20 of the Best William Shakespeare Quotes

(Last Updated On: October 22, 2019)
William Shakespeare Quotes

Shakespeare is among the most famous writers to have ever held a pen. Known for coining many English words, the Bard of Avon has spoken to the hearts of readers and writers for decades. Many can recall his most famous characters, like Romeo and Juliet, or Hamlet. Shakespeare’s works have become a foundation for modern storytelling, and it’s impossible to imagine a world not influenced by his words. In this post, we’ll provide a short history of Shakespeare, and leave you with a few of our favorite Shakespeare quotes.

Related: Commonplace Words That We Get from Shakespeare

A Short Historical Overview of Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, a small town northwest of London, sometime before 1564. The third of eight children, his father was a farmer who held multiple occupations, while his mother, Mary Arden, came from a wealthy Catholic family.

Few records of Shakespeare’s private life remain today, and much of his personal details have been left to speculation. Although it’s not apparent whether Shakespeare completed an education, it’s believed he attended a grammar school in Stanford to study English and Latin at some point. And we do know that at the age of 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, with whom he later had three children. 

Sometime between 1585 and 1592, Shakespeare began a successful career in London as an actor and writer, coming to be the part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later known as the King’s Men). 

Shakespeare would produce most of his work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mostly comedies and histories, though later he would write mainly tragedies, many of which are regarded among the best works in the English language; plays like Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. Near the last part of his life, Shakespeare wrote romances and began to collaborate with other playwrights. He died in 1616 at the age of 52. 

Today, his plays have been translated into virtually every major language, and they are still studied, performed, and reinterpreted around the world.

20 of the Best William Shakespeare Quotes

Now that we’ve covered a bit about who he was, let’s dive in and explore 20 of the best William Shakespeare quotes:

1. “…There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

2. “It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2

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

Merchants of Venice, Act 2, Scene 2

4. “To be, or not to be: that is the question…”

Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1

5. “You speak an infinite deal of nothing.”

The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 1

6. “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.”

Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 2

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

As You Like It, Act 5, Scene 1

8. “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”

Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 5

9. “And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 3, Scene 2

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

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 3, Scene 2

11. “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here!”

The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2

12. “What’s past is prologue.”

The Tempest, Act 2, Scene 1

13. “I like not fair terms and a villain’s mind.”

The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 3

14. “Give every man thy ear but few thy voice…”

Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3

15. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Sonnet 18

16. “All that glisters is not gold.”

The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 2

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

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 1, Scene 1

18.  “This above all: to thine own self be true…”

Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3

19.  “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 1, Scene 1

20.  “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?”

The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1

From love to friendship to life, Shakespeare has a wide range of famous quotes covering a variety of  topics. Whether or not you recognize them, you can learn a lot from Shakespeare’s wise words. There’s a reason why teachers have forced children to study Shakespeare for hundreds of years. Although times have changed, his works still manage to speak to the human condition with the utmost clarity and beauty. When you read Shakespeare, what rings true to you?