156 Famous Shakespeare Quotes Worth Knowing

Bringing you the best quotes from the bard's mouth to yours.

Published June 23, 2023
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Your high school English teacher wasn't lying when they said Shakespeare was one of the most influential English language writers to ever put pen to paper. We have him to thank for so many words, phrases, and tropes.

In fact, you don't even have to be an avid fan of the classics to recognize a Shakespeare line in the wild. Chances are, you've been tossing out famous Shakespeare quotes without even realizing it, and here are a few to add to your arsenal.

Famous Quotes From Shakespeare's Comedies

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As a young curious mind, your first foray into the wonderful world of Shakespeare was probably his comedies. There's nothing that piques a 12-year-old's interest quite like a talking donkey and fairy kings. But, don't let the humor fool you - some of the most gut-punching lines of Shakespeare's comes from his comedic plays.

Here are just a few of the famous quotes we love from Shakespeare's comedies:

  • "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." - As You Like It
  • "Can one desire too much of a good thing?" - As You Like It
  • "All things are ready if our minds be so." - The Comedy of Errors
  • "Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast." - Love's Labor Lost
  • "The quality of mercy is not strained." - The Merchant of Venice
  • "How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!" - The Merchant of Venice
  • "The world is still deceived with ornament." - The Merchant of Venice
  • "Why, then the world's mine oyster, which I with sword will open." - The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • "If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended, that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear." - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • "Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more. Men were deceivers ever." - Much Ado About Nothing
  • "I would my horse had the speed of your tongue." - Much Ado About Nothing
  • "Fie, fie! Unknit that threatening unkind brow." - The Taming of the Shrew
  • "Of all base passions, fear is the most accursed." - The Taming of the Shrew
  • "I am wealthy in my friends." - The Comedy of Errors
  • "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." - As You Like It
  • "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep." - The Tempest
  • "Hell is empty, and all the devils are here." - The Tempest
  • "What's past is prologue." - The Tempest
  • "Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them." - Twelfth Night
  • "If music be the food of love, play on." - Twelfth Night
  • "I am not what I am." - Twelfth Night
  • "Give me excess of it, that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die." - Twelfth Night
  • "O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!" - Twelfth Night
  • "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." - Twelfth Night
  • "If she be not fair to me, what care I how fair she be?" - The Comedy of Errors
  • "How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes!" - As You Like It
  • "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it." - As You Like It
Fast Fact

Along with gifting us so many of his recognizable quotes ("To be or not to be," anyone?) Shakespeare is also credited with creating over 400 words, many of which we still use today. A few of these include "bedroom," "quarrelsome," "stealthy," and "zany."

Some of the Best Quotes From Shakespeare's Tragedies

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Shakespeare's iconic lines have been parodied a thousand times over, and his tragedies most of all. From "et tu, Brute?" that's become a stronger sign of betrayal than Judas' pieces of silver to Juliet's cries for Romeo from her balcony, these are a few of the most memorable quotes from Shakespeare's tragedies:

  • "O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?" - Romeo and Juliet
  • "For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo." - Romeo and Juliet
  • "Give me my Romeo, and when I shall die, 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." - Romeo and Juliet
  • "Et tu, Brute?" - Julius Caesar
  • "I am a woman, and when I think, I must speak." - Antony and Cleopatra
  • "I have immortal longings in me." - Antony and Cleopatra
  • "The miserable change now at my end Lament nor sorrow at; but please your thoughts in feeding them with those my former fortunes wherein I lived." - Antony and Cleopatra
  • "Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once." - Julius Caesar
  • "Beware the ides of March." - Julius Caesar
  • "Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war." - Julius Caesar
  • "This was the noblest Roman of them all." - Julius Caesar
  • "To be, or not to be: that is the question." - Hamlet
  • "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." - Hamlet
  • "The rest is silence." - Hamlet
  • "I am constant as the northern star." - Julius Caesar
  • "The wheel is come full circle." - King Lear
  • "Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!" - King Lear
  • "Nothing will come of nothing." - King Lear
  • "Out, damned spot! Out, I say!" - Macbeth
  • "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." - Macbeth
  • "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble." - Macbeth
  • "O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on." - Othello
  • "The Moor, howbeit that I endure him not, is of a constant, loving, noble nature." - Othello
  • "I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at." - Othello
  • "I am not what I am." - Othello
  • "The gods are deaf to hot and peevish vows." - Timon of Athens
  • "There's beggary in the love that can be reckoned." - Antony and Cleopatra
  • "A friend should bear his friend's infirmities." - Timon of Athens
  • "Farewell! Othello's occupation's gone." - Othello
  • "I have done a thousand dreadful things as willingly as one would kill a fly." - Titus Andronicus
  • "O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die." - Romeo and Juliet
  • "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety." - Antony and Cleopatra
  • "Thou art a traitor, false to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father." - Coriolanus
  • "The weight of this sad time we must obey, speak what we feel, not what we ought to say." - King Lear
  • "There is no creature loves me; and if I die, no soul shall pity me." - Timon of Athens

