In 449 years, Shakespeare has charmed well beyond the boundaries of the British Isles
This week saw the 449th birthday of William Shakespeare, the English playwright celebrated the world over. Four and a half centuries since his birth, the writer of 38 plays and 154 sonnets continues to enjoy popularity on a scale matched by few. His works enjoy prominence and performance from stage to screen, classroom to living room.
While Shakespeare has been hailed as the greatest English playwright, his writings have enjoyed equal popularity on the global stage. Many international companies have transported Shakespeare abroad, blending the works with each region’s own unique cultural nuances, interpretations and flavours. The playwright has gained a global currency, one characterised by mutual exchange; Shakespeare does not speak to the world, but with the world, and the ensuing conversation proves a bewitching one.
In celebration of Shakespeare’s works, here is a selection of some of his best quotes from some of his most prominent plays, coupled with images of the diverse global productions these pieces have enjoyed.
The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.
The Merchant of Venice, Act IV Scene I
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
The Merchant of Venice, Act III Scene I
be not afraid of greatness: some
are born great, some achieve greatness, and some
have greatness thrust upon ’em.
Twelfth Night, Act II Scene V
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it
Twelfth Night, Act I Scene I
This above all- to thine own self be true
Hamlet, Act I Scene III
To be, or not to be- that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die- to sleep-
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. 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.
Hamlet, Act III Scene I
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. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.
As You Like It, Act II Scene VII
Reclaim Your Stage:
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