C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.


Shakespeare has had neither equal nor second.

The sage and seer of the human heart.

Henry Giles.

Shakespeare is an intellectual miracle.


He was not of an age, but for all time.

Ben Jonson.

Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy’s child!


***Thou hadst small Latin and less Greek.

Ben Jonson.

No man is too busy to read Shakespeare.

Charles Buxton.

And rival all but Shakespear’s name below.


Our myriad-minded Shakespeare.


The genius of Shakespeare was an innate university.


To him the mighty mother did unveil her awful face.


He was honest, and of an open and free nature.

Ben Jonson.

The man whom nature’s self had made to mock herself, and truth to imitate.


  • Nor sequent centuries could hit
  • Orbit and sum of Shakespeare’s wit.
  • Emerson.

    To see Kean act was like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning.


  • Shakespeare is not our poet, but the world’s,
  • Therefore on him no speech!
  • Walter Savage Landor.

  • Nature listening stood, whilst Shakespeare play’d,
  • And wonder’d at the work herself had made.
  • Churchill.

    Whatever can be known of the heart of man may be found in Shakespeare’s plays.


  • Shakespeare’s magic could not copied be:
  • Within that circle none durst walk but he.
  • Dryden.

    Corneille is to Shakespeare as a clipped hedge is to a forest.

    Dr. Johnson.

    Soul of the age! the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage.

    Ben Jonson.

    I think most readers of Shakespeare sometimes find themselves thrown into exalted mental conditions like those produced by music.

    O. W. Holmes.

    Those who accuse him to have wanted learning give him the greater commendation.


    It is not so correct to say that he speaks from nature as that she speaks through him.


  • Sweet Swan of Avon! What a sight it were
  • To see thee in our water yet appear.
  • Ben Jonson.

    In his comic scenes, Shakespeare seems to produce, without labor, what no labor can improve.

    Dr. Johnson.

  • There, Shakespeare, on whose forehead climb
  • The crowns o’ the world. Oh, eyes sublime,
  • With tears and laughters for all time!
  • Mrs. Browning.

    Shakespeare, Butler and Bacon have rendered it extremely difficult for all who come after them to be sublime, witty or profound.


    Shakespeare is one of the best means of culture the world possesses. Whoever is at home in his pages is at home everywhere.

    H. N. Hudson.

  • Others abide our question. Thou art free.
  • We ask and ask—Thou smilest and art still,
  • Out-topping knowledge.
  • Matthew Arnold.

    Shakespeare is a great psychologist, and whatever can be known of the heart of man may be found in his plays.


    There is only one writer in whom I find something that reminds me of the directness of style which is found in the Bible. It is Shakespeare.

    Heinrich Heine.

    The imitators of Shakespeare, fixing their attention on his wonderful power of expression, have directed their imitation to this.

    Matthew Arnold.

    If ever Shakespeare rants, it is not when his imagination is hurrying him along, but when he is hurrying his imagination along.


    Shakespeare was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of the books to read nature; he looked inward, and found her there.


    Shakespeare is dangerous to young poets; they cannot but reproduce him, while they fancy that they produce themselves.


    We are apt to consider Shakespeare only as a poet; but he was certainly one of the greatest moral philosophers that ever lived.

    Lady Montagu.

    In strength of intellect he was a demigod; in profundity of view; a prophet; in all-seeing wisdom, a protecting spirit.


    The stream of time, which is constantly washing the dissoluble fabrics of other poets, passes without injury by the adamant of Shakespeare.

    Dr. Johnson.

  • Shakespeare (whom you and every playhouse bill
  • Style the divine, the matchless, what you will)
  • Far gain, not glory, wing’d his roving flight
  • And grew immortal in his own despite.
  • Pope.

  • What needs my Shakespeare for his honor’d bones,
  • The labor of an age in pilèd stones?
  • *****
  • Thou in our wonder and astonishment
  • Hast built thyself a livelong monument.
  • Milton.

  • Then to the well-trod stage anon
  • If Jonson’s learned sock be on,
  • Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy’s child,
  • Warble his native wood-notes wild.
  • Milton.

  • Nature herself was proud of his designs,
  • And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines!
  • Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
  • As since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.
  • Ben Jonson.

  • Now you who rhyme, and I who rhyme,
  • Have not we sworn it, many a time,
  • That we no more our verse would scrawl,
  • For Shakespeare he had said it all!
  • R. W. Gilder.

    When Shakespeare is charged with debts to his authors, Landor replies, “Yet he was more original than his originals. He breathed upon dead bodies and brought them into life.”


    In the plays of Shakespeare man appears as he is, made up of a crowd of passions which contend for the mastery over him, and govern him in turn.


    The passages of Shakespeare that we most prize were never quoted until within this century.


    It was said of Euripides, that every verse was a precept; and it may be said of Shakespeare, that from his works may be collected a system of civil and economical prudence.

    Dr. Johnson.

    In Shakespeare one sentence begets the next naturally; the meaning is all inwoven. He goes on kindling like a meteor through the dark atmosphere.


    Shakespeare’s personages live and move as if they had just come from the hand of God, with a life that, though manifold, is one, and, though complex, is harmonious.


