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William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (April, 1564 – April 23, 1616) was an English playwright and poet.

Sourced quotes

Simple: Time is even stronger than kings who are fighting each other. The passage of time uncovers lies and lets people see the truth.
  • I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture
    (Modern spelling: I give unto my wife my second best bed with the furniture.)
Simple: I give my wife my second-best bed (the bed that is almost as good as the best bed) and the furniture.
  • Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear, to dig the dust enclosèd here. Blest be the man that spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones.
    • Shakespeare's epitaph
Simple: On his grave: Good friend, please do not dig the dust (his body) which is buried here. I want anyone who leaves these stones alone to be blessed, and anyone who moves my bones to be cursed.
  • Jaques: 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 II, sc. vii
Simple: The world is just a stage in a theatre, and all the men and women are just actors. They have their times to come onto the stage and go off the stage, and one man acts many parts in his lifetime.
  • Iago: If the balance of our lives had not one scale of reason to poise another of sensuality, the blood and baseness of our natures would conduct us to most preposterous conclusions.
Simple: If the scale of our lives didn't have one side of reason (thoughts) to balance another side of feelings, the blood and plain body of the way we are would bring us to very strange effects.
  • Hamlet: There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Simple: There are things in Heaven and Earth that you haven't thought of or dreamed about, Horatio.
  • 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
    No more, and by a sleep to say we end,
    The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wished.
    Simple: To be alive or not to be alive, that is what I'm wondering. Whether it is braver to live through all the bad luck of life, or to use weapons against all the troubles, and end them. Dying is like sleeping, it's nothing more than that. And if, by sleeping, we can stop the heartache and the thousand pains that living bodies have to experience, that is something to wish for very hard.
  • Polonius: Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
    And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
    I will be brief.
    Simple: Wit lies in being brief. The real way of speaking humorously is to use as few words as possible.
  • Juliet: What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
    • Romeo and Juliet. Variant: What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.
    Simple: What's so important about a name? The thing that we call a rose would smell just as sweet if we called it something else. (She wishes he had a different family name. It is because of the family he comes from that they are not allowed to marry each other.)
  • Juliet: O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
    Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
    Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
    And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
    Simple: Romeo, Romeo! Why are you Romeo (and not someone from a different family, that I would be allowed to marry)? Say that your father is not your father, and say that your name is not your name; or if you won't do that, then just promise that you are my love, and I'll stop being a member of the Capulet family.
  • Casca: But, for my own part, it was Greek to me.
    • Julius Caesar Act I, sc. ii
    • Simple:But, if we are talking about me, it was as difficult for me to understand as Greek.
  • Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
  • Cassius: 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.
    • Julius Caesar Act I, sc. ii
    • Simple: Sometimes men control what experiences they have in their lives. The bad thing that caused this, dear Brutus, is not the stars, but it's us. Other people are masters of us because of our own qualities.
  • Caesar: Et tu Bruté? Then fall, Caesar!
  • Antony: Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war.
  • Antony: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones;
    So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
    Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
    If it were so, it is a grievous fault;
    And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
    Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest, -
    For Brutus is an honrable man;
    So are they all, all honrable men, -
    Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
    He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
    But Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honorable man.
    • Julius Caesar Act III, sc. ii
    • Simple: (At Caesar's funeral, after Brutus killed Caesar) Friends, Romans, and people from the same country as me, listen to me for a short time. I came here to put the dead Caesar into the earth, not to say good things about him. The bad things that men do live after the men die. The good things they do is frequently put into the earth with their bones. I hope it will happen in that way for Caesar. The good Brutus told you Caesar was ambitious (wanting to be leader, wanting to be better than other people). If he was ambitious, it was a very bad thing for him to be. And Caesar has been punished very much for it. Brutus and all the others have let me be here and speak at Caesar's funeral because Brutus is a good man and all the others are good men. Caesar was my friend. He was a good friend to me and he always did things that were right when he did things to me. But Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is a good man.
  • Brutus: Caesar, now be still:
    I kill'd not thee with half so good a will.
  • Antony: This was the noblest Roman of them all:
    All the conspirators, save only he,
    Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
    He only, in a general honest thought,
    And common good to all, made one of them.
    His life was gentle; and the elements
    So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
    And say to all the world, This was a man!
    • Julius Caesar Act V, sc. v
    • Simple: Antony: (Standing over Brutus' dead body) "This was the most honorable Roman of them all. All of the other men who killed Caesar killed him because they were jealous of his power. Only Brutus killed Caesar out of concern for the people of Rome (Brutus feared Caesar would become king). His life was gentle, and he was such a well rounded person that it is obvious what a good man he was.
  • Morocco: All that glisters is not gold.
    (Not everything that shines brightly is gold.)
  • Shylock: ...what's his reason? - I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? 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?
  • Portia: The quality of mercy is not strain'd, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath: it is twice bless’d; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
    (Simple: Mercy is pure. It drops like rain from heaven onto the place underneath. It is blessed two times: It blesses the person who gives mercy, and it also blesses the person who receives mercy.)
  • To weep is to make less the depth of grief
      • Simple: To cry (shed tears) is to make the sadness less deep.
  • Portia: How far that little candle throws its beams; So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
    • The Merchant of Venice Act V, sc. i
      • Simple: How far that little candle shines its light! In the same way, a good thing that someone does shines in a bad world.
  • Orsino: If music be the food of love, play on;
    Give me excess of it that, surfeiting,
    The appetite may sicken and so die.
    That strain again, it had a dying fall.
    O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound
    that breathes upon a bank of violets,
    stealing and giving odour...
    • Twelfth Night Act I, sc. i
      • Simple: If music makes love grow, please don't stop making music. Give me too much music, so that when I am too full of music, my need will get sick and die (I will stop feeling that I need something). Play that small bit of music again—it sounded like dying. It came to my ear like the sweet sound that gently blows like the wind on some flowers, taking away a nice smell and giving a different smell.
  • Feste: Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage;
    • Twelfth Night Act I, sc. v
      • Simple: Frequently, when the government kills someone who did something bad, that stops a bad marriage from happening.
  • Malvolio: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
    • Twelfth Night Act II, sc. v
      • Simple: Some people are great when they are born. Some work to become great. And some are forced to become great, whether they like it or not.
  • Prospero: We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
    • The Tempest Act IV, sc.i
      • Simple: We (all humans) are made of the same stuff that dreams are made of, and our little life is completed with a sleep (death).
  • Macbeth: To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    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 upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.
    (Day after day after day. The days go slowly, up to the end of time. All the days in the past did no good except to bring fools through their lives up to the times of their deaths. Get blown out, flame of life! Life is short. Life is only a walking shadow. Life is only a poor actor, who walks around on the stage for a short time, and after that no one hears him any more. Life is a story that an idiot tells, full of sound and fury, but not meaning anything.)