Famous Quotes From Shakespeare's Histories

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Want to spice up your history paper or drop a wise line in the middle of an argument? Look no further than Shakespeare's histories. Spanning decades of English lore and outlining the victories and follies of England's past monarchs, Shakespeare's histories are chock full of great quotes:

  • "This England never did, nor never shall, lie at the proud foot of a conqueror." - King John
  • "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me." - Richard II
  • "For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings." - Richard II
  • "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." - Henry IV, Part 2
  • "The better part of valor is discretion." - Henry IV, Part 1
  • "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more." - Henry V
  • "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers." - Henry V
  • "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." - Henry VI, Part 2
  • "True nobility is exempt from fear." - Henry VI, Part 2
  • "The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on." - Henry VI, Part 3
  • "Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York." - Richard III
  • "Conscience is but a word that cowards use, devised at first to keep the strong in awe." - Richard III
  • "I have set my life upon a cast, and I will stand the hazard of the die." - Richard III
  • "This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England." - Richard II
  • "Presume not that I am the thing I was." - Henry IV, Part 1
  • "The time shall come when thou shalt wish for me to help thee curse that poisonous bunchbacked toad." - Richard III
  • "The game's afoot: follow your spirit, and upon this charge cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'" - Henry V
  • "The painful warrior famoused for fight, after a thousand victories once foiled, is from the book of honor razed quite, and all the rest forgot for which he toiled." - Henry VI, Part 3
  • "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" - Richard III
  • "If that thy valour stand on sympathies, there is my gage, Aumerle, in gage to thine." - Richard II
  • "Is all our travail turned to this effect? After the slaughter of so many peers, so many captains, gentlemen, and soldiers, that in this quarrel have been overthrown and sold their bodies for their country's benefit, shall we at last conclude effeminate peace?" - Henry IV, Part 1
  • "Had I but died an hour before this chance, I had lived a blessed time; for from this instant there's nothing serious in mortality." - Henry IV, Part 2
  • "Death makes no conquest of this conqueror; for now he lives in fame, though not in life." - Richard II
  • "Off with his head!" - Richard III
  • "Let's pay him fairer than he merits." - Henry IV, Part 1
  • "No, 'tis slander, whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath rides on the posting winds, and doth belie all corners of the world." - Richard II
  • "I am a villain: yet I lie, I am not." - Richard III
  • "Vouchsafe to wear this ring." - Henry IV, Part 2
  • "As full of valour as of royal blood." - Richard II
  • "Not all the water in the rough rude sea can wash the balm off from an anointed king." - Richard II
  • "Here I and sorrows sit; here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it." - Richard II
  • "By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap to pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon, or dive into the bottom of the deep, where fathom-line could never touch the ground, and pluck up drowned honour by the locks." - Henry IV, Part 1
  • "His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last, for violent fires soon burn out themselves; small showers last long, but sudden storms are short; he tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes; with eager feeding food doth choke the feeder: light vanity, insatiate cormorant, consuming means, soon preys upon itself." - Henry VI, Part 1
  • "Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water." - Henry VIII
  • "You have undone a man of fourscore-three, that thought to fill his grave in quiet." - Henry VIII
  • "Farewell! A long farewell, to all my greatness!" - Henry VIII
  • "This is the state of man: today he puts forth the tender leaves of hope; tomorrow blossoms, and bears his blushing honors thick upon him; the third day comes a frost, a killing frost, and, when he thinks, good easy man, full surely his greatness is a-ripening, nips his root, and then he falls." - Henry VIII