  • Scorn not the Sonnet. Critic, you have frowned,
  • Mindless of its just honours; with this key
  • Shakespeare unlocked his heart.
  • Wordsworth.

  • This was Shakespeare’s form;
  • Who walked in every path of human life,
  • Felt every passion; and to all mankind
  • Doth now, will ever, that experience yield
  • Which his own genius only could acquire.
  • Akenside.

    Admirable as he was in all parts of his art, we most admire him for this, that while he has left us a greater number of striking portraits than all other dramatists put together, he has scarcely left us a single caricature.


    I remember, the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, would he had blotted a thousand.

    Ben Jonson.

    Highest among those who have exhibited human nature by means of dialogue stands Shakespeare. His variety is like the variety of nature,—endless diversity, scarcely any monstrosity.


    Whatever other learning he wanted, he was master of two books unknown to many profound readers, though books which the last conflagration can alone destroy,—I mean the book of nature and that of man.


    If I say that Shakespeare is the greatest of intellects, I have said all concerning him. But there is more in Shakespeare’s intellect than we have yet seen. It is what I call an unconscious intellect; there is more virtue in it than he himself is aware of.


    If he had sorrows, he has made them the woof of everlasting consolation to his kind; and if, as poets are wont to whine, the outward world was cold to him, its biting air did but trace itself in loveliest frostwork of fancy on the many windows of that self-centred and cheerful soul.


    His imperial muse tosses the creation like a bauble from hand to hand, to embody any capricious thought that is uppermost in her mind. The remotest spaces of nature are visited, and the farthest sundered things are brought together by a subtle spiritual connection.


    Shakespeare is of no age, nor, I may add, of any religion or party or profession. The body and substance of his works come out of the unfathomable depths of his own oceanic mind; his observation and reading supplied him with the drapery of his figures.


    No nation has produced anything like his equal. There is no quality in the human mind, there is no class of topics, there is no region of thought, in which he has not soared or descended, and none in which he has not said the commanding word.


    Vast objects of remote altitude must be looked at a long while before they are ascertained. Ages are the telescope tubes that must be lengthened out for Shakespeare; and generations of men serve but a single witness to his claims.


    What king has he not taught state, as Talma taught Napoleon? What maiden has not found him finer than her delicacy? What lover has he not outloved? What sage has he not outseen? What gentleman has he not instructed in the rudeness of his behavior?


  • When Learning’s triumph o’er her barb’rous foes
  • First rear’d the stage, immortal Shakespeare rose;
  • Each change of many-colored life he drew,
  • Exhausted worlds, and then imagin’d new;
  • Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign,
  • And panting Time toil’d after him in vain,
  • His powerful strokes presiding Truth impress’d,
  • And unresisted Passion storm’d the breast.
  • Dr. Johnson.

    Shakespeare stands alone. His want of erudition was a most happy and productive ignorance; it forced him back upon his own resources, which were exhaustless. If his literary qualifications made it impossible for him to borrow from the ancients, he was more than repaid by the powers of his invention, which made borrowing unnecessary.


  • For a good poet’s made, as well as born,
  • And such wast thou! Look how the father’s face
  • Lives in his issue; even so the race
  • Of Shakespeare’s mind and manners brightly shine
  • In his well-turned and true-filèd lines;
  • In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
  • As brandished at the eyes of ignorance.
  • Ben Jonson.

    There is something so wild, and yet so solemn, in the speeches of his ghosts, fairies, witches, and the like imaginary persons, that we cannot forbear thinking them natural, though we have no rule by which to judge of them, and must confess, if there are such beings in the world, it looks highly probable they should talk and act as he has represented them.


  • When great poets sing,
  • Into the night new constellations spring,
  • With music in the air that dulls the craft
  • Of rhetoric. So when Shakespeare sang or laughed
  • The world with long, sweet Alpine echoes thrilled
  • Voiceless to scholars’ tongues no muse had filled
  • With melody divine.
  • C. P. Cranch.

  • This figure that thou here seest put,
  • It was for gentle Shakespeare cut,
  • Wherein the graver had a strife
  • With Nature, to outdo the life:
  • Oh, could he but have drawn his wit
  • As well in brass, as he has hit
  • His face, the print would then surpass
  • All that was ever writ in brass;
  • But since he cannot, reader, look
  • Not on his picture, but his book.
  • Ben Jonson.

  • In the first seat, in robe of various dyes,
  • A noble wildness flashing from his eyes,
  • Sat Shakespeare: in one hand a wand he bore,
  • For mighty wonders fam’d in days of yore:
  • The other held a globe, which to his will
  • Obedient turn’d, and own’d the master’s skill:
  • Things of the noblest kind his genius drew,
  • And look’d through nature at a single view:
  • A loose he gave to his unbounded soul,
  • And taught new lands to rise, new seas to roll;
  • Call’d into being scenes unknown before,
  • And passing nature’s bounds, was something more.
  • Churchill.

    Among the English authors, Shakespeare has incomparably excelled all others. That noble extravagance of fancy, which he had in so great perfection, thoroughly qualified him to touch the weak, superstitious part of his readers’ imagination, and made him capable of succeeding where he had nothing to support him besides the strength of his own genius.