I’ve been in a “classic literature” mood of late, I find myself escaping to fair Verona to witness star-crossed lovers, or into a field where there really is “much ado about nothing” or in the woodlands where creatures dwell in a midsummer night’s dream” who can forget those 3 Macbeth witches or the warnings of the “Ides of March?”

There is so much to learn from William Shakespeare that is so relevant today

Here are some of the truths I have learned and my favourite quotes in no order

HAMLET- To thine own self be true

To thine own self be true’ is a line from act 1 scene 3 of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. It is spoken by King Claudius’ chief minister, Polonius as part of a speech where he is giving his son, Laertes, his blessing and advice on how to behave whilst at university.

It is a speech that contains a number of famous and quotable Shakespeare phrases, such as ‘Give every man thy ear but few thy voice,’ ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be,’ and ‘The apparel oft proclaims the man’ fill the speech. Polonius’ advice is summed up with the lines: ‘This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’

Here is the full text of Polonius’ speech:

There, my blessing with thee.

And these few precepts in thy memory

Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar.

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,

But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

Of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade. Beware

Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,

Bear ’t that the’ opposed may beware of thee.

Give every man thy ear but few thy voice.

Take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy,

For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

And they in France of the best rank and station

Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell. My blessing season this in thee.

Romeo and Juliet

Star-crossed yes, a tale of two houses? Yes, but what sticks out for me is the pining Romeo does in the beginning for the unrequited object of his affection in that of Rosaline. “He describes her as wonderfully beautiful: “The all-seeing sun / ne’er saw her match since first the world begun.” Rosaline, however, chooses to remain chaste; Romeo says: “She hath forsworn to love, and in that vow / Do I live dead that live to tell it now.” This is the source of his depression, and he makes his friends unhappy. In contrast his love for Juliet is deeper and, in my view, real and although young, Romeo knows the difference between infatuation (post Rosaline) and love (for Juliet) I often have these “so which one is it? When thinking about matters of the heart. I hope never to have an unrequited love again, nor to be so torn between love and family.

Friar Lawrence, chastising Romeo for abandoning Rosaline for his new love, Juliet Capulet (Romeo and Juliet)

“Young men’s love then lies

Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.”


Guilt guilt guilt – who can forget lady Macbeths paranoia at the intense scene of the invisible blood she tried to wash off her hands from her actions. This reminds me that guilt if you are outside of your own moral compass will follow you everywhere.

Julius Caesar – Beware the Ides of March

The expression ‘Beware the Ides of March’ is first found in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, 1601. The line is the soothsayer’s message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death. The Ides of March did not signify anything special. In Shakespeare’s day that just the usual way of saying “March 15th”. However the weight of the warning and its pending truth left for a very serious ending for our emperor. Still used today when one comments on the 15th of March as day of “bad luck” for the superstitious

Caesar, to his wife, brushing aside her fear that he will soon die, which he does. (Julius Caesar)

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”

Here are some short and powerful ones

1.     Hermia, getting in a dig at men’s infidelity (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

“By all the vows that ever men have broken,

In number more than ever women spoke”

2.      Malvolio (reading from a letter by Maria, which he believes to be from Olivia) (Twelfth Night)

“…be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’them.”

And so reader, if music be the food of love, then Play on!

As per Hamlet “My necessaries are embarked: farewell’


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