Popular Quotes From Shakespeare's Sonnets

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Though Shakespeare is best known for his theatrical plays, he was just as prolific of a poetry writer as he was a playwright. He carved out his own sonnet structure and reinvigorated English poetry with a fresh voice. Here are some popular quotes from his notable sonnets:

  • "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" - Sonnet 18
  • "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes." - Sonnet 29
  • "Let those who are in favour with their stars." - Sonnet 25
  • "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past." - Sonnet 30
  • "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun." - Sonnet 130
  • "From fairest creatures we desire increase." - Sonnet 1
  • "So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives life to thee." - Sonnet 18
  • "When forty winters shall besiege thy brow." - Sonnet 2
  • "Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?" - Sonnet 8
  • "Not marble nor the gilded monuments." - Sonnet 55
  • "Thou art more lovely and more temperate." - Sonnet 18
  • "The expense of spirit in a waste of shame is lust in action." - Sonnet 129
  • "O, never say that I was false of heart." - Sonnet 109
  • "They that have power to hurt and will do none." - Sonnet 94
  • "Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will." - Sonnet 135
  • "For where is she so fair whose uneared womb disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?" - Sonnet 3
  • "To me, fair friend, you never can be old." - Sonnet 104
  • "The forward violet thus did I chide: sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells?" - Sonnet 99
  • "Against that time, if ever that time come, when I shall see thee frown on my defects." - Sonnet 39

Well-Known Love Quotes From Shakespeare's Plays and Works

Shakespeare's works were no stranger to the idea of love and romance - after all, many of his comedies ended in marriage! Try a few of these popular sayings when you're want to express yoruself via your inner Shakespeare.

  • "The course of true love never did run smooth." - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind." - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • "For which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?" - Much Ado About Nothing
  • "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none." - All's Well That Ends Well
  • "Love sought is good, but given unsought is better." - Twelfth Night
  • "We that are true lovers run into strange capers." - Antony and Cleopatra
  • "To be wise and love exceeds man's might." - Edward III
  • "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds." - Sonnet 116
  • "Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle's compass come." - Sonnet 116
  • "When my love swears that she is made of truth." - Sonnet 138
  • "In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes." - Sonnet 141
  • "Love is my sin and thy dear virtue hate." - Sonnet 142
  • "Those lips that Love's own hand did make." - Sonnet 145

Famous Quotes Attributed to Shakespeare

Unfortunately for us, Twitter wasn't around in the Elizabethan era and we didn't get to see good old Billy Shakespeare post late-night nonsense. Because direct quotes from outside of his works are limited, every supposed "Shakespeare" personal quote is up for debate.

Yet, if you're curious about what Shakespeare might've tossed out as his status update, here are some quotes that're widely believed to be from Shakespeare himself.

Bonus points if you can recognize which of these famous lines made their way into his work.

  • "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."
  • "Brevity is the soul of wit."
  • "We are such stuff as dreams are made on."
  • "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."
  • "This above all: to thine own self be true."
  • "Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have immortal longings in me."
  • "To be, or not to be: that is the question."
  • "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
  • "The course of true love never did run smooth."
  • "If music be the food of love, play on."
  • "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."
  • "It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves."
  • "The better part of valor is discretion."
  • "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
  • "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."

From the Bard's Mouth to Yours

There's something beautiful about the fact that we still use phrases that were drummed up hundreds of years ago. While we can't say how William Shakespeare would feel about his legacy, we think he'd be tickled pink by the chokehold it has on the English language. So, when you're tempted to throw out a curse word or modern phrase, switch things up with one of these punchy Shakespeare quotes instead.

156 Famous Shakespeare Quotes Worth Knowing