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Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare

by E. Nesbit




Action is eloquence, and the eyes of the ignorant
More learned than their ears.

Coriolanus - III. 2.


Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.

As You Like It - II. 1.

That, Sir, which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
Will pack, when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm.

King Lear - II. 4.

Ah! when the means are gone, that buy this praise,
The breath is gone whereof this praise is made:
Feast won - fast lost; one cloud of winter showers,
These flies are couched.

Timon of Athens - II. 2.


Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried
Grapple them to thy soul with hooks 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 it, that the opposer may beware of thee.
Give every man thine 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 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 ownself be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Hamlet - I. 3.


My May of life Is
fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf:
And that which should accompany old age,
As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but, in their stead,
Curses not loud, but deep, mouth-honor, breath,
Which the poor heart would feign deny, but dare not.

Macbeth - V. 3.


Dreams, indeed, are ambition; for the very substance of
the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream. And I
hold ambition of so airy and light a quality, that it is but
a shadow's shadow.

Hamlet - II 2.

I charge thee fling away ambition;
By that sin fell the angels, how can man then,
The image of his Maker, hope to win by 't?
Love thyself last; cherish those hearts that hate thee;
Corruption wins not more than honesty.
Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace,
To silence envious tongues. Be just, and fear not!
Let all the ends, thou aim'st at, be thy country's,
Thy God's, and truth's.

King Henry VIII. - III. 2.


Anger is like
A full-hot horse, who being allowed his way,
Self-mettle tires him.

King Henry VIII. - I. 1.


There are a sort of men, whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond,
And do a willful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dressed in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit,
As who should say, " I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my lips, let no dog bark!"
O! my Antonio, I do know of these
That therefore are reputed wise
For saying nothing, when, I am sure,
If they should speak, would almost dam those ears,
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools.

The Merchant of Venice - I. 1.


Thou hast seen a farmer's dog bark at a beggar?
And the creature run from the cur?
There thou might'st behold the great image of authority
a dog's obeyed in office.

King Lear - IV. 6.

Could great men thunder
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er be quiet,
For every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder: nothing but thunder -
Merciful heaven!
Thou rather, with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt,
Splitt'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak,
Than the soft myrtle! - O, but man, proud man!
Drest in a little brief authority -
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, - like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,
As make the angels weep.

Measure for Measure - II. 2.


The hand, that hath made you fair, hath made you good: the goodness, that is cheap in beauty, makes beauty brief in goodness; but grace, being the soul of your complexion, should keep the body of it ever fair.

Measure for Measure - III. 1.


It so falls out
That what we have we prize not to the worth,
Whiles we enjoy it; but being lacked and lost,
Why, then we rack the value; then we find
The virtue, that possession would not show us
Whiles it was ours.

Much Ado About Nothing - IV. 1.


It will come to pass, That every braggart shall be found an ass.

All's Well that Ends Well - IV. 3.

They that have the voice of lions, and the act of bares, are they not monsters?

Troilus and Cressida - III. 2.


Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
thou shalt not escape calumny.

Hamlet - III. 1.

No might nor greatness in mortality
Can censure 'scape; back-wounding calumny
The whitest virtue strikes. What king so strong,
Can tie the gall up in the slanderous tongue?

Measure for Measure - III. 2.


Was but devised at first, to set a gloss
On faint deeds, hollow welcomes.
Recanting goodness, sorry ere 'tis shown;
But where there is true friendship, there needs none.

Timon of Athens - I. 2.


Can counsel, and speak comfort to that grief
Which they themselves not feel; but tasting it,
Their counsel turns to passion, which before
Would give preceptial medicine to rage,
Fetter strong madness in a silken thread,
Charm ache with air, and agony with words:
No, no; 'tis all men's office to speak patience
To those that wring under the load of sorrow;
But no man's virtue, nor sufficiency,
To be so moral, when he shall endure
The like himself.

Much Ado About Nothing - V. 1.

Well, every one can master a grief, but he that has it.

Idem - II.


When the moon shone, we did not see the candle.
So doth the greater glory dim the less;
A substitute shines brightly as a king,
Until a king be by; and then his state
Empties itself, as does an inland brook
Into the main of waters.

Merchant of Venice - V. 1.


Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought;
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard, their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

Hamlet - III. 1.


My crown is in my heart, not on my head;
Not decked with diamonds and Indian stones,
Nor to be seen; my crown is called "content";
A crown it is, that seldom kings enjoy.

King Henry VI., Part 3d - III. 1.


