William Shakespeare quotes about war

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


Henry IV, Part I (c. 1597)[edit]

  • It was great pity, so it was,
    That villanous saltpetre should be digg'd
    Out of the bowels of the harmless earth,
    Which many a good tall fellow had destroy'd
    So cowardly; and but for these vile guns
    He would himself have been a soldier.
    • Act I, scene 3, line 59.
  • We must have bloody noses and crack'd crowns,
    And pass them current too. God's me, my horse!
    • Act II, scene 3, line 96.
  • The fire-eyed maid of smoky war
    All hot and bleeding will we offer them.
    • Act IV, scene 1, line 114.
  • Tut, tut; good enough to toss; food for powder, food for powder; they'll fill a pit as well as better.
    • Act IV, scene 2, line 71.
  • The arms are fair,
    When the intent of bearing them is just.
    • Act V, scene 2, line 88.

Henry IV, Part II (c. 1597-99)[edit]

  • Our battle is more full of names than yours,
    Our men more perfect in the use of arms,
    Our armour all as strong, our cause the best;
    Then reason will our hearts should be as good.
    • Act IV, scene 1, line 154.
  • That I may truly say with the hook-nosed fellow of Rome, I came, I saw, and overcame.
    • Act IV, scene 3, line 45.
  • O war! thou son of hell,
    Whom angry heavens do make their minister,
    Throw in the frozen bosoms of our part
    Hot coals of vengeance! Let no soldier fly.
    He that is truly dedicate to war
    Hath no self-love, nor he that loves himself,
    Hath not essentially but by circumstance
    The name of valour.
    • Act V, scene 2, line 33.

Henry V (c. 1599)[edit]

  • Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
    Or close the wall up with our English dead.
    • Act III, scene 1, line 1.
  • From camp to camp through the foul womb of night
    The hum of either army stilly sounds.
    • Act IV. Chorus, line 4.
  • The armourers, accomplishing the knights,
    With busy hammers closing rivets up,
    Give dreadful note of preparation.
    • Act IV. Chorus, line 12. "With clink of hammers closing rivets up." Colley Cibber's altered version of Richard III, Act V, scene 3.
  • There are few die well that die in a battle.
    • Act IV, scene 1, line 148.
  • He which hath no stomach to this fight,
    Let him depart; his passport shall be made.
    • Act IV, scene 3, line 35.

Henry VI, Part III (c. 1591)[edit]

  • It is war's prize to take all vantage.
  • Sound trumpets! let our bloody colours wave!
    And either victory, or else a grave.
    • Act II, scene 2, line 173.
  • They shall have wars and pay for their presumption.
    • Act IV, scene 1, line 114.

King John (1598)[edit]

  • The cannons have their bowels full of wrath,
    And ready mounted are they to spit forth
    Their iron indignation 'gainst your walls.
    • Act II, scene 1, line 210.
  • Now for the bare-pick'd bone of majesty
    Doth dogged war bristle his angry crest
    And snarleth in the gentle eyes of peace.
    • Act IV, scene 3, line 148.
  • Your breath first kindled the dead coal of wars
    And brought in matter that should feed this fire;
    And now 'tis far too huge to be blown out
    With that same weak wind which enkindled it.
    • Act V, scene 2, line 83.
  • I drew this gallant head of war,
    And cull'd these fiery spirits from the world,
    To outlook conquest and to win renown
    Even in the jaws of danger and of death.
    • Act V, scene 2, line 113.

Macbeth (1605)[edit]

  • When the hurly-burly's done,
    When the battle's lost and won.
    • Act I, scene 1, line 3.
  • Hang out our banners on the outward walls.
    • Act V, scene 5, line 1.
  • Blow, wind! come, wrack!
    At least we'll die with harness on our back.
    • Act V, scene 5, line 51.
  • Lay on, Macduff,
    And damn'd be him that first cries, "Hold, enough!"
    • Act V, scene 8, line 33.

Richard II (c. 1595)[edit]

  • The bay-trees in our country all are wither'd
    And meteors fright the fixed stars of heaven;
    The pale-fac'd moon looks bloody on the earth
    And lean-look'd prophets whisper fearful change;
    Rich men look sad and ruffians dance and leap,
    The one in fear to lose what they enjoy,
    The other to enjoy by rage and war.
    • Act II, scene 4, line 8.
  • Let's march without the noise of threat'ning drum.
    • Act III, scene 3, line 51.
  • He is come to open
    The purple testament of bleeding war.
    • Act III, scene 3, line 93.

Richard III (c. 1591)[edit]

  • Grim-visag'd war hath smoothed his wrinkled front.
    • Act I, scene 1, line 9.
  • Thus far into the bowels of the land
    Have we march'd without impediment.
    • Act V, scene 2, line 3.
  • Conscience avaunt, Richard's himself again:
    Hark! the shrill trumpet sounds, to horse, away,
    My soul's in arms, and eager for the fray.
    • Act V, scene 3. Altered by Colley Cibber.
  • Put in their hands thy bruising irons of wrath,
    That they may crush down with heavy fall
    The usurping helmets of our adversaries.
    • Act V, scene 3, line 110.
  • Fight, gentlemen of England! fight, bold yeomen!
    Draw, archers, draw your arrows to the head!
    Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in blood;
    Amaze the welkin with your broken staves!
    • Act V, scene 3, line 338.


  • And all the gods go with you! upon your sword
    Sit laurel victory! and smooth success
    Be strew'd before your feet!
  • All was lost,
    But that the heavens fought.
  • Give me the cups;
    And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,
    The trumpet to the cannoneer without,
    The cannons to heavens, the heavens to earth.
    • Hamlet (1600-02), Act V, scene 2, line 285.
  • Cæsar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
    With Até by his side come hot from hell,
    Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
    Cry "Havoc," and let slip the dogs of war.
  • Follow thy drum;
    With man's blood paint the ground, gules, gules;
    Religious canons, civil laws are cruel;
    Then what should war be?
    • Timon of Athens (date uncertain, published 1623), Act IV, scene 3, line 58.

See also[edit]