Works of Shakespeare

Quotes about Shakespeare

  • "But Shakespear's Magick could not copy'd be,
    Within that Circle none durst walk but he." – John Dryden[2]
Simple: No one could copy Shakespeare's ability / He is the only one who dared to be so great.
Simple: Not even people many years later could explain or summarize Shakespeare's ability.
  • "When I read Shakespeare I am struck with wonder
    That such trivial people should muse and thunder
    In such lovely language." – D. H. Lawrence[4]
Simple: When I read Shakespeare I am very surprised / That very ordinary people think and yell / In beautiful language like that.
  • "The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good—in spite of all the people who say he is very good." – Robert Graves[5]
Simple: The surprising thing about Shakespeare is that his writing really is very good -- even though so many people say it is very good.
  • "The verbal poetic texture of Shakespeare is the greatest the world has known, and is immensely superior to the structure of his plays as plays." – Vladimir Nabokov
Simple: The words and the feeling of poetry in Shakespeare's writing is the best in the world. The words are very much better than the shape of his plays, if they are judged as plays.
  • "Shakespeare—The nearest thing in incarnation to the eye of God." – Laurence Olivier
Simple: Of everything on Earth, Shakespeare's writing is the most like God's eye.


  1. To the Memory of my Beloved, the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare (1623)
  2. The Tempest (1667), prologue.
  3. "Solution", May-Day and Other Pieces (1867).
  4. When I read Shakespeare (1929)
  5. The Observer, "Sayings of the Week"

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