Words of Inspiration: Shakespeare

Quotes on grief, loss, and death from William Shakespeare's plays and sonnets

Photo courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

While words can never fully express how much someone means to us, language can still provide comfort, hope, and even inspiration following the death of a loved one. Here's a select collection of quotes on grief, loss, mortality, and death from the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare, the famous English poet, and playwright who penned classics like ​Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet.

Shakespeare Quotes on Death and Grief

You might find some of these lines helpful when writing a eulogy or condolence letter, especially if you're having trouble finding the right words and need inspiration.


"Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity."
(Act I, Scene II, Line 73)

"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."
(Act III, Scene I, Line 64)

Henry VI, Part III:

"To weep is to make less the depth of grief."
(Act II, Scene I, Line 85)

Julius Caesar:

"When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes."
(Act II, Scene II, Line 30)

"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."
(Act II, Scene II, Line 32)

King John:

"We cannot hold mortality's strong hand."
(Act IV, Scene II, Line 83)


"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."
(Act V, Scene V, Line 23)

Measure for Measure:

"If I must die,
I will encounter darkness as a bride,
And hug it in mine arms."
(Act III, Scene I, Line 82)

Much Ado About Nothing:

"Every one can master a grief but he that has it."
(Act III, Scene II, Line 26)

Richard III:

"'Tis a vile thing to die, my gracious lord,
When men are unprepared and look not for it."
(Act III, Scene II, Line 61)

Romeo and Juliet:

"Death lies on her like an untimely frost
Upon the sweetest flower of all the field."
(Act IV, Scene V, Line 24)


Sonnet 60:

"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."

Sonnet 71:

"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."

Sonnet 116:

"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."

The Tempest:

"He that dies pays all debts."
(Act III, Scene II, Line 131)


Folger Digital Texts. Folger Shakespeare Library.