How, in one house,
Should many people, under two commands,
Hold amity?

King Lear - II. 4.

When two authorities are set up,
Neither supreme, how soon confusion
May enter twixt the gap of both, and take
The one by the other.

Coriolanus - III. 1.


'Tis better to be lowly born,
And range with humble livers in content,
Than to be perked up in a glistering grief,
And wear a golden sorrow.

King Henry VIII. - II. 3.


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

Julius Caesar - II. 2.


That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat
Of habit's devil, is angel yet in this:
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock, or livery,
That aptly is put on: Refrain to-night:
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence: the next more easy:
For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
And either curb the devil, or throw him out
With wondrous potency.

Hamlet - III. 4.

A custom
More honored in the breach, then the observance.

Idem - I. 4.


Kings, and mightiest potentates, must die;
For that's the end of human misery.

King Henry VI., Part 1st - III. 2.

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.

Julius Caesar - II. 2.

The dread of something after death,
Makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others we know not of.

Hamlet - III. 1.

The sense of death is most in apprehension.

Measure for Measure - III. 1.

By medicine life may be prolonged, yet death
Will seize the doctor too.

Cymbeline - V. 5.


The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul, producing holy witness,
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek;
A goodly apple rotten at the heart;
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

Merchant of Venice - I. 3.


Foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them to men's eyes.

Hamlet - I. 2.

How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds,
Makes deeds ill done!

King John - IV. 2.


That we would do,
We should do when we would; for this would changes,
And hath abatements and delays as many,
As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;
And then this should is like a spendthrift sigh,
That hurts by easing.

Hamlet - IV. 7.


For love of grace,
Lay not that flattering unction to your soul;
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place;
Whiles rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen.

Hamlet - III. 4.


Let's teach ourselves that honorable stop,
Not to outsport discretion.

Othello - II. 3.


I am cabin'd, cribb'd, confined, bound in
To saucy doubts and fears.

Macbeth - III. 4.


Boundless intemperance.
In nature is a tyranny; it hath been
Th' untimely emptying of the happy throne,
And fall of many kings.

Measure for Measure - I. 3.


Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none; be able for thine enemy
Rather in power, than use; and keep thy friend
Under thy own life's key; be checked for silence,
But never taxed for speech.

All's Well that Ends Well - I. 1.


But yet
I do not like but yet, it does allay
The good precedence; fye upon but yet:
But yet is as a gailer to bring forth
Some monstrous malefactor.

Antony and Cleopatra - II. 5.


A surfeit of the sweetest things
The deepest loathing to the stomach brings.

Midsummer Night's Dream - II. 3.

Every inordinate cup is unblessed,
and the ingredient is a devil.

Othello - II. 3.


Falsehood, cowardice, and poor descent,
Three things that women hold in hate.

Two Gentlemen of Verona - III. 2.


Fear frames disorder, and disorder wounds
Where it should guard.

King Henry VI., Part 2d - V. 2.

Fear, and be slain; no worse can come, to fight:
And fight and die, is death destroying death;
Where fearing dying, pays death servile breath.

King Richard II. - III. 2.


Small cheer, and great welcome, makes a merry feast.

Comedy of Errors - III. 1.


Ingratitude! Thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous, when thou showest thee in a child,
Than the sea-monster.

King Lear - I. 4.

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child

Idem - I. 4.


Determine on some course,
More than a wild exposure to each cause
That starts i' the way before thee.

Coriolanus - IV. 1.


Yield not thy neck
To fortune's yoke, but let thy dauntless mind
Still ride in triumph over all mischance.

King Henry VI., Part 3d - III. 3.


When fortune means to men most good,
She looks upon them with a threatening eye.

King John - III. 4.


Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness!
This is the state of man: To-day he puts forth
The tender leaves of hope, to-morrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honors thick upon him;
The third day, comes a frost, a killing frost;
And, - when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is ripening, - nips his root,
And then he falls, as I do.

King Henry VIII. - III. 2.

Some are born great, some achieve greatness,
and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Twelfth Night - II. 5.


O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness
through another man's eyes.

As You Like It - V. 2.


An honest man is able to speak for himself,
when a knave is not.

King Henry VI., Part 2d - V. 1.

To be honest, as this world goes, is to be
one man picked out of ten thousand.

Hamlet - II. 2.


Devils soonest tempt,
resembling spirits of light.

Love's Labor Lost - IV. 3.

One may smile, and smile,
and be a villain.

Hamlet - I. 5.


