Share this page

Shakespeare Quotes on Life

Shakespeare's timeless sayings about life itself

Shakespeare's works are as relevant to twenty-first-century audiences as they were to sixteenth-century ones because he knew the true meaning and complexities of life. These well-known quotes show he understood human nature: the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Top Shakespeare Quotes on Life

To be, or not to be, that is the question

— Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1, lines 56-83; Hamlet

All the world's a stage, / And all the men and women merely players

— As You Like It, Act 2 Scene 7, lines 139-40; Jacques to Duke Senior and his companions
A man in rustic dress spreads his arms and is either appealing to someone or expressing despair. Behind him stand hand in hand a young man and a young woman in bright but not rich clothing.
As You Like It, University of Minnesota Morris, 2010

Out, out brief candle! / Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

— Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 5, Lines 23-25; Macbeth to Seyton

We are such stuff / As dreams are made on; and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep

— The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1, lines 156-58; Prospero to Miranda and Ferdinand
Four figures open-mouthed in horror are squashed together in a basket.
The Tempest, RSC, 1993

Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.

— Twelfth Night, Act 2 Scene 5, Lines 139-41; Malvolio

When we are born we cry that we are come / To this great stage of fools

— King Lear, Act 4 Scene 6, lines 178-79; King Lear to Gloucester
Two Samurai guards point spears at Lear (long robes, white hair and beard) at the top of some steps, while another drags Cordelia away. Lear reaches out to her outstretched hand.
King Lear in China, Universal Shakespeare

The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together

— All's Well That Ends Well, Act 4 Scene 3, lines 68-69; One lord to another

You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will not more willingly part withal - except my life, except my life, except my life

— Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2, lines 213-17; Hamlet
Hamlet, standing in a grave, contemplates the skull of Yorick resting on the edge of the grave; Hamlet's right hand is on the back of the skull.
Hamlet, RSC, 2001

The time of life is short! / To spend that shortness basely were too long

— Henry IV Part 1, Act 5 Scene 2, Lines 81-84; Hotspur to a Messenger

I love long life better than figs

— Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1 Scene 2, line 33; Chairman to a soothsayer

Find more quotes by theme

Shakespeare Quotes

Read the play summaries

Shakespeare's Plays

Learn about William Shakespeare

Shakespedia Index
Where the story began Relive Shakespeare's love story Walk in Shakespeare’s footsteps