers of exciting laughter and sorrow not only in one mind but in one composition. Almost all his plays are divided between serious and Ludicrous characters and they sometimes produce sorrow and sometimes laughter.
    That this is a practice contrary to the rules of criticism will be readily allowed; but there is always an appeal open from criticism to nature.
    • Samuel Johnson, The plays of William Shakespeare, Vol. I (1765), Preface.
  • Yet it must be at last confessed, that as we owe every thing to him [Shakespeare], he owes something to us; that, if much of his praise is paid by perception and judgment, much is likewise given by custom and veneration. We fix our eyes upon his graces, and turn them from his deformities, and endure in him what we should in another loath or despise.
    • Samuel Johnson, The plays of William Shakespeare, Vol. I (1765), Preface.
  • And so sepulchr'd, in such pomp dost lie,
    That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.
  • I never quite despair and I read Shakspeare — indeed I shall I think never read any other Book much [...] I am very near Agreeing with Hazlit that Shakspeare is enough for us.
    • John Keats, in a letter to Benjamin Robert Haydon (11 May 1817).
  • He has left nothing to say about nothing or any thing.
    • John Keats, in a letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (22 November 1817).
  • At once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare posessed so enormously — I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.
    • John Keats, in a letter to George and Tom Keats ([21/27?] December 1817).
  • Shakespeare led a life of Allegory; his works are the comments on it.
    • John Keats, in a letter to George and Georgiana Keats (19 February 1819).
  • Shakespeare is not our poet, but the world's;
    Therefore on him no speech!
    • Walter Savage Landor, "To Robert Browning," published in The Morning Chronicle (22 November 1845); reprinted in The Works of Walter Savage Landor (1846), vol. II.
  • When I read Shakespeare I am struck with wonder
    That such trivial people should muse and thunder
    In such lovely language.
  • Some of Shakspeare's plays I have never read; while others I have gone over perhaps as frequently as any unprofessional reader. Among the latter are Lear, Richard Third, Henry Eighth, Hamlet, and especially Macbeth. I think nothing equals Macbeth. It is wonderful. Unlike you gentlemen of the profession, I think the soliloquy in Hamlet commencing "O, my offence is rank surpasses that commencing "To be, or not to be." But pardon this small attempt at criticism.
  • EDMUND (sits down opposite his father - contemptuously). Yes, facts don't mean a thing, do they? What you want to believe, that's the only truth! (Derisively.) Shakespeare was an Irish Catholic, for example.
    TYRONE (stubbornly). So he was. The proof is in his plays.
  • When we speak of the aim and Art observable in Shakespeare's works, we must not forget that Art belongs to Nature; that it is, so to speak, self-viewing, self-imitating, self-fashioning Nature. The Art of a well-developed genius is far different from the Artfulness of the Understanding, of the merely reasoning mind. Shakspeare was no calculator, no learned thinker; he was a mighty, many-gifted soul, whose feelings and works, like products of Nature, bear the stamp of the same spirit; and in which the last and deepest of observers will still find new harmonies with the infinite structure of the Universe; concurrences with later ideas, affinities with the higher powers and senses of man. They are emblematic, have many meanings, are simple and inexhaustible, like products of Nature; and nothing more unsuitable could be said of them than that they are works of Art, in that narrow mechanical acceptation of the word.
  • Children are made to learn bits of Shakespeare by heart, with the result that ever after they associate him with pedantic boredom. If they could meet him in the flesh, full of jollity and ale, they would be astonished, and if they had never heard of him before they might be led by his jollity to see what he had written. But if at school they had been inoculated against him, they will never be able to enjoy him. [...] Shakespeare did not write with a view to boring school-children; he wrote with a view to delighting his audiences. If he does not give you delight, you had better ignore him.
  • On this planet the reputation of Shakespeare is secure. When life is discovered elsewhere in the universe and some interplanetary traveler brings to this new world the fruits of our terrestrial culture, who can imagine anything but that among the first books carried to the curious strangers will be a Bible and the works of WIlliam Shakespeare.
