April 23rd isn’t just St George’s Day, it’s William Shakespeare’s birthday, too. Or at least, we think it is. Historians have settled on the date because his baptism is recorded in Stratford-upon-Avon on 26 April 1564 – and in those days, this usually happened on or around three days after the baby was born.
More than 450 years later, and many of our most commonly-used terms and phrases are attributed to Shakespeare, such as: All’s well that ends well (All’s Well that Ends Well); Be-all and the end-all (Macbeth); A blinking idiot (The Merchant of Venice); Neither here nor there (Othello); Cruel to be kind (Hamlet); It’s Greek to me (Julius Caesar); Too much of a good thing (As You Like It); Neither rhyme nor reason (The Comedy of Errors); Wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello); Wild-goose chase (Romeo and Juliet); The world is my oyster (The Merry Wives of Windsor).
And, of course, he is English Literature’s King of Quotes. Here are 20 of the best …
- “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” (Hamlet)
- “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” (Hamlet)
- “To die, to sleep; To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub.” (Hamlet)
- “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” (Hamlet)
- “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.” (Hamlet)
- “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” (All’s Well That Ends Well)
- “What’s in a name? A rose by any name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet)
- “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” (Romeo and Juliet)
- “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” (As You Like It)
- “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” (The Tempest)
- “If music be the food of love, play on.” (Twelfth Night)
- “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.” (Twelfth Night)
- “Now is the winter of our discontent.” (Richard III)
- “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 revenge?” (The Merchant of Venice)
- “When shall we three meet again in thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurlyburly ‘s done, When the battle ‘s lost and won.” (Macbeth)
- “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (Sonnet 18)
- “I am a man more sinned against than sinning.” (King Lear)
- “Nothing will come of nothing.” (King Lear)
- “Beware the Ides of March.” (Julius Caesar)
- “The course of true love never did run smooth.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
By coincidence, The Bard also died on 23 April, in 1616, when he was just 52 – but what a literary legacy he left us. It seems all the world will forever be a stage for William Shakespeare!