William Shakespeare has been quoted, studied, and celebrated for centuries. His words and phrases have stood the test of time for good reason - his writings have impacted our language and culture.
From profound truths about life to witty musings about humanity, the works of William Shakespeare contain an endless array of beautiful quotes that are as relevant now as they were hundreds of years ago.
Here, we present a curated list of the top 10 famous William Shakespeare quotes, each bearing testimony to his unparalleled genius.
Whether you're looking for guidance, inspiration, or something to make you smile, these timeless quotes from one of the world's most famous writers will bring something special to any occasion.
Top 10 Best William Shakespeare Quotes
William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, has been an enduring figure in world literature, captivating audiences for over four centuries with his poetic finesse, intricate plots, and profound insight into the human psyche.
Here, we present the top 10 famous quotes from William Shakespeare's Plays.
1. "To be, or not to be: that is the question" - Hamlet
Shakespeare's famous line "To be, or not to be: that is the question" from his play Hamlet is an expression of the protagonist's inner struggle with life.
He contemplates whether he should accept his suffering, bear the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or fight against it at any cost. This phrase has become iconic, representing a universal sentiment about life and death that resonates across centuries.
The soliloquy in which this line appears provides valuable insight into Hamlet's psychology. He questions the value of life itself, wondering if it is better to endure all of its miseries or to end them by dying.
In doing so, Hamlet forces us to confront our own mortality and consider our own attitudes towards death.
2. "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more" - Henry V
Shakespeare's iconic line "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more" from his play Henry V presents an important lesson about perseverance and courage.
The phrase is a call to action for King Henry's troops as they prepare to make yet another attack on a heavily defended castle.
In some interpretations, this phrase serves as a metaphor for tackling difficult problems in life with resolute determination, no matter how daunting the task may appear.
The phrase symbolizes fortitude in the face of adversity and unwavering conviction even when faced with insurmountable odds. It serves as an inspiration to not give up in the face of difficulty but to remain steadfast and march forward with persistence and vigor.
3. "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" - Hamlet
Shakespeare's famous line "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" from his play Hamlet is an important reminder to stay out of debt and not burden someone else.
He stresses the importance of financial responsibility and reminds us of the potential harm of taking loans and giving them away carelessly.
This phrase is a valuable lesson in personal finance and has gone down in history as an oft-quoted quote. It reminds us that being frugal and avoiding unnecessary debts is key to achieving financial stability.
Furthermore, it implies that one should always practice restraint when borrowing or lending, reinforcing the notion of responsible stewardship with money.
4. "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" - Hamlet
Shakespeare's famous line "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" from his play Hamlet is used to express suspicion and incredulity that someone is vehement in their denials or affirmations of something.
This phrase has become an idiom that suggests that if someone appears overly insistent on their position, they are likely trying to cover up something.
In the context of the play, the phrase implies that the speaker (Polonius) believes that Queen Gertrude is trying to hide something from her son, and he should be skeptical of her sincere insistence on being innocent and truthful.
The phrase serves as a reminder to look beyond what people say and consider underlying motivations and possible ulterior motives when evaluating someone's statements.
5. "If music be the food of love, play on" - Twelfth Night
Shakespeare's famous line "If music is the food of love, play on" from his play Twelfth Night speaks to the power of music to create an atmosphere and bring out emotion.
In the context of the play, these words come from Duke Orsino, who is using music to escape his unrequited love for Olivia. The phrase has become an idiom that implies that if an emotion needs to be evoked, one should use whatever means necessary to do so.
This phrase serves as a reminder that sometimes one needs to take extra measures to truly connect with someone or something, even if it means resorting to unconventional methods. It also suggests that music can provide solace and comfort when faced with difficult times.
6. "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind" - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare's famous line, "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind," from A Midsummer Night's Dream, speaks to the idea of true love being blind.
It can be interpreted to mean that love is focused on something beyond physical appearance and instead on internal traits and qualities. This phrase has become an idiom that implies that one should look beyond superficial characteristics and focus on what matters.
