The Best of the Bard

Our favorite passages from Shakespeare’s works

<em>William Shakespeare</em>, by John Taylor, 1610 (National Portrait Gallery)
William Shakespeare, by John Taylor, 1610 (National Portrait Gallery)


Our list of Ten Best Sentences didn’t consider poetry, such as the works of William Shakespeare. Here are some of our favorite lines from the bard, whose 450th birthday was April 23.

When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions.

—King Claudius, Hamlet: Act 4, Scene 5

Light thickens; and the crow
Makes wing to the rooky wood:
Good things of day begin to droop and drowse;
While night’s black agents to their preys do rouse.

—Macbeth, Macbeth: Act 3, Scene 2

Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed;
Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse;
And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses,
Or paddling in your neck with his damn’d fingers,
Make you to ravel all this matter out,
That I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft.

—Hamlet, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

—Sonnet 18

Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue: look like th’innocent flower,
But be the serpent under’t …

—Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 5

Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones.
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever!

—Lear, King Lear, Act 5, Scene 3

All strange and terrible events are welcome,
But comforts we despise. Our size of sorrow,
Proportioned to our cause, must be as great
As that which makes it.

—Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra, Act 4, Scene 15

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

—Orsino, Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 1

Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what’s done is done.

—Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 2

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

—Sonnet 116

Tell us your favorite Shakespeare passages in a comment below.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Our Editors include Sudip Bose, Bruce Falconer, Stephanie Bastek, Jayne Ross, and Ellie Eberlee.


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