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Famous Quotations About William Shakespeare

There Shakespeare, on whose forehead climb
The crowns o’ the world; oh, eyes sublime
With tears and laughter for all time!
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861), A Vision of Poets

With this same key
Shakespeare unlocked his heart' once more!
Did Shakespeare? If so, the less Shakespeare he!
Robert Browning (1812-1899), House

And there are Ben [Jonson] and William Shakespeare in wit-combat, sure enough; Ben bearing down like a mighty Spanish war-ship, fraught with all learning and artillery; Shakespeare whisking away from him - whisking right through him, athwart the big bulk and timbers of him; like a miraculous Celestial Light-ship, woven all of sheet-lightning and sunbeams!
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Historical Sketches of Notable Persons and Events in the Reigns of James I

The souls most fed with Shakespeare's flame
Still sat unconquered in a ring,
Remembering him like anything.
G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), The Shakespeare Memorial

It is sometimes suspected that the enthusiasm for Shakespeare's works shown by some students is a fiction or a fashion. It is not so. The justification of that enthusiastic admiration is in the fact that every increase of knowledge and deepening of wisdom in the critic or the student do but show still greater knowledge and deeper wisdom in the great poet. When, too, it is found that his judgment is equal to his genius, and that his industry is on a par with his inspiration, it becomes impossible to wonder or to admire too much. George Dawson (1821-1876), Shakespeare and other lectures

Our myriad-minded Shakespeare.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Biography. Chap. xv

He was the man who of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul.
John Dryden (1631-1700), Essay of Dramatic Poesy

He is the very Janus of poets; he wears almost everywhere two faces; and you have scarce begun to admire the one, ere you despise the other.
John Dryden (1631-1700), Essay on Dramatic Poetry of the Last Age

But Shakespeare’s magic could not copied be;
Within that circle none durst walk but he.
John Dryden (1631–1700) Essay of Dramatic Poesy

He was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature. He looked inwards, and found her there.
John Dryden (1631–1700) Essay of Dramatic Poesy

The modern democrat, perhaps, will often find it in a form which at first sight is distasteful to him. Shakespeare's whole reading of history is aristocratic. He concentrates the history of the nation in the doings of its leaders; the people are of small account, and seldom appear upon the scene except to display their fickleness, their stupidity, or their brutality....[But] in the time at which Shakespeare wrote, no other presentation of fact would have been possible. The people had not yet emerged into political existence, and to present them as other than they were would not only have been a piece of political prescience which can hardly be expected even of the greatest of artists, it would have been a falsification of the truth. Shakespeare was essentially a creature of the time, and he read history with the eyes of his time. He had doubtless a fuller vision and a clearer, but it was his own time that he interpreted and not ours.
Ernest De Selincourt (1870-1943), English Poets and the National Ideal

I do not believe that any writer has ever exposed this bovarysme, the human will to see things as they are not, more clearly than Shakespeare.
T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca

I am the owner of the sphere
Of the seven stars and the solar year,
Of Caesar's hand, and Plato's brain
Of Lord Christ's heart, and Shakespeare's strain.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), The Absorbing Soul

Nor sequent centuries could hit
Orbit and sum of Shakespeare’s wit.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), May-Day and Other Pieces

When Shakespeare is charged with debts to his authors, Landor replies, “Yet he was more original than his originals. He breathed upon dead bodies and brought them into life.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Letters and Social Aims

The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good - in spite of all the people who say he is very good.
Robert Graves (1895-1985)

In Shakespeare the birds sing, the bushes are clothed with green, hearts love, souls suffer, the cloud wanders, it is hot, it is cold, night falls, time passes, forests and multitudes speak, the vast eternal dream hovers over all. Sap and blood, all forms of the multiple reality, actions and ideas, man and humanity, the living and the life, solitudes, cities, religions, diamonds and pearls, dung-hills and charnelhouses, the ebb and flow of beings, the steps of comers and goers, all, all are on Shakespeare and in Shakespeare.
Victor Hugo (1802-1885), William Shakespeare

A quibble is to Shakespeare what luminous vapours are to the traveller: he follows it at all adventures; it is sure to lead him out of his way and sure to engulf him in the mire.
Ben Jonson (1573-1637) Preface to the First Folio

Soule of the Age!
The applause! delight! The wonder of our stage!
Ben Jonson (1573 - 1637), Preface to the First Folio





Sweet Swan of Avon!
Ben Jonson (1573 - 1637), Preface to the First Folio

He was not of an age, but for all time!
Ben Jonson (1573-1637), Preface to the First Folio