This phrase serves as a reminder to take time to appreciate one another for who they are and embrace our differences to foster deeper connections. It encourages us to cherish meaningful relationships and celebrate diversity.
7. "In my stars I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness" - King Lear
Shakespeare's famous line, "In my stars I am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness," from his play King Lear conveys the idea that one's destiny and fate are predetermined. It suggests that we should have faith in our abilities and trust that whatever happens in our lives is for a reason.
The phrase has become an idiom that implies that no matter what challenges or obstacles life throws at us, we should not be intimidated by them but instead take them head-on with courage and resilience.
This phrase serves as a reminder always to remember one's self-worth and never to doubt one's own capabilities. It encourages us to stay focused on our goals, no matter how daunting they may seem, and to be brave enough to accept all the adversity that comes along with life.
8. "This above all: to thine own self be true" - Hamlet
Shakespeare's famous line "This above all: to thine own self be true" from his play Hamlet speaks to the importance of being true to oneself. It can be interpreted to mean that we should always stay true to our values and beliefs and strive to remain honest in our actions and words.
The phrase has become an idiom that implies that, as individuals, we should focus on developing our individual character and staying authentic in our personal and professional lives.
This phrase reminds us always to do what is right for ourselves regardless of what others think or say. It encourages us to take responsibility for our decisions, stand up for ourselves, and live life with integrity.
9. "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” – In Memoriam by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Shakespeare's famous line "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" from his poem In Memoriam A.H.H. conveys the idea that one should not regret any past love experiences, even if those relationships did not last.
The phrase has become an idiom that implies that there is something valuable in the experience of loving, that it is a necessary part of life and what makes humans human.
This phrase serves as a reminder of the power of love. It encourages us to open our hearts and live fully despite the knowledge that we will inevitably experience loss or heartbreak. It also speaks to the idea that no matter how painful it may be, it is still worth loving with all our being for whatever time we are given.
10. “All that glitters is not gold” – The Merchant of Venice
Shakespeare's famous phrase "All that glitters is not gold" from his play The Merchant of Venice conveys that appearances can be deceptive and that sometimes, things that appear valuable may be nothing more than a mere illusion.
The phrase has become an idiom that implies that it is important to look beyond what appears on the surface and make careful judgments regarding the true nature of any situation.
This phrase serves as a reminder to approach life with caution and discernment, taking the time for proper investigation before making decisions or coming to conclusions about any matter.
It speaks to the need for patience when assessing people, places, and objects in our environment, ensuring we make informed and wise decisions rather than rash ones based on superficial observations.
Aesthetic appreciation of nature in Shakespeare's quotes
Shakespeare's works often featured beautiful passages that conveyed an appreciation of nature. In As You Like It, he wrote: "The cherry-red bloom blush on her lips;/ The stars in the firmament seemed to resist/ Her beauty 'gainst which they all contended."
It was a powerful love poem that utilized flowers and stars to reflect the speaker's admiration for his beloved.
In A Midsummer Night's Dream, the natural world illustrates the playful interactions between its characters: "And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,/ Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in."
Here, Shakespeare used vivid imagery of a snake discarding its old skin as a metaphor for transformation and rebirth.
He also showed deep respect for natural elements in his sonnets, such as in Sonnet 18: "Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,/ And summer's lease hath all too short a date."
As with many other poets of that period, Shakespeare acknowledged the fleeting beauty found within nature and recognized it as something precious and worth cherishing.
Ultimately, Shakespeare's eloquent quotes explore the wide range of emotions associated with nature and beauty. He celebrated the transient qualities of both to remind readers of the importance of cherishing them while they last.
At the same time, he warned about the potential dangers associated with being swayed by what appears to be valuable on the surface alone.
Through his works, it is clear that Shakespeare believed in taking a closer look before coming to conclusions and making decisions based on careful observation and reflection.