William Shakespeare quotes about death

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William Shakespeare, in his many plays, and in his sonnets, produced a vast number of quotes on the subject of death.


Hamlet (1600-02)[edit]

  • Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
    Passing through nature to eternity.
    • Act I, scene 2, line 72.
  • He was an man, take him for all in all.
    I shall not look upon his like again.
    • Act I, scene 2, line 186.
  • I do not to set my life at a pin's fee;
    And, for my soul, what can it do to that,
    Being a thing immortal as itself?
    • Act I, scene 4, line 67.
  • Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
    Unhousel'd, disappointed, unanel'd;
    No reckoning made, but sent to my account
    With all my imperfections on my head.
    • Act I, scene 5, line 76.
  • To die:—to sleep:
    No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
    The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wished.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 60.
  • For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
    When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
    Must give us pause.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 66.
  • Who would fardels bear,
    To grunt and sweat under a weary life;
    But that the dread of something after death,
    The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
    No traveller returns, puzzles the will
    And makes us rather bear those ills we have
    Than fly to others that we know not of?
    • Act III, scene 1, line 76. ("These fardels" in folio).
  • We should profane the service of the dead,
    To sing a requiem and such rest to her
    As to peace-parted souls.
    • Act V, scene 1, line 259.
  • O proud death,
    What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,
    That thou so many princes at a shot
    So bloodily hast, struck?
    • Act V, scene 2, line 375.

Julius Cæsar (1599)[edit]

  • When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
    The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
    • Act II, scene 2, line 30.
  • Cowards die many times before their deaths;
    The valiant never taste of death but once.
    Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
    It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
    Seeing that death, a necessary end,
    Will come when it will come.
    • Act II, scene 2, line 33.
  • That we shall die we know; 'tis but the time
    And drawing days out, that men stand upon.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 99.
  • He that cuts off twenty years of life
    Cuts off so many years of fearing death.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 101.
  • We must die, Messala:
    With meditating that she must die once,
    I have the patience to endure it now.
    • Act IV, scene 3, line 190.

Measure for Measure (1603)[edit]

  • Be absolute for death; either death or life
    Shall thereby be the sweeter.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 4.
  • What's yet in this,
    That bears the name of life? Yet in this life
    Lie hid more thousand deaths: yet death we fear,
    That makes these odds all even.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 38.
  • Dar'st thou die?
    The sense of death is most in apprehension;
    And the poor beetle that we tread upon,
    In corporal sufferance feels a pang as great
    As when a giant dies.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 77.
  • If I must die
    I will encounter darkness as a bride,
    And hug it in mine arms.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 83.
  • Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
    To lie in cold obstruction and to rot.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 118.
  • To be imprison'd in the viewless winds,
    And blown with restless violence roundabout
    The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
    Of those, that lawless and incertain thought
    Imagine howling; 'tis too horrible!
    • Act III, scene 1, line 124.
  • The weariest and most loathed worldly life
    That age, ache, penury and imprisonment
    Can lay on nature, is a paradise
    To what we fear of death.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 129.

Richard II (c. 1595)[edit]

  • Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay;
    The worst is death, and death will have his day.
    • Act III, scene 2, line 102.
  • Let's choose executors and talk of wills:
    And yet not so, for what can we bequeath,
    Save our desposed bodies to the ground?
    • Act III, scene 2, line 148.
  • Nothing can we call our own but death
    And that small model of the barren earth
    Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
    • Act III, scene 2, line 152.
  • Within the hollow crown
    That rounds the mortal temples of a king,
    Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits,
    Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp.
    • Act III, scene 2, line 161.
  • And there at Venice gave
    His body to that pleasant country's earth,
    And his pure soul unto his captain Christ,
    Under whose colours he had fought so long.
    • Act IV, scene 1, line 97.
  • Go thou, and fill another room in hell.
    That hand shall burn in never-quenching fire,
    That staggers thus my person. Exton, thy fierce hand
    Hath with thy king's blood stain'd the king's own land.
    Mount, mount, my soul! thy seat is up on high;
    Whilst my gross flesh sinks downward, here to die.
    • Act V, scene 5, line 107.

