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Best Shakespeare quotes: The Bard's most memorable lines from his plays and poems

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From A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest to Hamlet and Othello, here are some of William Shakespeare’s most beloved quotes.

Despite the fact that his plays were written 400 years ago, there’s still a lot we can learn from William Shakespeare. From affairs of the heart to the meaning of life, The Bard covered it all in his body of work. This, coupled with his influence on the English language (if you’ve ever used the phrases “it’s all Greek to me”, “wild goose chase” or “the game is up”, you have Shakespeare to thank), makes the playwrite as relevant today as ever.

We’ve put together the most memorable, iconic and quoted lines from his plays and poetry below, from classics such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet through to lesser known plays such as Love’s Labours Lost and Measure For Measure.

The best and most well-known Shakespeare quotes of all time

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  • Hamlet

    Hamlet Penguin Classics cover
    Shakespeare quotes: Hamlet

    “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend.”

    Act 1, Scene 3

    “The play ‘s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king”

    Act 2, Scene 2

    “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”

    Act 3, Scene 1

    “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath bore me on his back a thousand times, and now how abhorr’d in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it..”

    Act 5, Scene 1

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream

    William Shakespeare A Midsummers Nights Dream Penguin Classics
    Shakespeare quotes: A Midsummers Nights Dream

    “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

    Act 1, Scene 1

    “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind”

    Act 1, Scene 1

    “My Oberon! What visions have I seen! Methought I was enamoured of an ass.”

    Act 4, Scene 1

  • Twelfth Night

    Twelfth Night Shakespeare book cover
    Shakespeare quotes: Twelfth Night

    “If music be the food of love, play on.”

    Act 1, Scene 1

    “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

    Act 2, Scene 5

    “Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.”

    Act 3 Scene 1

  • As You Like It

    As You Like It Shakespeare Penguin Classic cover
    Shakespeare quotes: As You Like It

    “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.”

    Act 2, Scene 7

    “Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?“

    Act 3, Scene 5

    “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

    Act 5, Scene 1

  • The Merchant of Venice

    Shakespeare Merchant of Venice book cover
    Shakespeare quotes: The Merchant of Venice

    “Love is blind, and lovers cannot see, The pretty follies that themselves commit.”

    Act 2, Scene 6

    “All that glisters is not gold.”

    Act 2, Scene 7

  • Much Ado About Nothing

    Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare book cover
    Shakespeare quotes: Much Ado About Nothing

    “When you depart from me sorrow abides, and happiness takes his leave.”

    Act 1, Scene 1

    “Everyone can master a grief but he that has it”

    Act 3, Scene 2

  • Romeo and Juliet

    Romeo and Juliet Penguin Random House
    Shakespeare quotes: Romeo and Juliet

    “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

    Act 2, Scene 1

    “Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”

    Act 2, Scene 1

    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet”

    Act 2, Scene 2

  • Henry V

    Henry V Shakespeare book cover
    Shakespeare quotes: Henry V

    “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, Or close the wall up with our English dead!”

    Act 3, Scene 1

  • Macbeth

    Macbeth Shakespeare book cover
    Shakespeare quotes: Macbeth

    “By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”

    Act 4, Scene 1

    “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.”

    Act 5, Scene 5

  • Sonnet 18

    Sonnets by William Shakespeare Penguin book cover
    Shakespeare quotes: Sonnets

    "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date"

  • Richard III

    Richard 3 book cover Penguin
    Shakespeare quotes: Richard III

    “This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war”

    Act 2 , Scene 1

  • Love's Labour's Lost

    Loves Labour Lost Shakespeare book cover
    Shakespeare quotes: Love's Labour Lost

    “They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.”

    Act 5, Scene 1

  • The Tempest

    The Tempest Shakespeare book cover
    Shakespeare quotes: The Tempest

    “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.”

    Act 1, Scene 2

    “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”

    Act 2, Scene 2

  • Measure for Measure

    Measure for Measure Shakespeare book cover
    Shakespeare quotes: Measure for Measure

    “Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall”

    Act 2, Scene 1

    “The miserable have no other medicine but only hope”

    Act 3, Scene 1

    “What’s mine is yours, and what is yours is mine.”

    Act 5, Scene 1

  • Othello

    Othello Shakespeare cover
    Shakespeare quotes: Othello

    “I will wear my heart upon my sleeve; For daws to peck at.”

    Act 1, Scene 1

  • Julius Caesar

    Julius Caesar Shakespeare book covers
    Shakespeare quotes: Julius Caesar

    “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”

    Act 2, Scene 2

    “When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff”

    Act 3, Scene 2

  • Anthony and Cleopatra

    Anthony and Cleopatra book cover
    Shakespeare quotes: Anthony and Cleopatra

    “My salad days, When I was green in judgment: cold in blood, To say as I said then! But, come, away; Get me ink and paper: He shall have every day a several greeting, Or I’ll unpeople Egypt.”

    Act 1, Scene 5

  • Henry IV, Part II

    Henry IV Part 2 book cover Penguin
    Shakespeare quotes: Henry IV Part 2

    “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”

    Act 3, Scene 1

  • King Lear

    Penguin King Lear Shakespeare cover
    Shakespeare quotes: King Lear

    “The worst is not, So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’”

    Act 4, Scene 1

Covers: Penguin / Oxford Press / Wordsworth / Harper Collins

Main Image: Unsplash

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