    • Louis Marder, in His Exits and his Entrances : The Story of Shakespeare's Reputation (1963), p. 362.
  • The verbal poetical texture of Shakespeare is the greatest the world has known, and is immensely superior to the structure of his plays as plays.
    • Vladimir Nabokov, quoted in interview with Alfred Appel, Jr. (September 1966), printed in Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 8 (1967); republished in Nabokov's Strong Opinions (1973).
  • Dolt & ass that I am I have lived more than 29 years, & until a few days ago, never made close acquaintance with the divine William. Ah, he's full of sermons-on-the-mount, and gentle, aye, almost as Jesus. I take such men to be inspired. I fancy that this moment Shakespeare in heaven ranks with Gabriel, Raphael and Michael. And if another Messiah ever comes twill be in Shakespeare's person.
    • Herman Melville, Letter to Evert Augustus Duyckinck (24 February 1849); published in The Letters of Herman Melville (1960) edited by Merrell R. Davis and William H. Gilman, p. 77.
  • Shakespeare — the nearest thing in incarnation to the eye of God.
    • Laurence Olivier, quoted in Kenneth Harris, "Sir Laurence Olivier," from Kenneth Harris Talking To... (1971).
  • I sent for some dinner and there dined, Mrs. Margaret Pen being by, to whom I had spoke to go along with us to a play this afternoon, and then to the King's Theatre, where we saw 'Midsummer's Night's Dream', which I had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life.
  • Shakespearean language is a bizarre super-tongue, alien and plastic, twisting, turning, and forever escaping. It is untranslatable, since it knocks Anglo-Saxon root words against Norman and Greco-Roman importations sweetly or harshly, kicking us up and down rhetorical levels with witty abruptness. No one in real life ever spoke like Shakespeare's characters. His language does not "make sense," especially in the greatest plays. Anywhere from a third to a half of every Shakespearean play, I conservatively estimate, will always remain under an interpretive cloud. Unfortunately, this fact is obscured by the encrustations of footnotes in modern texts, which imply to the poor cowed student that if only he knew what the savants do, all would be as clear as day. Every time I open Hamlet, I am stunned by its hostile virtuosity, its elusiveness and impenetrability. Shakespeare uses language to darken. He suspends the traditional compass points of rhetoric, still quite firm in Marlowe, normally regarded as Shakespeare's main influence. Shakespeare's words have "aura." This he got from Spenser, not Marlowe.
    • Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, p. 195.
  • He is not so much an imitator, as an instrument, of nature; and 'tis not so just to say that he speaks from her as that she speaks through him.
  • had all the speeches been printed without the very names of the persons, I believe one might have applied them with certainty to every speaker.
    • Alexander Pope, Preface to the Works of Shakespeare (1725). Compare Addison on Homer: "there is scarce a speech or action in the Iliad, which the reader may not ascribe to the person who speaks or acts, without seeing his name at the head of it." in The Spectator, No. 273 (12 January 1711–12).
  • 'tis plain he had much reading at least, if they will not call it learning. Nor is it any great matter, if a man has knowledge, whether he has it from one language or from another.
  • The shape of the Globe gives words power, but you're the wordsmith! The one true genius; the only one clever enough to do it. … Trust yourself. When you're locked away in your room, the words just come, don't they, like magic. Words, the right sound, the right shape, the right rhythm, words that last forever. That's what you do, Will. You choose perfect words. Do it. Improvise!
  • The two main Pillars of our Civilization,
    Jesus and Shakespeare said:
    "Nothing shall be impossible to Humans" (Jesus)
    "Impossibility is only seemingly impossible" (Shak.)
    • B. B. Stoller, Biologizing the Universe (1983)
  • Æschylus is above all things the poet of righteousness. "But in any wise, I say unto thee, revere thou the altar of righteousness": this is the crowning admonition of his doctrine, as its crowning prospect is the reconciliation or atonement of the principle of retribution with the principle of redemption, of the powers of the mystery of darkness with the coeternal forces of the spirit of wisdom, of the lord of inspiration and of light. The doctrine of Shakespeare, where it is not vaguer, is darker in its implication of injustice, in its acceptance of accident, than the impression of the doctrine of Æschylus. Fate, irreversible and inscrutable, is the only force of which we feel the impact, of which we trace the sign, in the upshot of Othello or King Lear. The last step into the darkness remained to be taken by "the most tragic" of all English poets. With Shakespeare — and assuredly not with Æschylus — righteousness itself seems subject and subordinate to the masterdom of fate: but fate itself, in the tragic world of Webster, seems merely the servant or the synonym of chance.