I remember your saying that you had notions of a good Genius presiding over you. I have of late had the same thought - for things which I do half at Random are afterwards confirmed by my judgment in a dozen features of Propriety. Is it too daring to fancy Shakespeare this Presider?
John Keats (1795-1821), Letter to B.R. Haydon, May 1817

When I read Shakespeare I am struck with wonder
That such trivial people should muse and thunder
In such lovely language.
D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

But Shakespeare knows what the sphinx thinks, if anybody does. His genius is penetrative as cold midwinter entering every room, and making warmth shiver in ague fits. I think Shakespeare never errs in his logical sequence in character. He surprises us, seems unnatural to us, but because we have been superficial observers; while genius will disclose those truths to which we are blind.
William A. Quayle (1860-1925), Some Words on Loving Shakespeare. From A hero and some other folk, 1900

Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild.
John Milton (1608-1674), L'Allegro

What needs my Shakespeare for his honour’d bones,
The labour of an age in piled stones,
Or that his hallow’d relics should be hid
Under a star-y-pointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need’st thou such weak witness of thy name?
John Milton (1608-1674), Epitaph on Shakespeare

And so sepulchered in such pomp dost lie,
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.
John Milton (1608- 1674), Epitaph

The fact is, Shakespeare was not sectarian; he pleaded nobody's mission, he stated nobody's cause. He has written with a view to be a mirror of things as they are; and shows the office of the true poet and literary man, which is to re-create the soul of man as God has created it, and human society as man has made it.
George Dawson (1821-1876), Shakespeare and Other Lectures

And one wild Shakespeare, following Nature's lights,
Is worth whole planets, filled with Stagyrites.
Thomas More (1779-1852), The Sceptic

Shakespeare - The nearest thing in incarnation to the eye of God.
Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)

Wonderful women! Have you ever thought how much we all, and women especially, owe to Shakespeare for his vindication of women in these fearless, high-spirited, resolute and intelligent heroines?
Dame Ellen Terry (1848-1928)

One of the greatest geniuses that ever existed,
Shakespeare, undoubtedly wanted taste.
Horace Walpole (1717-1797), Letter to Wren, 1764

Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,
Mindless of its just honours; with this key
Shakespeare unlocked his heart.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Miscellaneous Sonnets

He is as a mountain, whose majesty and multitudinous beauty, meaning, and magnitude and impress, must be gotten by slow processes in journeying about it through many days. Who sits under its pines at noon, lies beside its streams for rest, walks under its lengthening shadows as under a cloud, and has listened to the voices of its water falls, thrilling the night and calling to the spacious firmament as if with intent to be heard "very far off," has thus learned the mountain, vast of girth, kingly in altitude, perpetual in sovereignty. We study a world's circumference by segments; nor let us suppose we can do other by this cosmopolitan Shakespeare. He, so far as touches our earth horizon, is ubiquitous. Looking at him sum-totally, we feel his mass, and say we have looked upon majesty.
William A. Quayle (1860-1925), Some Words on Loving Shakespeare. From A hero and some other folk, 1900

We shall never overestimate Shakespeare, because we can not. Some men and things lie beyond the danger of hyperbole. No exaggeration is possible concerning them, seeing they transcend all dreams. Space can not be conceived by the most luxuriant imagination, holding, as it does, all worlds, and capable of holding another universe besides, and with room to spare. Clearly, we can not overestimate space. Thought and vocabulary become bankrupt when they attempt this bewildering deed. Genius is as immeasurable as space. Shakespeare can not be measured. We can not go about him, since life fails, leaving the journey not quite well begun. Yet may we attempt what can not be performed, because each attempt makes us worthy, and we are measured, not by what we achieve, but by what we attempt.
William A. Quayle (1860-1925), Some Words on Loving Shakespeare. From A hero and some other folk, 1900



In the Spotlight

Quote in Context

Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament;
Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
                             Hamlet (3.2), Player King

"Shakespeare was the most cheery, healthy, and open-air Englishman of them all. Such a man would never even have dreamed of writing up a cynical theme, unless he happened to be out of sorts, sick perhaps, cross, or not himself. And Shakespeare, with all the genius and all the sincere, passionate acrimony which he displays in Timon and in Troilus, has done no more than exhibit the nervous depression of an optimist - a sort of peevishness, very different from the logic, the cruelty, and the perverse beauty of true cynicism." [John Jay Chapman, A Glance Toward Shakespeare.]
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