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William Shakespeare on Life, Death, Loss, and Grief.


Happy birthday, William Shakespeare! Here’s the Bard on life, death, grief, and loss:


“Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.”


“I cannot tell what you and other men
Think of this life; but, for my single self,
I had as lief not be as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself.”


“And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”


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


“O excellent! I love long life better than figs.”


“To be, or not to be,—that is the question.”
“This day I breathed first: time is come round,
And where I did begin there shall I end;
My life is run his compass.”


“When we are born, we cry, that we are come
To this great stage of fools.”


“I bear a charmed life.”


“It is silliness to live when to live is torment; and then have we a prescription to die when death is our physician.”


“Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life at a pin’s fee.”


“O gentlemen, the time of life is short!
To spend that shortness basely were too long,
If life did ride upon a dial’s point,
Still ending at the arrival of an hour.”


“Thy life’s a miracle.”


“That but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’d jump the life to come.”


“The sands are number’d that make up my life;
Here must I stay, and here my life must end.”


“Nor stony tower, nor walls of beaten brass,
Nor airless dungeon, nor strong links of iron,
Can be retentive to the strength of spirit;
But life, being weary of these worldly bars,
Never lacks power to dismiss itself.”


“Had I but died an hour before this chance,
I had liv’d a blessed time; for, from this instant,
There’s nothing serious in mortality:
All is but toys; renown, and grace is dead;
The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees
Is left this vault to brag of.”


“So weary with disasters, tugg’d with fortune,
That I would set my life on any chance,
To mend, or be rid on’t.”


“Her father lov’d me; oft invited me;
Still question’d me the story of my life,
From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes,
That I have pass’d.”


“And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe.
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.”


“Reason thus with life:
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
That none but fools would keep.”


“Life is a shuttle.”


“And a man’s life’s no more than to say ‘One.'”


“Let life be short: else shame will be too long.”


“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.”


“A man can die but once.”


“We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”


“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”


“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”


“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”


“The time of life is short; to spend that shortness basely were too long.”


“Lay aside life-harming heaviness, And entertain a cheerful disposition.”


“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”


“So wise so young, they say, never do live long.”


“It is silliness to live when to live is torment, and then have we a prescription to die when death is our physician.”


“By medicine life may be prolonged, yet death will seize the doctor too.”


“Though well we may not pass upon his life
Without the form of justice, yet our power
Shall do a courtesy to our wrath, which men
May blame, but not control.”


“There where my fortune lives, there my life dies.”


“You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will
more willingly part withal: except my life, except
my life, except my life.”


“Mine honour is my life; both grow in one:
Take honour from me, and my life is done.”


“Give that which gave thee life unto the worms.”


“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”


“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.”


“So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”


“Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were filled with your most high deserts?
Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.”


“Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die.”


“I impair not beauty being mute,
When others would give life, and bring a tomb.
There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.”


“Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life,
So thou prevent’st his scythe and crooked knife.”


“Life no longer than thy love will stay,
For it depends upon that love of thine.”


“Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.”


“To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.”


“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.”


“When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”


“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”


“We cannot hold mortality’s strong hand.”


“Out, out, brief candle!
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.”


“If I must die,
I will encounter darkness as a bride,
And hug it in mine arms.”


“Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.”


“‘Tis a vile thing to die, my gracious lord,
When men are unprepared and look not for it.”


“Death lies on her like an untimely frost
Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.”


“Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.”


“If you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it, for I love you so
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.”


“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.”


“He that dies pays all debts.”


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