The Words of William Shakespeare

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Among the plays of William Shakespeare are some of the most famous quotations in any language. A short number of those are included below:

  • "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" – (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII).
  • “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” – (Hamlet, Act III, Scene I).
  • "Brevity is the soul of wit". – (Hamlet, Act II, Scene II).
  • "The better part of valour is discretion". – (Henry IV, Part I, Act V, Scene IV).
  • "He hath eaten me out of house and home". – (Henry IV, Part II, Act II, Scene I).
  • "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him". – (Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene II).
  • "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble." – (Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I).
  • "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." – (Macbeth, Act V, Scene V).
  • "Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow." – (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II).
  • "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet". – (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II).

Shakespeare also wrote 154 sonnets, 14-line poems of a defined rhythm and structure. The most famous of his sonnets by far is this one:
Sonnet 18
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.”

Linguistic experts have concluded that Shakespeare used about 21,000 different words in writing the 37 plays and 156 poems that he produced. Historians and literature experts generally credit Shakespeare with inventing or at least publicizing nearly 3,000 new words. He did this by changing nouns into verbs or verbs into adjectives or adding two words never combined before, or adding a prefix or suffix that wasn’t there before.

Among the words that we use commonly today that were not in common practice before Shakespeare wrote them into his plays are these:

  • accused
  • advertising
  • amazement
  • assassination
  • bandit
  • birthplace
  • buzzer
  • champion
  • cold-blooded
  • compromise
  • courtship
  • critic
  • dauntless
  • deafening
  • discontent
  • elbow
  • excitement
  • eyeball
  • fashionable
  • generous
  • gossip
  • hint
  • hurried
  • label
  • lackluster
  • laughable
  • lonely
  • lower
  • monumental
  • negotiate
  • outbreak
  • premeditated
  • radiance
  • road
  • scuffle
  • summit
  • suspicious
  • swagger
  • unreal
  • varied
  • worthless

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David White