Words of Inspiration: Shakespeare

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

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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.

 

Hamlet:

"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)

 

Macbeth:

"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)

Source:

Folger Digital Texts. Folger Shakespeare Library.

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