My (and My Friends’) Favorite Shakespeare Quotes

A guest post by Joseph Bentz

20401344_10155161494984678_871206458_nI have divided my favorite Shakespeare quotes into two categories. The first includes the quotes suggested by friends, whom I asked for feedback. The second category includes four Shakespeare quotes that frequently go through my mind. Most of those are from Hamlet, which is my favorite Shakespeare play and the one I have taught most often. I am an American literature professor, so I don’t get to teach Shakespeare very much, but when I do get to do one of his plays in introductory literature courses, Hamlet is the one for me.    

Great Shakespeare Quotes Suggested by Friends:

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. (The Merchant of Venice Act IV, Scene i)

We know what we are, but know not what we may be. (Hamlet Act IV, Scene v)

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)

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child! (King Lear Act I, Scene v)

The course of true love never did run smooth. (A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act I, Scene i)

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. (A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act I, Scene i)

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man: and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him. (Much Ado About Nothing Act II, Scene i)

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a weary world! (The Merchant of Venice Act V, Scene i)

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds. (Sonnet 116)

Goats and monkeys! (Othello Act IV, Scene i)

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves. (Julius Caesar Act I, Scene ii) 

A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse! (Richard III Act V, Scene iv)

Glendower: I can call the spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come, when you do call for them? (1 Henry IV Act III Scene i) 

King Richard II: For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings. (Richard II Act III, Scene ii)

Bishop of Carlisle: My lord, wise men ne’er sit and wail their woes,
But presently prevent the ways to wail. (Richard II Act III, Scene ii) 

Messenger: My Lord High Constable, the English lie within fifteen hundred paces of your tent.
Constable: Who hath measured the ground? (Henry V Act III, Scene vii)

Prospero: Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. (The Tempest Act IV, Scene 1)

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers. (2 Henry VI Act IV, Scene ii)

What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living? (Much Ado About Nothing Act I, Scene i)

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
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, [conjure] up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favor’d rage. (Henry V Act III, Scene i)

Shakespeare quotes that frequently go through my mind (out of context)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Hamlet Act I, Scene v)

Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look. (Julius Caesar Act I, Scene ii)

The readiness is all. (Hamlet Act V, Scene ii)

 Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. (Hamlet Act I, Scene iv)


Joseph Bentz is published in both fiction and non-fiction, with four novels and five non-fiction books. His most recent book, Nothing is Wasted, was published in 2016 by Beacon Hill Press. His novel, Dreams of Caladria, was published by Enclave in 2015. He is currently at work on a book about passages of Scripture that have changed the world. He is a professor of English at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California, where he teaches courses in writing and American literature. His blog, Life of the Mind and Soul, can be found at




About writerhoss

I am a writer from southwestern Ohio, and a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. My books include The Bard and the Bible (A Shakespeare Devotional).
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