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Examples Of Shakespeare Quotes In Essays

In honor of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, TIME compiled the 15 most beloved quotes from his 38 plays using a semi-scientific method: We scrolled through threedifferenteditions of his complete words for Kindle—roughly 10,000 pages—and collected the most highlighted passages. (Kindles have a feature where any reader can see which passages many other anonymous readers have highlighted.) There was significant overlap between the three.

Curiously, several of the quotations have a very different meaning in context from the way they are often deployed popularly. The “greatness” that Twelfth Night‘s Malvolio contemplates in the prank letter he reads refers primarily to social status, not courage or success. Likewise, Helena’s comment that “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind” is in direct contradiction to her circumstances, in which Demetrius has left her for the better-looking Hermia.

The quotations are almost evenly split between comedies and tragedies, though several famous passages weren’t chosen by the highlighters: Nowhere was Shylock’s “If you prick us do we not bleed?” from Merchant of Venice or Juliet’s eulogy to Romeo, made especially famous by Robert F. Kennedy’s tribute to his slain brother at the 1964 Democratic convention: “Take him and cut him out in 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.”

Here are the 15 most highlighted Shakespeare quotes.

1. Hamlet contemplating suicide in his famous soliloquy. (Hamlet)
“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die: to sleep;”

2. Polonius, giving Laertes a pep talk. (Hamlet)
“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.”

3. Macbeth, upon learning of the queen’s death. (Macbeth)
“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.”

4. Lafeu, consoling the Countess on the death of her husband and departure of her son. (All’s Well That Ends Well)
“Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living.”

5. The Countess dispensing some motherly wisdom to Bertram before he departs for France. (All’s Well That Ends Well)
“Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key: be cheque’d for silence,
But never tax’d for speech.”

6. Hamlet explaining to Horatio the appearance of a ghost. (Hamlet)
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

7. Caesar, to his wife, brushing aside her fear that he will soon die, which he does. (Julius Caesar)
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”

8. Cassius, priming Brutus to join the conspiracy against Caesar. (Julius Caesar)
“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.”

9. King Claudius, admitting to himself that his prayers are not heartfelt. (Hamlet)
“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

10. Friar Lawrence, chastising Romeo for abandoning Rosaline for his new love, Juliet Capulet (Romeo and Juliet)
“Young men’s love then lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.”

11. Hermia, getting in a dig at men’s infidelity (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
“By all the vows that ever men have broke,
In number more than ever women spoke”

12. Lysander, arguing with Hermia about love (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
“Ay me, for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth,
But either it was different in blood—”

13. Malvolio (reading from a letter by Maria, which he believes to be from Olivia) (Twelfth Night)
“…be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”

14. Helena, lamenting that Demetrius has left her for Hermia (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind.”

15. Prospero reflects on the fleeting nature of drama and life (The Tempest)
“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

As the most quoted English writer Shakespeare has more than his share of famous quotes.  Some Shakespare famous quotes are known for their beauty, some for their everyday truths and some for their wisdom. We often talk about Shakespeare’s quotes as things the wise Bard is saying to us but, we should remember that some of his wisest words are spoken by his biggest fools. For example, both ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be,’ and ‘to thine own self be true’ are from the foolish, garrulous and quite disreputable Polonius in Hamlet.

Whilst it’s hard to definitively say which are Shakespeare’s more famous quotes, we’ve examined polls published around the world and combined these with feedback from our millions of users and our own take on Shakespeare’s words, and can now offer what we belive to be the 50 most famous Shakespeare quotes. So, without further ado, here are Shakespeare’s most famous 50 quotes in no particular order:

1. ‘To be, or not to be: that is the question’

(Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1)

2. ‘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.’

(As You Like it Act 2, Scene 7)

3. ‘Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?’

(Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 2)

4. ‘Now is the winter of our discontent’

(Richard III Act 1, Scene 1)

5. ‘Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?’

(Macbeth Act 2, Scene 1)

6. ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.’

(Twelfth Night Act 2, Scene 5)

7. ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.’

(Julius Caesar Act 2, Scene 2)

8. ‘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.’

(The Tempest Act 1, Scene 2)

9. ‘A man can die but once.’

(Henry IV, Part 2 Act 3, Part 2)

10. ‘How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!’

(King Lear Act 1, Scene 4)

11. ‘Frailty, thy name is woman.’

(Hamlet Act 1, Scene 2)

12. ‘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?’

(The Merchant of Venice Act 3, Scene 1)

13. ‘I am one who loved not wisely but too well.’

(Othello Act 5, Scene 2)

14. ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks’

(Hamlet Act 3, Scene 2)

15. ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’

(The Tempest Act 4, Scene 1)

16. ‘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 5, Scene 5)

17. ‘Beware the Ides of March.’

(Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2)

18. ‘Get thee to a nunnery.’

(Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1)

19. ‘If music be the food of love play on.’

(Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 1)

20. ‘What’s in a name? A rose by any name would smell as sweet.’


(Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 2)

21. ‘The better part of valor is discretion’

(Henry IV, Part 1 Act 5, Scene 4)

22. ‘To thine own self be true.’

(Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3)

23. ‘All that glisters is not gold.’

(The Merchant of Venice Act 2, Scene 7)

24. ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears: I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.’

(Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 2)

25. ‘Nothing will come of nothing.’

(King Lear Act 1, Scene 1)

26. ‘The course of true love never did run smooth.’

(A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 1, Scene 1)

27. ‘Lord, what fools these mortals be!’

(A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 1, Scene 1)

28. ‘Cry “havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war’

(Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 1)

29. ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’

(Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2)

30. ‘A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!’

(Richard III Act 5, Scene 4)

31. ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’

(Hamlet Act 1, Scene 5)

32. ‘Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.’

(A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 1, Scene 1)

33. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, lies not within the stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.’

(Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2)

34. ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’

(Sonnet 18)

35. ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.’

(Sonnet 116)

36. ‘The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones.’

(Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 2)

37. ‘But, for my own part, it was Greek to me.’

(Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2)

38. ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.’

(Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3)

39. ‘We know what we are, but know not what we may be.’

(Hamlet Act 4, Scene 5)

40. ‘Off with his head!’

(Richard III Act 3, Scene 4)

41. ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’

(Henry IV, Part 2 Act 3, Scene 1)

42. ‘Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.’

(The Tempest Act 2, Scene 2)

43. ‘This is very midsummer madness.’

(Twelfth Night Act 3, Scene 4)

44. ‘Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.’

(Much Ado about Nothing Act 3, Scene 1)

45. ‘I cannot tell what the dickens his name is.’

(The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 3, Scene 2)

46. ‘We have seen better days.’

(Timon of Athens Act 4, Scene 2)

47. ‘I  am a man more sinned against than sinning.’

(King Lear Act 3, Scene 2)

48. ‘Brevity is the soul of wit.’

(Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2)

49. ‘This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle… This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.’

(Richard II Act 2, Scene 1)

50. ‘What light through yonder window breaks.’

Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 2)

What do you think – any famous Shakespeare quotes missing from the above list?

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