William Shakespeare quotes about life

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

The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together. ~ All's Well That Ends Well

Quotes edit

Our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything. ~ As You Like It
I cannot tell what you and other men
Think of this life; but, for my single self,
I had as lief not be as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself. ~ Julius Cæsar
Thy life's a miracle. ~ King Lear
  • What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither;
    • Hamlet (1599-1602), Act II, Scene 2,
  • O excellent! I love long life better than figs.
  • And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
    Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
    Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
  • Why, what should be the fear?
    I do not set my life at a pin's fee.
    • Hamlet (1600–01), Act I, scene 4, line 66.
  • 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 heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to,—'tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;—
    To sleep, perchance to dream:—ay, there's the rub;
    For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
    When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
    Must give us pause: there's the respect
    That makes calamity of so long life;
    For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
    The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
    The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,
    The insolence of office, and the spurns
    That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
    When he himself might his quietus make
    With a bare bodkin? who would these fardels bear,
    To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
    But that the dread of something after death,—
    The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
    No traveller returns,—puzzles the will,
    And makes us rather bear those ills we have
    Than fly to others that we know naught of?
    Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
    And thus the native hue of resolution
    Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought;
    And enterprises of great pith and moment,
    With this regard, their currents turn awry,
    And lose the name of action.
    • Hamlet (1600–01), Act III, scene 1.
  • And a man's life's no more than to say "One."
    • Hamlet (1600–01), Act V, scene 2, line 74.
  • O gentlemen, the time of life is short!
    To spend that shortness basely were too long,
    If life did ride upon a dial's point,
    Still ending at the arrival of an hour.
  • Let life be short: else shame will be too long.
    • Henry V (c. 1599), Act IV, scene 5, line 23.
  • The sands are number'd that make up my life;
    Here must I stay, and here my life must end.
  • So farewell to the little good you bear me.
    Farewell! a long farewell, to all my greatness!
    This is the state of man: to-day he puts forth
    The tender leaves of hopes; to-morrow blossoms,
    And bears his blushing honours 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, as I do. I have ventur'd,
    Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,
    This many summers in a sea of glory,
    But far beyond my depth. My high-blown pride
    At length broke under me, and now has left me,
    Weary and old with service, to the mercy
    Of a rude stream that must for ever hide me.
    Vain pomp and glory of this world, I hate ye!
    I feel my heart new open'd. O, how wretched
    Is that poor man that hangs on princes' favours!
    There is, betwixt that smile we would aspire to,
    That sweet aspect of princes, and their ruin,
    More pangs and fears than wars or women have;
    And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,
    Never to hope again.
    • Henry VIII (c. 1613), act III, scene ii, lines 350–72. Cardinal Wolsey is speaking about his friendship with Henry VIII.
  • I cannot tell what you and other men
    Think of this life; but, for my single self,
    I had as lief not be as live to be
    In awe of such a thing as I myself.
  • This day I breathed first: time is come round,
    And where I did begin there shall I end;
    My life is run his compass.
  • Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,
    Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.
    • King John (1598), Act III, scene 4, line 108.
  • Thy life's a miracle.
  • When we are born, we cry, that we are come
    To this great stage of fools.
  • Nor stony tower, nor walls of beaten brass,
    Nor airless dungeon, nor strong links of iron,
    Can be retentive to the strength of spirit;
    But life, being weary of these worldly bars,
    Never lacks power to dismiss itself.
  • That but this blow
    Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
    But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
    We'ld jump the life to come.
    • Macbeth (1605), Act I, scene 7, line 4.
  • Had I but died an hour before this chance,
    I had liv'd a blessed time; for, from this instant,
    There's nothing serious in mortality:
    All is but toys; renown, and grace is dead;
    The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees
    Is left this vault to brag of.
    • Macbeth (1605), Act II, scene 3, line 96.
  • So weary with disasters, tugg'd with fortune,
    That I would set my life on any chance,
    To mend, or be rid on't.
    • Macbeth (1605), Act III, scene I, line 113.
  • 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.
  • I bear a charmed life.
    • Macbeth (1605), Act V, scene 8, line 12.
  • Reason thus with life:
    If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
    That none but fools would keep.
  • Her father lov'd me; oft invited me;
    Still question'd me the story of my life,
    From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes,
    That I have pass'd.
    • Othello (c. 1603), Act I, scene 3, line 128.
  • It is silliness to live when to live is torment; and then have we a prescription to die when death is our physician.
    • Othello (c. 1603), Act I, scene 3, line 309.

Sonnets (1609) edit

Main article: The Sonnets
  • Who will believe my verse in time to come,
    If it were filled with your most high deserts?
    Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb
    Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.
    • 18.
  • Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
    And every fair from fair sometime declines,
    By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
    But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
    Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
    Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
    When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
    • 18.
  • O! if, I say, you look upon this verse,
    When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
    Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
    But let your love even with my life decay;
    Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
    And mock you with me after I am gone.
    • 71.
  • The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
    My spirit is thine, the better part of me:
    So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
    The prey of worms, my body being dead;
    The coward conquest of a wretch's knife,
    Too base of thee to be remembered.
    The worth of that is that which it contains,
    And that is this, and this with thee remains.
    • 74.
  • Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
    Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
    The earth can yield me but a common grave,
    When you entombed in men's eyes shall lie.
    Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
    Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read;
    And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
    When all the breathers of this world are dead;
    You still shall live, such virtue hath my pen,
    Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.
    • 81.
  • This silence for my sin you did impute,
    Which shall be most my glory being dumb;
    For I impair not beauty being mute,
    When others would give life, and bring a tomb.
    There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
    Than both your poets can in praise devise.
    • 83.
  • But do thy worst to steal thyself away,
    For term of life thou art assured mine;
    And life no longer than thy love will stay,
    For it depends upon that love of thine.

    Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs,
    When in the least of them my life hath end.
    I see a better state to me belongs
    Than that which on thy humour doth depend:
    Thou canst not vex me with inconstant mind,
    Since that my life on thy revolt doth lie.
    • 92.
  • Rise, resty Muse, my love's sweet face survey,
    If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
    If any, be a satire to decay,
    And make Time's spoils despised every where.
    Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life,
    So thou prevent'st his scythe and crooked knife.
    • 100.
  • O! for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
    The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
    That did not better for my life provide
    Than public means which public manners breeds.
    • 111.
  • "I hate" she altered with an end,
    That followed it as gentle day,
    Doth follow night, who like a fiend
    From heaven to hell is flown away.
    "I hate", from hate away she threw,
    And saved my life, saying "not you".
    • 145.