‘All the World’s a Stage’: William Shakespeare’s Birthday

Today is the anniversary of both the birth and death of a man considered by many to be the greatest English writer and the greatest dramatist of all time: William Shakespeare.





April 23, 1564, is traditionally considered Shakespeare’s birthday, and he died on the same day about half a century later in 1616. He was a genius in the fullest sense of the term. 

His plays and poetry have been quoted by millions and adapted by thousands, and many of his words have long ago passed into common colloquialisms and popular sayings. Indeed, he has been so foundational that, to many English speakers, his fictionalized depictions of certain historical figures are sometimes more well-known than the historical figures themselves, with Mark Antony being one example.

Shakespeare was the son of a tradesman/bailiff, and his education did not extend to university, something which has led many pompous elitists over the years to allege that he could not have really written his own works. He married young and had three children with Anne Hathaway: Susanna, Hamnet, and Judith. Sadly, Hamnet, the only son, died as a child. 

Shakespeare became an actor and joined a famed company of players at the Globe Theater in London. He was, of course, not only a gifted actor, but also an extraordinarily gifted dramatist, and his many comedic, dramatic, historical, and fantasy plays continue to be performed and praised up through the present day.

Below are a selection of some of the most witty, wise, and memorable quotes from William Shakespeare:

“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

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; / For he to-day that sheds his blood with me / Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, / This day shall gentle his condition: / And gentlemen in England now a-bed / Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, / And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks / That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.” —Henry V





 “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” —Twelfth Night

“The quality of mercy is not strained; / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. / Upon the place beneath.” —The Merchant of Venice

“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day…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

 “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” —Romeo and Juliet

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” —Hamlet

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears: I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” —Julius Caesar

“To be or not to be, that is the question.” —Hamlet

 

 “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” —A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“Eternity was in our lips and in our eyes.” —Antony and Cleopatra

“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

 “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” —The Tempest



“Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.” —Much Ado About Nothing

“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.” —Julius Caesar

“I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.” —Much Ado About Nothing

 

“Nothing will come of nothing.” —King Lear

“A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!” —Richard III

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!” —A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving.” —Othello

 “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments; love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds, / Or bends with the remover to remove. / O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark / That looks on tempests and is never shaken.” —Sonnet 116

Happy birthday, William Shakespeare!

 

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