William Shakespeare quotes about acting

William Shakespeare, in his many plays, produced a large number of quotes on the subject of acting.


  • If it be true that good wine needs no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no epilogue.
  • Like a dull actor now,
    I have forgot my part, and I am out,
    Even to a full disgrace.
  • 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.
    • Macbeth (c. 1605), Act V, Scene 5, line 23.
  • As in a theatre, the eyes of men,
    After a well-grac'd actor leaves the stage,
    Are idly bent on him that enters next,
    Thinking his prattle to be tedious.
  • I can counterfeit the deep tragedian;
    Speak and look back, and pry on every side,
    Tremble and start at wagging of a straw,
    Intending deep suspicion.
  • A beggarly account of empty boxes.
  • And, like a strutting player, whose conceit
    Lies in his hamstring, and doth think it rich
    To hear the wooden dialogue and sound
    'Twixt his stretch'd footing and the scaffoldage.

Hamlet (1600-02)

  • Good, my lord, will you see the players well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used; for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time: after your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their ill report while you live.
    • Act II, scene 2, line 545.
  • Is it not monstrous that this player here,
    But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
    Could force his soul so to his own conceit
    That from her working all his visage wann'd.
    • Act II, scene 2, line 577.
  • What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
    That he should weep for her? What would he do.
    Had he the motive and the cue for passion
    That I have? He would drown the stage with tears.
    • Act II, scene 2, line 585.
  • I have heard
    That guilty creatures sitting at a play,
    Have, by the very cunning of the scene,
    Been struck so to the soul that presently
    They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
    For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak.
    With most miraculous organ.
    • Act II, scene 2, line 617.
  • The play's the thing
    Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
    • Act II, scene 2, line 633.
  • Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness.
    • Act III, scene 2, line 1.
  • Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature.
    • Act III, scene 2, line 19.
  • O, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that, neither having the accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made men and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.
    • Act III, scene 2, line 32.
  • Come, sit down, every mother's son, and rehearse your parts.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 74.
  • Is there no play,
    To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?
    • Act V, scene 1, line 36.
  • A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,
    Which is as brief as I have known a play;
    But by ten words, my lord, it is too long,
    Which makes it tedious.
    • Act V, scene 1, line 61.