Lessons From Shakespeare

Since I am a writer in my retirement, I am starting to study Shakespeare, which I never did in my youth. I am finding many lessons in the lines of his writings. They are woven in the fabric of his plays. His words contain a great amount of good advice and wisdom.

Here are some that have stayed in my mind:

“We know what we are but know not what we may be.”

This means to me, that we are certain of who we are in the present but not in the future. We don’t realize what we are capable of.


“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.”

This probably means our life is full of positive and negative experiences and they are interconnected. Life is full of ups and downs.

It also could mean the unraveling of the threads of our life as we grow old.


“What is past is prologue.”

A prologue is an intro or preface. So the quote means your past has set the scene for the present.


“I wasted time and now doth time waste me.”

We all waste time. When we are young, time appears to be unlimited. But as the years go by, the finite nature of our life reveals itself. So the message is: Live each day to the fullest.


“Give every man thy ear but few thy voice.”

This means to practice listening more and less speaking. The world is full of talkers but listening is a virtue.


“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”

We all have self-doubts but when you wallow in them, you prevent yourself from achieving your goals.


“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

There is wisdom in knowing that you don’t know everything. The wise man realizes there is a vast amount to understand and he is aware that he knows little.


Yes, Shakespeare is full of lessons.

“Words, words, give me the words and I will write wonderful stories.”

I made that one up myself!


What are some of the quotes that are meaningful to you?

Also published on Medium.

4 thoughts on “Lessons From Shakespeare

  1. Aye Dave, That old Shakespeare new how to write and mix his metaphors.
    If Shakespeare was from Liverpool, like me, this might be what he’d write:

    “That one is all net curtains and bugger all in the larder.”
    Meaning: a snobby person who puts on airs and graces.
    Or : All fur coat and no knickers
    Meaning: All for show.

  2. “To be or not to be” has always been my favorite. The first I ever memorized for Miss Moodys class. She loved me because I always memorized long pieces until I wrote this:
    I ask no favors of any kind.
    I want nothing like that on my mind.
    I ask that just my life be spared,
    you see, dear teacher, I’m not prepared.

    Miss Moody loved it but gave me a zero because it wasn’t 12 lines.

  3. ” I’ll put a girdle round the Earth ” ….as a 12 yo I played Puck in a QMS,Lytham production .My late mother made a wonderful costume….

    ” Et tu,Brute” ….English Lit O-level

    ” Farewell,sweet prince ” …chosen for JRWO’s wreath in 1999…John & I had 30+ yrs tog….

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