As the most quoted English writer, Shakespeare has more than his share of famous quotes.  Some Shakespeare quotes are known for their beauty, some for their everyday truths and some for their wisdom. We often talk about Shakespeare’s quotes as things the wise Bard is saying to us but we should remember that some of his wisest words are spoken by his biggest fools. For example, both ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be,’ and ‘to thine own self be true’ are from the foolish, garrulous and quite disreputable Polonius in Hamlet.

Whilst it’s hard to definitively say which are Shakespeare’s most famous quotes, we’ve examined polls published around the world and combined these with feedback from our millions of users, plus our own take on Shakespeare’s words, and can now offer what we believe to be the 50 most famous Shakespeare quotes (in no particular order!).

50 Of Shakespeare’s Most Famous Quotes

1. ‘To be, or not to be: that is the question’

(Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1)

2. ‘All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.’

(As You Like it Act 2, Scene 7)

3. ‘Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?’

(Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 2)

4. ‘Now is the winter of our discontent’

(Richard III Act 1, Scene 1)

5. ‘Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?’

(Macbeth Act 2, Scene 1)

6. ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.’

(Twelfth Night Act 2, Scene 5)

7. ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.’

(Julius Caesar Act 2, Scene 2)

8. ‘Full fathom five thy father lies, of his bones are coral made. Those are pearls that were his eyes. Nothing of him that doth fade, but doth suffer a sea-change into something rich and strange.’

(The Tempest Act 1, Scene 2)

9. ‘A man can die but once.’

(Henry IV, Part 2 Act 3, Part 2)

10. ‘How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!’

(King Lear Act 1, Scene 4)

11. ‘Frailty, thy name is woman.’

(Hamlet Act 1, Scene 2)

12. ‘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)

13. ‘I am one who loved not wisely but too well.’

(Othello Act 5, Scene 2)

14. ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks

(Hamlet Act 3, Scene 2)

15. ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’

(The Tempest Act 4, Scene 1)

16. ‘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 Act 5, Scene 5)

17. ‘Beware the Ides of March.

(Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2)

18. ‘Get thee to a nunnery.’

(Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1)

19. ‘If music be the food of love play on.

(Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 1)

20. ‘What’s in a name? A rose by any name would smell as sweet.’

(Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 2)

21. ‘The better part of valor is discretion’

(Henry IV, Part 1 Act 5, Scene 4)

22. ‘To thine own self be true.

(Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3)

23. ‘All that glisters is not gold.’

(The Merchant of Venice Act 2, Scene 7)

24. ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears: I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.’

(Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 2)

25. ‘Nothing will come of nothing.’

(King Lear Act 1, Scene 1)

26. ‘The course of true love never did run smooth.’

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

27. ‘Lord, what fools these mortals be!’

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

28. ‘Cry “havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war

(Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 1)

29. ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’

(Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2)

30. ‘A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!

(Richard III Act 5, Scene 4)

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

(Hamlet Act 1, Scene 5)

32. ‘Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.’

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

33. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, lies not within the stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.’

(Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2)

34. ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’

(Sonnet 18)

35. ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.’

(Sonnet 116)

36. ‘The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones.’

(Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 2)

37. ‘But, for my own part, it was Greek to me.’

(Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2)

38. ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.’

(Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3)

39. ‘We know what we are, but know not what we may be.’

(Hamlet Act 4, Scene 5)

40. ‘Off with his head!’

(Richard III Act 3, Scene 4)

41. ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’

(Henry IV, Part 2 Act 3, Scene 1)

42. ‘Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.’

(The Tempest Act 2, Scene 2)

43. ‘This is very midsummer madness.’

(Twelfth Night Act 3, Scene 4)

44. ‘Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.’

(Much Ado about Nothing Act 3, Scene 1)

45. ‘I cannot tell what the dickens his name is.’

(The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 3, Scene 2)

46. ‘We have seen better days.’

(Timon of Athens Act 4, Scene 2)

47. ‘I  am a man more sinned against than sinning.’

(King Lear Act 3, Scene 2)

48. ‘Brevity is the soul of wit.

(Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2)

49. ‘This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle… This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.’

(Richard II Act 2, Scene 1)

50. ‘What light through yonder window breaks.’

Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 2)

What do you think – any famous Shakespeare quotes missing from the above list?

38 Shakespeare Quotes Spoken in Two Minutes

Watch students from the 2012 Shakespeare School work their way through 38 famous Shakespeare quotes in two minutes… How many of them do you know?

Shakespeare Quotes Quiz

Test your Shakespeare quote knowledge with this great Shakespeare quote quiz from Buzzfeed – simply match the 20 Shakespeare quotes to the correct play then check out your score – novice or pro?

screengrab of shakespeare quotes quiz from buzzfeed

Any ideas on how to quote Shakespeare in your essays? Need Shakespeare writing help? A team of professional essay writers from WriteMyPaperHub will write your paper for you.

132 replies
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  1. Jo Bousfield
    Jo Bousfield says:

    I am almost unable to read the Shakespeare quotes because the site is full of flashing adverts and 6 boxes telling me to do something else other than look at shakespeare quotes (facebook, twitter, etc etc) that obscure the Bard’s words

  2. Ian H Geary
    Ian H Geary says:

    Download an ad blocker then. Job done.I see no adverts at all, and I am NOT blind BTW.Happy Shakespeare reading , great writer.

  3. ?????????
    ????????? says:

    THIS IS SO S***THERE ARE SO MANY ADS I CANNOT SEE THE ACTUAL QUOTES I DO NOT RECCOMEND THIS. but on a highe when I was able to see through the ads the quotes were decent. please work on that and this will do well for my essay

  4. Tim
    Tim says:

    I see light through yonder window it breaks.
    Does it not allow us to see in the dark?
    To chase away our fears, dreams, and cold from around us.
    Letting us see the our world as we know it.
    Alas, I fear our world, our lives are…
    “Much Ado About Nothing”
    Honey! Where’s my Tequila?!

  5. Who cares
    Who cares says:

    Poor and content is rich, and rich enough.
    But riches fineless is as poor as winter to him that ever fears he shall be poor.
    Good god, the souls of all my tribe defend from jelousy!

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