  • Shakespeare is a savage with sparks of genius which shine in a horrible night.
    • Voltaire, quoted in The Academy and literature, Vol. 56 (1899), p. 676.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 700-02.
  • This Booke
    When Brasse and Marble fade, shall make thee looke
    Fresh to all Ages.
    • Commendatory Verses prefixed to the folio of Shakespeare (1623).
  • This was Shakespeare's form;
    Who walked in every path of human life,
    Felt every passion; and to all mankind
    Doth now, will ever, that experience yield
    Which his own genius only could acquire.
  • Others abide our question. Thou art free.
    We ask and ask—Thou smilest and art still,
    Out-topping knowledge.
  • Renowned Spenser, lie a thought more nigh
    To learned Chaucer, and rare Beaumont lie
    A little nearer Spenser, to make room
    For Shakespeare in your threefold, fourfold tomb.
    • William Basse, On Shakespeare.
  • "With this same key
    Shakespeare unlocked his heart," once more!
    Did Shakespeare? If so, the less Shakespeare he!
  • If I say that Shakespeare is the greatest of intellects, I have said all concerning him. But there is more in Shakespeare's intellect than we have yet seen. It is what I call an unconscious intellect; there is more virtue in it than he himself is aware of.
  • Voltaire and Shakespeare! He was all
    The other feigned to be.
    The flippant Frenchman speaks: I weep;
    And Shakespeare weeps with me.
    • Matthias Claudius, A Comparison.
  • When great poets sing,
    Into the night new constellations spring,
    With music in the air that dulls the craft
    Of rhetoric. So when Shakespeare sang or laughed
    The world with long, sweet Alpine echoes thrilled
    Voiceless to scholars' tongues no muse had filled
    With melody divine.
    • C. P. Cranch, Shakespeare.
  • Now you who rhyme, and I who rhyme,
    Have not we sworn it, many a time,
    That we no more our verse would scrawl,
    For Shakespeare he had said it all!
  • If we wish to know the force of human genius we should read Shakespeare. If we wish to see the insignificance of human learning we may study his commentators.
  • Mellifluous Shakespeare, whose enchanting Quill
    Commandeth Mirth or Passion, was but Will.
  • The stream of Time, which is continually washing the dissoluble fabrics of other poets, passes without injury by the adamant of Shakspere.
  • I remember, the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, would he had blotted a thousand.
  • Then to the well-trod stage anon
    If Jonson's learned sock be on,
    Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
    Warble his native woodnotes wild.
  • What needs my Shakespeare for his honored bones
    The labors of an age in piled stones?
    Or that his hallowed reliques should be hid
    Under a starre-y-pointing pyramid?
    Dear son of Memory, great heir of fame,
    What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
    Thou in our wonder and astonishment
    Hath built thyself a livelong monument.
    • John Milton, An Epitaph. Similar phrases in the entire epitaph are found in the epitaph on Sir Thomas Stanley, supposed to have been written by Shakespeare. Also, same ideas found in Crashaw.
  • Shakspeare (whom you and every playhouse bill
    Style the divine! the matchless! what you will),
    For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight,
    And grew immortal in his own despite.
  • Few of the university pen plaies well, they smell too much of that writer Ovid and that writer Metamorphosis and talk too much of Proserpina and Jupiter. Why, here's our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down. Aye, and Ben Jonson too. O that B. J. is a pestilent fellow, he brought up Horace giving the poets a pill, but our fellow, Shakespeare, hath given him a purge that made him beray his credit.
    • The Return from Parnassus; or, The Scourge of Simony, Act IV, scene 3.
  • Shikspur, Shikspur! Who wrote it?
    No, I never read Shikspur.
    Then you have an immense pleasure to come.
    • James Townley High Life Below Stairs, Act II, scene 1 (Ed. 1759).
  • Scorn not the Sonnet. Critic, you have frowned,
    Mindless of its just honours; with this key
    Shakespeare unlocked his heart.

