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Quote Essay Shakespeare

In honor of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, TIME compiled the 15 most beloved quotes from his 38 plays using a semi-scientific method: We scrolled through threedifferenteditions of his complete words for Kindle—roughly 10,000 pages—and collected the most highlighted passages. (Kindles have a feature where any reader can see which passages many other anonymous readers have highlighted.) There was significant overlap between the three.

Curiously, several of the quotations have a very different meaning in context from the way they are often deployed popularly. The “greatness” that Twelfth Night‘s Malvolio contemplates in the prank letter he reads refers primarily to social status, not courage or success. Likewise, Helena’s comment that “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind” is in direct contradiction to her circumstances, in which Demetrius has left her for the better-looking Hermia.

The quotations are almost evenly split between comedies and tragedies, though several famous passages weren’t chosen by the highlighters: Nowhere was Shylock’s “If you prick us do we not bleed?” from Merchant of Venice or Juliet’s eulogy to Romeo, made especially famous by Robert F. Kennedy’s tribute to his slain brother at the 1964 Democratic convention: “Take him and cut him out in little stars, / And he will make the face of heaven so fine / That all the world will be in love with night / And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

Here are the 15 most highlighted Shakespeare quotes.

1. Hamlet contemplating suicide in his famous soliloquy. (Hamlet)
“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die: to sleep;”

2. Polonius, giving Laertes a pep talk. (Hamlet)
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

3. Macbeth, upon learning of the queen’s death. (Macbeth)
“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.”

4. Lafeu, consoling the Countess on the death of her husband and departure of her son. (All’s Well That Ends Well)
“Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living.”

5. The Countess dispensing some motherly wisdom to Bertram before he departs for France. (All’s Well That Ends Well)
“Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key: be cheque’d for silence,
But never tax’d for speech.”

6. Hamlet explaining to Horatio the appearance of a ghost. (Hamlet)
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

7. Caesar, to his wife, brushing aside her fear that he will soon die, which he does. (Julius Caesar)
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”

8. Cassius, priming Brutus to join the conspiracy against Caesar. (Julius Caesar)
“Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

9. King Claudius, admitting to himself that his prayers are not heartfelt. (Hamlet)
“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

10. Friar Lawrence, chastising Romeo for abandoning Rosaline for his new love, Juliet Capulet (Romeo and Juliet)
“Young men’s love then lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.”

11. Hermia, getting in a dig at men’s infidelity (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
“By all the vows that ever men have broke,
In number more than ever women spoke”

12. Lysander, arguing with Hermia about love (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
“Ay me, for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth,
But either it was different in blood—”

13. Malvolio (reading from a letter by Maria, which he believes to be from Olivia) (Twelfth Night)
“…be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”

14. Helena, lamenting that Demetrius has left her for Hermia (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind.”

15. Prospero reflects on the fleeting nature of drama and life (The Tempest)
“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

Works Cited:

  • To cite a Shakespeare play or poem from a book, anthology, or film on our works cited page we would use the same format as we would for any other author's work. That is the easy part. Here are the two books I am using:

Shakespeare, William, and Cyrus Hoy. Hamlet. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Love Poems and Sonnets of William Shakespeare. New York: Doubleday, 1991. Print.

  • Here is how to cite a film, DVD, of VHS versionof a Shakespearean work:

Branagh, Kenneth, dir. William Shakespeare's Hamlet. U.K.: Castle Rock Entertainment, 1996. VHS.

  • In-text citation for a film, DVD, VHS:

We may not need one. It is possible to simply refer to Branagh's William Shakespeare's Hamlet in the text of our document as there are no page numbers to refer to. However, if we want to include a direct quote, we could use the in-text citation (Branagh, William Shakespeare's Hamlet).

  • Here is how to cite a live performance:

Hamlet. By William Shakespeare. Dir. Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurs. Shakespeare's Globe, London. 25 April 2014. Performance.

  • In-text citation for a live performace:

Dromgoole and Buckhur's Hamlet or (Dromgoole and Buckhur, Hamlet)

Play In-text (parenthetical) Citations:

If we are writing a paper that refers to more than one work, we will use the play name in our citation rather than the author. If we are writing about one play then we would replace the play title in the parenthetical citation for the author's last name. 

