Throughout the work of William Shakespeare, it is evident that the bard saw the world, to paraphrase Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, as “a stage, and all the men and women merely players upon it”.
Shakespeare had a good deal to say about life, expressed through the lines, speeches, and soliloquies he accorded a host of heroic, tragic, fanciful, humorous, or historical characters.
Over the centuries, Shakespeare’s work has become the source of many sayings about life still in current usage, in addition to a host of famous Shakespeare quotes. These include:
‘In a pickle’ – the origins of which have been traced to Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1610), Act V, Scene I. Trinculo: “I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last“.
‘Eaten out of house and home’ – courtesy of Mistress Quickly who exclaimed that “He [Sir John] hath eaten me out of house and home“; this particular saying first appears in Shakespeare’s Henry IV pt II (c.1596-1599), Act II, Scene I.
‘Milk of human kindness’ – found in Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, this particular saying appears in the English language at some time between c.1603 – 1607.
A selection of Shakespeare’s quotes on life can be found below, arranged in alphabetical order according to the title of the play from which they are drawn.
All’s Well That Ends Well
Love all, trust a few, Do wrong to none. – All’s Well That Ends Well, Act I, Scene I
The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud, if our faults whipp’d them not; and our crimes would despair, if they were not cherish’d by our virtues. – All Well That Ends Well, Act IV, Scene III
Antony and Cleopatra
I love long life better than figs. – Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, Scene II
He wears the rose of youth upon him. – Antony and Cleopatra, Act III, Scene XIII
I hope well of to-morrow; and will lead you, where rather I’ll expect victorious life, then death and honour. – Antony and Cleopatra, Act IV, Scene II
Kingdoms are clay: our dungy earth alike feeds beast as man: the nobleness of life is, to do thus. – Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, Scene I
As You Like It
O, how full of briars is this working day world! – As You Like It, Act I, Scene IV
Will you sit down with me? and we two will rail against our mistress the world, and all our misery.. – As You Like It, Act III, Scene II
Fortune brings in some boats that are not steer’d. – Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene III
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. – Hamlet, Act III, Scene I
Henry IV, Part I
While you live, tell truth, and shame the devil. – Henry IV, Part I, Act III, Scene I
When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.. – King Lear Act IV, Scene VI
King Richard III
But shall I live in hope? All men, I hope, live so. – King Richard III, Act I, Scene II
I have set my life upon a cast, and I will stand the hazard of the dye. – King Richard III, Act V, Scene IV
What’s done, is done. – Macbeth Act III, Scene II
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage. – Macbeth Act V, Scene V
I go, and it is done; the bell invites me. Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven or to hell. – Macbeth Act II, Scene I
Measure for Measure
I am so out of love with life, that I will sue to be rid of it. – Measure for Measure, Act III, Scene I
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on. – Othello, Act III, Scene III
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
O live, And make us weep to hear you fate, fair creature, Rare as you seem to be! – Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Act III, Scene II
Mine honour is my life: both grow in one; Take honour from me, and my life is done. – Richard II, Act I, Scene I
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar
Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once. – Julius Caesar Act II, Scene II
When beggars die there are no comets seen; The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes. – Julius Caesar Act II, Scene II
With all kind love, good thoughts, and reverence. Your voice shall be as strong as any man’s. – Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene I
Timon of Athens
They love thee not, that use thee. – Timon of Athens, Act IV, Scene III
I am sick of this false world; and will love nought but even the mere necessities upon it. – Timon of Athens, Act IV, Scene III
When there is nothing living but thee, thou shalt be welcome. – Timon of Athens, Act IV, Scene III
Troilus & Cressida
To be wise, and love, Exceeds man’s might. – Troilus & Cressida – Act III, Scene II
Twelfth Night: or What You Will
You wrong me, and the world shall know it: though you have put me into darkness. – Twelfth Night: or What You Will, Act V Scene I
Find many more Shakespeare quotes including a large selection of quotes about love, or why not explore more about the author’s own life, about Shakespeare’s childhood in Stratford and about his family.