Shakespeare was born 450 years ago, but many of his works are still relevant today. In fact, we use the words he coined and the phrases he invented all the time. So what makes his works so relevant, and what can we learn from quotes by William Shakespeare to this day?
One thing that makes Shakespeare’s works seem so relevant today is that the stories he told were about universal struggles. William Shakespeare’s poetry and plays and even many quotes depict tales of love, loss, hardship, misunderstandings and justice. When you watch a Shakespeare play, you can still relate to his work because these are still universal themes of human life.
Another aspect of Shakespeare’s work that makes it relevant today is his characters. The language may have changed and the style of dress and settings, but the characters have an enduring appeal.
Who has not felt as lovesick as Juliet as anguished as Hamlet or as vengeful as Shylock? We can see aspects of ourselves, and the people we know, both friends and enemies, in Shakespeare’s works and this makes them appealing.
Shakespeares’ plays also work because they play on deep-seated human emotions. For example, he talks about eternal love in Sonnet 116, ‘Love is not love/Which alters when it alteration finds.’ He also talks about grief and injustice in many of his plays. But perhaps, as much as anything, it is his sense of humor that keeps us coming back to his work.
How Shakespeare changed the English language
In fact, most of us owe more of a debt to Shakespeare than we realise. More than three thousands words in the English language were coined by him. We could not be bedazzled without Shakespeare, nor act in cold blood, be fashionable or swagger.
And it wasn’t just words he brought into common usage. Here are just a few of the common phrases we use all the time that come from his works.
- “A wild goose chase” – Romeo and Juliet
- “A heart of gold” – Henry V
- “In stitches” – Twelfth Night
- “Naked truth” – Love’s Labour’s Lost
- “Faint-hearted” – Henry VI, Part I
- “Send him packing” – Henry IV
- “Vanish into thin air” – Othello
But there are some quotes by William Shakespeare that seem particularly relevant to our lives today.
Here are 7 William Shakespeare quotes that still offer useful guidance in the modern world:
1. “This above all: to thine own self be true.” – Hamlet
This piece of advice sounds like it comes from a 20th Century self-help book, but it is actually from Hamlet. It is advice that is definitely still relevant today and highlights an issue humans have struggled with for hundreds of years.
2. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet
In a world where the split between science and religion seems to be bigger than ever, Shakespeare encourages us to believe in the unseen. After all, scientists are the first to admit they don’t have all the answers to life’s mysteries.
3. “It’s not enough to speak, but to speak true.” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
In a world where extroverted celebrities seem to get all the attention, it would be nice if a few more people took Shakespeare’s advice on this subject and spoke the truth.
4. “It is not in the Stars to hold our Destiny but in ourselves.” – Julius Caesar
Again, you could well believe this came from a modern self-help guide. It encourages us to understand that our fate lies in our own hands and not in the power of other people, religious deities or fate. We hold the key to our own success.
5. “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.”– Troilus and Cressida
Any artist, professional or entrepreneur, knows the joy of work. If we put our heart and soul into something, it gives us great satisfaction.
We may think idle days on the beach are what we want, but in reality, we would soon get bored. In fact, when people retire from work, they often feel quite depressed without a sense of purpose and something useful and fulfilling to do.
6. “We know what we are but know not what we may be.”– Hamlet
This wise quote sounds like it came from a great philosopher, and it did, Shakespeare. How often we are limited by what we believe we are capable of. We give up on our dreams because we doubt ourselves.
If you ever feel like giving up on your goals, remember this quote because who knows what you may be in the future.
7. “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none” –All’s Well That Ends Well
This one is fairly self-explanatory, but it bears repeating. In fact, it could be some of the greatest pieces of advice of all time.
It is amazing that these quotes are still so relevant more than 400 hundred years after William Shakespeare wrote them. I guess human emotions and desires don’t change as much as we think. Shakespeare had a way of putting this that has a timeless quality that will never go out of date.
We’d love to hear your favorite quotes by William Shakespeare. Please share them with us in the comments below.
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