  • Italicize play titles: Hamlet (Ham.)
  • After we introduce the full play title and it's abbreviation in parentheses, we can use the abbreviation to refer to the play in the rest of our paper. Here is a list of abbreviations for play titles.
  • Use Arabic numerals to refer to act, scene, and line numbers (no page numbers are listed): 3.2.10 or 3.2.10-25 if we are covering information from lines 10 through 25. If the line number are 100 or higher, we use the first whole line number 265 and the last two digits of the second line number: 5.2.265-75.
  • If referring to an act and scene of a play in your the body of your text, format it as such: In 2.2, Hamlet's despondency becomes the subject of mockery amongst his peers.
  • If we are only referring to one work by Shakespeare in our paper than our parenthetical citation would look like this: (Shakespeare 3.2.115)
  • If we are referring to more than one work by Shakespeare in our paper, after we introduce our play Hamlet (Ham.)..., our first parenthetical citation will look like this: (Ham. 3.2.115)
  • If we have not  yet introduced the play in the body of our paper, the first parenthetical citation will look like this: (Hamlet 3.2.115)

Quoting Verse and Prose:

Many of Shakespeare's plays are in a combination of verse and prose. The lesser characters often are written in prose, while the primary characters are usually written in verse. There are different rules for formatting verse and prose.

  • For quoting both verse and prose remember to always introduce the scene or character who is speaking. I will not be including those transitions prior to my quotations here, but that does not mean we don't need them in our papers. 
  • If quoting three lines or less of verse use the short quotation format and use a / to indicate line breaks. Keep all original punctuation and incorporate it into the text of your paper. 
  • If quoting four lines or more of verse break the lines as they are shown in the text of the play. Do not use / to indicate line breaks. Keep all original punctuation and format as a block quote.
  • If you would like to quote verse or prose, but want to leave out parts of a sentence or phrase, simply use ellipses to mark the left out text: "Heaven make me free of it! I follow thee / ...Wretched queen, adieu!" 

Play Quotations (short verse):

  • For quotations that refer to one character and are under four lines of verse, we can use "Quotation Marks." The citation will come between the last quotation mark and the period.
  • We will want to use slashes / to indicate line breaks.

"Doomed for a certain term to walk the night, / And for the day confined to fast in fires, / Til the foul crime done in my days of nature"

(Shakespeare 1.5.10-13).

  • Of course we would use (Hamlet 1.5.10) depending on the number of works by Shakespeare being referred to in our paper. For instance if we were comparing his tragedies and comedies and relying on several different works for source material, we would want to follow the MLA citation rule for citing several works by one author.

Play Quotations (short prose):

"Happily he is the second time to come to them, for they say an old man is twice a child" (Shakespeare 2.2.354-55)

Play Quotations (long verse):

  • For quotations that refer to one character and are longer than three lines of verse or four lines of prose we will want to double indent (1" or two taps of the tab key) and create a block quote. 
  • We will not use quotation marks or italicize the quote, the indentation will be indication enough:

                              He took me by the wrist, and held me hard, 

                              Then goes he to the length of all his arm,

                              And with his other hand thus o'er his brow, 

                              He falls to such perusal of my face

                              As  'a would draw it. Long stayed he so.

                              At last, a little shaking mine arm,

                              And thrice his head thus waving up and down,

                              He raised a sigh so piteous and profound 

                              As it did seem to shatter all his bulk, 

                              And end his being. (Shakespeare 2.1.86-95)

  • Notice that the parenthetical citation comes after the period in a long quote and that there is not a period after the citation.

Play Quotations (long prose):

  • We still will not use quotation marks or italicize the quote, however, we will not worry about line breaks and only take into account the double indentation and citation style.

                            Here lies the water; good. Here stands the man;

                            good. If the man go to this water and drowns himself,

                            it is,will he, nill he, he goes--mark you that. But if the

                            water come to him and drown him, he drowns not

                            himself. Argal, he that is not guilty of his own

                            death shortens not his own life. (Shakespeare 5.1.13-15)

Play Quotations (dialogue between two or more characters):

  • Double indent the names of the characters.
  • Capitalize each letter in the name of the character.
  • Indent the text of the quote one quarter inch further than we indent the character's name.
  • Keep original formatting and punctuation.

                              HAMLET. Then is doomsday near. But your news is not

                                   true. Let me question more in particular. What have you,

                                   my good friends, deserved at the hands of Fortune,

                                   that she sends you to prison hither?

                              GUILDENSTERN. Prison, my lord?

                              HAMLET. Denmark's a prison.

                              ROSENCRANTZ. Then is the world one. (2.2.231-37)

Poem and Sonnet Quotations:

  • Follow the same guidelines set by the plays for prose and verse.
  • Remember to use line numbers and not page numbers.

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