A guest post by Sue Schlesman
Let me clarify. Narrowing down my favorite Shakespearean quotes is a nearly impossible task. For one, I haven’t yet read everything he wrote, so there’s no telling what I’m still missing. Two, he was a genius, obviously. It’s so very hard to pull a few threads from so rich a tapestry of philosophy and wit.
But I’m willing to try.
To make the task easier, I’ve limited quotations to lines from Shakespeare’s plays. From there, I’ve boiled down my favorite quotes to the ones that make me giddy, in a nerdy kind of way. These are quotes that on occasion have wormed their way into my real life. I may or may not have been caught quoting them to my children.
They are grouped categorically by theme (and thus, by usefulness.)
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.”—Malvolio, Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 5
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.”—Caesar, Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 2
“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”—Trink, The Tempest, Act 2, Scene 2
“Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt.”—Lucio, Measure for Measure, Act 1, Scene 4
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen,
Lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”—Mark Antony, Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2.
“We know what we are, but we know not what we may be.”—Ophelia, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5
“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”—Puck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 3, Scene 2
“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 on the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”—Macbeth, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And on man in his time plays many parts,
his acts being seven stages.”—Jaques, As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7
“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, The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1
“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.”—Caesar, Julius Casesar, Act 1, Scene 2
“Though she be but little, she is fierce,”—Helena, The Taming of the Shrew, Act 3, Scene 2
“Give every man your ear but few your voice.”—Polonius, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3
“Wise and slow; they stumble that run fast.”—Friar Lawrence, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 3
“Brevity is the soul of wit.”—Polonius, Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2
“All that glisters is not gold.”—Prince of Morocco, The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 7
“Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.”—Fool, Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 5
“Have more than you show; speak less than you know.”—Fool, King Lear, Act 1, Scene 4
“This above all: to thine own self be true.
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”—Polonius, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”—Touchstone, As You Like It, Act 5, Scene 1
“What’s in a name?
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”—Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”—Lysander, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 2, Scene 2
“I do love nothing in the world so well as you”—Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4, Scene 1
“But thou love me, let them find me here.
My life were better ended by their hate
than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.”—Romeo, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2
“Come, gentle night, come, loving black-brow’d night,
Give me my Romeo; and when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out into little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”—Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 2
Shakespeare wrote to help us understand ourselves—to make us laugh and cry and feel excitement—and in so doing, to peel back another layer of our outer shell, exposing the raw individuality that lies beneath.
Sue Schlesman is a Christian writer, teacher, and speaker. Her blogs, Bible studies, fiction, and non-fiction reach a wide audience. You can find her philosophizing about life, education, family, and Jesus at www.susanwalleyschlesman.com and www.7prayersthatwork.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.