When we say goodbye to someone it is often just a polite end to an encounter but, on the other hand, it is sometimes something deeper – containing emotions or feelings that go beyond that formal leave-taking. Lovers part, often without any words at all, their emotions revealed in their breathing, their tears, etc. but sometimes those emotions are expressed in words. When we look at leavetaking and goodbye quotes written by Shakespeare, we see words people use to express that filled with meaning – more so than any collection of goodbyes produced by any other writer.

One could begin with a speech in The Tempest made by Prospero as he leaves the magical island he has inhabited for fifteen years to return to his life in politics. The play was written just before Shakespeare left London, giving up his life as a professional theatre writer to live permanently at his family home in Stratford, relaxing with his family, seeing friends and enjoying country pursuits. Scholars have often suggested that this was Shakespeare saying goodbye to his work of creating fantasies (plays) for the theatre. Prospero gathers the inhabitants of the island around him and tells them that he is giving up the creative, imaginative, magical things he has done for a long time and retiring to a more everyday life in the real world:

‘Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him
When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm’d
The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,
And ‘twixt the green sea and the azured vault
Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire and rifted Jove’s stout oak
With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory
Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck’d up
The pine and cedar: graves at my command
Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let ’em forth
By my so potent art. But this rough magic
I here abjure, and, when I have required
Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I’ll drown my book.’

A different kind of farewell is in Hamlet where the garrulous Polonius, bidding his son Laertes farewell as he leaves for university, piles on fatherly advice:

‘Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!’

Perhaps the most famous goodbye quote is from Romeo and Juliet, the morning after Romeo and Juliet have spent their first night together and Romeo has to leave quickly for fear of being caught in her bedroom. Juliet says goodbye to him:

‘Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

The sorrow of parting is sweet because after it she will thrill to the thought of their next meeting.

Also very well known is Ophelia’s poignant farewell in Hamlet – her last words before committing suicide:

‘Good night, ladies. Good night, sweet ladies. Good night, good night.

Here are ten of Shakespeare’s best-recognised goodbye quotes:

My dear master, My captain and my emperor, let me say, Before I strike this bloody stroke, farewell

Antony and Cleopatra

Adieu! I have too grieved a heart to take a tedious leave

The Merchant of Venice

What heaven more will, That thee may furnish, and my prayers pluck down, Fall on thy head! Farewell

All’s Well that Ends Well.

And whether we shall meet again I know not.
Therefore our everlasting farewell take:
For ever, and for ever, farewell,
If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
If not, why then, this parting was well made.

Julius Caesar

Come, my sweet wife, my dearest mother, and My friends of noble touch; when I am forth, Bid me farewell, and smile

Coriolanus

To your professed bosoms I commit him; But yet, alas, stood I within his grace, I would prefer him to a better place! So farewell to you both

King Lear

Fairies and gods Prosper it with thee! Go thou further off; Bid me farewell, and let me hear thee going

King Lear

Fare you well, your suit is cold.’ Cold indeed, and labour lost, Then farewell, heat, and welcome, frost

The Merchant of Venice

My forces and my power of men are yours; So, farewell, Talbot; I’ll no longer trust thee

Henry V1 Part 1

If I were a woman, I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleas’d me, complexions that lik’d me, and breaths that I defied not; and, I am sure, as many as have good beards, or good faces, or sweet breaths, will, for my kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell

The Comedy of Errors

That’s the end of our list of Shakespeare goodbye quotes. Know of any more? If so, please add them to the comments section below!

Test your Shakespeare quote knowledge with our Shakespeare quote quiz – simply match the 10 Shakespeare quotes to the correct play!

That’s it folks! What’s your favorite Shakespeare quote about death, and why? Share in the comments section below.


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