Romeo and Juliet (1597)[edit]

  • Death lies on her, like an untimely frost
    Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.
    • Act IV, scene 5, line 28.
  • How oft, when men are at the point of death,
    Have they been merry! which their keepers call
    A lightning before death.
    • Act V, scene 3, line 88.
  • Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath,
    Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty;
    Thou art not conquer'd; beauty's ensign yet
    Is crimson in thy lips, and in thy cheeks,
    And death's pale flag is not advanced there.
    • Act V, scene 3, line 92.
  • Eyes, look your last!
    Arms, take your last embrace! and lips, O you
    The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
    A dateless bargain to engrossing death.
    • Act V, scene 3, line 112.


  • Golden lads and girls all must,
    As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
    • Cymbeline (1611), Act IV, scene 2. Song, line 262.
  • Come, let us take a muster speedily:
    Doomsday is near; die all, die merrily.
  • And we shall feed like oxen at a stall,
    The better cherish'd, still the nearer death.
  • A man can die but once; we owe God a death.
  • What, is the old king dead?
    As nail in door.
  • A' made a finer end and went away an it had been any christom child; a' parted even just between twelve and one, e'en at the turning o' th' tide: for after I saw him fumble with the sheets, and play with flowers, and smile upon his fingers' ends, I knew there was but one way; for his nose was as sharp as a pen, and a' babbled of green fields. "How now, Sir John?" quoth I: "what, man! be o' good cheer." So a' cried out—"God, God, God!" three or four times. Now I, to comfort him, bid him a' should not think of God; I hoped there was no need to trouble himself with any such thoughts yet.
    • Henry V (c. 1599), Act II, scene 3, line 12.
  • Ah, what a sign it is of evil life,
    Where death's approach is seen so terrible!
  • He dies, and makes no sign.
  • My sick heart shows
    That I must yield my body to the earth,
    And, by my fall, the conquest to my foe.
    Thus yields the cedar to the axe's edge,
    Whose arms gave shelter to the princely eagle;
    Under whose shade the ramping lion slept:
    Whose top-branch overpeer'd Jove's spreading tree,
    And kept low shrubs from winter's powerful wind.
  • Why, what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust?
    And, live we how we can, yet die we must.
  • He gave his honours to the world again,
    His blessed part to heaven, and slept in peace.
  • Death, death; oh, amiable, lovely death!
    Come, grin on me, and I will think thou smilest.
  • We cannot hold mortality's strong hand.
  • Have I not hideous death within my view,
    Retaining but a quantity of life
    Which bleeds away, even as a form of wax
    Resolveth from its figure 'gainst the fire?
  • O, our lives' sweetness!
    That we the pain of death would hourly die
    Rather than die at once!
  • Nothing in his life
    Became him like the leaving it.
    • Macbeth (1605), Act I, scene 4, line 7.
  • After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well;
    Treason has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison,
    Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing,
    Can touch him further.
    • Macbeth (1605), Act III, scene 2, line 23.
  • I am a tainted wether of the flock,
    Meetest for death; the weakest kind of fruit
    Drops earliest to the ground, and so let me.
  • Here is my journey's end, here is my butt,
    And very sea-mark of my utmost sail.
    • Othello (c. 1603), Act V, scene 2, line 267.
  • Who pass'd, methought, the melancholy flood
    With that grim ferryman which poets write of,
    Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.
  • 'Tis a vile thing to die, my gracious lord,
    When men are unprepared and look not for it.
  • The wills above be done! but I would fain die a dry death.
  • He that dies pays all debts.
  • Come away, come away, death,
    And in sad cypress let me be laid;
    Fly away, fly away, breath:
    I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
    My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
    Oh, prepare it!
    My part of death no one so true
    Did share it.
  • The youth that you see here
    I snatch'd one half out of the jaws of death.
    • Twelfth Night (c. 1601-02), Act III, scene 4, line 394. Ex faucibus fati creptam videtis, as said by Cicero.
  • For he being dead, with him is beauty slain,
    And, beauty dead, black chaos comes again.
  • In me thou see'st the twilight of such day,
    As after sunset fadeth in the west;
    Which by and by black night doth take away,
    Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
    In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
    That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
    As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
    Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
    This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
    To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

See also[edit]