Top Quotes From Shakespeare

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Quotes from William Shakespeare, history's most famous playwright, are full of passion and wisdom, and, sometimes, a shade of sarcasm. The passion in Shakespeare's writing never fails to move the reader. The Bard wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets, and his works are still performed onstage. These quotes remain relevant, as many still reflect the values and beliefs of our society, as well as the human condition.

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'Hamlet,' 3:1

"To be, or not to be: that is the question."

Perhaps the most famous of Shakespearean lines, the anguished Hamlet ponders the purpose of life and suicide in this profound soliloquy.

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'All's Well That Ends Well,' 1:2

"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."

This bit of simple wisdom, beloved to many throughout the ages, was spoken by the Countess of Roussillon to her son, as he sets out for court far away.

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'Romeo and Juliet,' 2:2

"Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow."

These lines, spoken by Juliet at the end of the famous balcony scene, describe the mixed feelings of parting from a loved one. Mixed with the pain of separation is the anticipation of the sweetness of reunion.

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'Twelfth Night,' 2:5

"Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em."

This line, quoted often by today's inspirational speakers, is spoken in the play by Malvolio as he reads from a letter written by Maria.

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'The Merchant of Venice,' 3:1

"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?"

These well-known lines, implored by Shylock, are usually interpreted as a humanistic plea against anti-Semitism, though the play is also understood by some as steeped in the tacit anti-Semitism of its time.

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'Hamlet,' 1:5

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Hamlet is here responding to his friend Horatio's wonderment upon their meeting with a ghost. Hamlet is reminding him that as dumbfounded as Horatio is, this vision reminds him that much exceeds his limited understanding.

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'Macbeth,' 1:3

"If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me."

After hearing the witches' prophesy about Macbeth's successful future, Banquo here is asking the witches what they see about his own future.

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'Twelfth Night,' 3:1

"Love sought is good, but given unsought is better."

Olivia's lines in "Twelfth Night" speak of the joy of unexpected love, rather than that which is pined for.

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'Antony & Cleopatra,' 3:4

"If I lose mine honor, I lose myself."

Antony here worries about losing himself in his devotion to Cleopatra, noting how slavish love can destroy one's honor.

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'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' 5:1

"It's not enough to speak, but to speak true."

This quote of quotes speaks of the importance of truth and against empty chatter. 

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Khurana, Simran. "Top Quotes From Shakespeare." ThoughtCo, Oct. 29, 2020, Khurana, Simran. (2020, October 29). Top Quotes From Shakespeare. Retrieved from Khurana, Simran. "Top Quotes From Shakespeare." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 6, 2023).