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
As you like it cropped
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
Tempest cropped
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
King Lear cropped
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 2001 cropped
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
This is where the story began