Psalm 46 rumours

  • God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
    Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
    Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.

    There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
    God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
    The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
    The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

    Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
    He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
    Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
    The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

    • The 46th Psalm in the King James Version of The Holy Bible, which is sometimes cited as evidence that Shakespeare was involved in helping to refine this translation, and in his 46th year of life, hid his name within this version of the psalm, the 46th word from the start being "shake" and the 46th word from the end being spear, (not counting the commonly repeated instruction "Selah" as word of the psalm). This observation seems to have originated in Shakespeare (1970) by Anthony Burgess, and later used in his story "Will and Testament" in Enderby's Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby (1984). Some have also noted peculiar numerical coincidences in the 10th line as well — which could produce "I William" — or I am Will. Others note that previous translations had used such words with similar placement as well.
  • The occasionally expressed popular belief that Shakespeare must have helped prepare the translation of the Bible completed for King James in 1610 is based solely on the circumstances that a few famous passages from the translation and from Shakespeare's tragedies are the only specimens of Jacobian English most people ever hear. Rudyard Kipling, however, composed a whimsical short story, Proofs of Holy Writ, in which one of the translators consults Shakespeare and Jonson, and in 1970, Anthony Burgess pointed out that in the King James Bible the 46th word of the 46th psalm, translated in Shakespeare's 46th year, is "shake", while the 46th word from the end (if one cheats by leaving out the last cadential word "selah", is "spear".
    • Michael Dobson, in The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare (2001) edited by Michael Dobson and Stanley W. Wells; further observations regarding these associations are discussed in:
  • Over the past two centuries, there has hardly been an author, certainly in the English-speaking world, who has commanded greater reverence than Shakespeare. … There is only one text in the English language that carries comparable prestige to the works of Shakespeare: the Bible, in particular in its most renowned version, the King James Bible, otherwise known as the Authorized Version, of 1611. … In view of the persistent juxtaposition of these two Anglophone cultural icons … it is hardly surprising that they also feature together in a number of fictions of Shakespeare's life, in the form of the fantasy of the Bard as co-translator of the Authorized Version. The originator of this motif seems to have been Rudyard Kipling. In his story "Proofs of Holy Writ," Kipling imagines Shakespeare in the process of revising parts of the Authorized Version with the help of Ben Jonson.
    • Paul Franssen, on Kipling, in his 1934 short story, as the probable originator of the idea that Shakespeare had worked on the King James version of the Bible, in "The Bard, the Bible and the Desert Island" in ‪The Author as Character : Representing Historical Writers in Western Literature‬ (1999) edited by Paul Franssen and A. J. Hoenselaars, p. 106.
  • Burgess's Shakespeare is not a patient empire builder or visionary, but rather an unhappy man caught in an unenviable position, at the midlife crisis age of forty-six. … Burgess's point may well be that literary quality is not always recognized during one's lifetime … due to an ill-advised display of his wit in the presence of the king, Shakespeare is currently out of favor. … Particularly ingenious in Burgess's story is the way Shakepeare even hides his name in the text of the psalm. As he is forty-six years of age, he chooses Psalm 46; he counts to the forty-sixth word, replaces it by "shake"' then he starts at the end, counts forty-six words backwards (leaving out of the account the cadential "selah"), and changes that word into "speare." The surprising thing is, that the evidence shoring up this highly unlikely scenario is in itself authentic: in Psalm 46 AV, the forty-sixth word really is "shake", the forty-sixth word from the end (not counting "selah") being spear.
    Although Burgess's Shakespeare revises the psalm for wholly selfish ends, out of defiance and sinful pride, he does not thereby lose our sympathy. Unlike Kiping's self-confident sahib, he is not a superman that can lead nations; rather, in his everyday struggle with political realities, an unhappy marriage, and uncomprehending neighbors, he is a modern antihero whom we cannot begrudge his one moment of triumph. … For Burgess, art is the result of suffering between the hammer of what is and the anvil of what should be. He projects that vision on Shakespeare, whose drive for self-realization, impeded by his surroundings, finds an outlet in this act of creativity.
    • Paul Franssen, on the use Shakespeare by Anthony Burgess in "Will and Testament" in Enderby's Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby (1984) in "The Bard, the Bible and the Desert Island" in ‪The Author as Character : Representing Historical Writers in Western Literature‬ (1999) edited by Paul Franssen and A. J. Hoenselaars, p. 111.
  • To me, Shakespeare lives if we keep performing his plays. He dies, when we stop performing them.

See also

More works of Shakespeare on Wikiquote

Separate pages exist for quotations from all of the following works:

Quotes by Shakespeare

Quotes about Shakespeare

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