The trust I have is in mine innocence,
And therefore am I bold and resolute.

Troilus and Cressida - IV. 4.


The shrug, the hum, or ha; these petty brands,
That calumny doth use; -
For calumny will sear
Virtue itself: - these shrugs, these bums, and ha's,
When you have said, she's goodly, come between,
Ere you can say she's honest.

Winter's Tale - II. 1.


Trifles, light as air,
Are, to the jealous, confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ.

Othello - III. 3.

O beware of jealousy:
It is the green-eyed monster, which does mock
The meat it feeds on.



A jest's prosperity lies in the ear
of him that hears it.

Love's Labor Lost - V. 2.

He jests at scars,
that never felt a wound.

Romeo and Juliet - II. 2.


Heaven is above all; there sits a Judge,
That no king can corrupt.

King Henry VIII, - III. 1.


Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth - V. 5.

We are such stuff
As dreams are made of, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest - IV. 1.


A murd'rous, guilt shows not itself more soon,
Than love that would seem bid: love's night is noon.

Twelfth Night - III. 2.

Sweet love, changing his property,
Turns to the sourest and most deadly hate.

King Richard II. - III. 2.

When love begins to sicken and decay,
It useth an enforced ceremony.

Julius Caesar - II. 2.

The course of true-love
never did run smooth.

Midsummer Night's Dream - I. 1.

Love looks not with the eyes,
but with the mind.


She never told her love, -
But let concealment, like a worm i' th' bud,
Feed on her damask check: she pined in thought
And, with a green and yellow melancholy,
She sat like Patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?

Twelfth Night - II. 4.

But love is blind, and lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit.

The Merchant of Venice - II. 6.


What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason!
How infinite in faculties! in form, and moving,
how express and admirable! in action, how like
an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the
beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!

Hamlet - II. 2.


The quality of mercy is not strained:
it droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven,
Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd;
It blesses him that gives, and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's,
When mercy seasons justice.
Consider this, -
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

Merchant of Venice - IV. 1.


Who shall go about
To cozen fortune, and be honorable
Without the stamp of merit! Let none presume
To wear an undeserved dignity.

Merchant of Venice - II. 9.


It is the witness still of excellency,
To put a strange face on his own perfection.

Much Ado About Nothing - II. 3.


Brave conquerors! for so you are,
That war against your own affections,
And the huge army of the world's desires.

Love's Labor's Lost - I. 1.


The great King of kings
Hath in the table of his law commanded,
That thou shalt do no murder.
Take heed; for he holds vengeance in his band,
To hurl upon their heads thatbreak his law.

King Richard III. - I. 4.

Blood, like sacrificing Abel's, cries,
Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth.

King Richard II. - I. 1.


The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted.

Merchant of Venice - V. 1.


What's in a name? that, which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Romeo and Juliet - II. 2.

Good name, in man, and woman,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing.
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
But he, that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that, which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

Othello - III. 3.


One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.

Troilus and Cressida - III. 3.


Though it be honest, it is never good
To bring bad news. Give to a gracious message
An host of tongues; but let ill tidings tell
Themselves, when they be felt.

Antony and Cleopatra - II. 5.


'Tis the curse of service;
Preferment goes by letter, and affection,
Not by the old gradation, where each second
Stood heir to the first.

Othello - I. 1.


Who seeks, and will not take when offered,
Shall never find it more.

Antony and Cleopatra - II. 7.

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows, and in miseries:
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Julius Caesar - IV. 3.


Press not a falling man too far; 'tis virtue:
His faults lie open to the laws; let them,
Not you, correct them.

King Henry VIII. - III. 2.


O thoughts of men accurst!
Past, and to come, seem best; things present, worst.

King Henry IV., Part 2d - I. 3.


How poor are they, that have not patience! -
What wound did ever heal, but by degrees?

Othello - II. 3.


A peace is of the nature of a conquest;
For then both parties nobly are subdued,
And neither party loser.

King Henry IV., Part 2d - IV. 2.

I will use the olive with my sword:
Make war breed peace; make peace stint war; make each
Prescribe to other, as each other's leech.

Timon of Athens - V. 5.

I know myself now; and I feel within me
A peace above all earthly dignities,
A still and quiet conscience.

King Henry VIII. - III. 2.


Who by repentance is not satisfied,
Is nor of heaven, nor earth; for these are pleased;
By penitence the Eternal's wrath appeased.

Two Gentlemen of Verona - V. 4.


All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.

As You Like It - II. 7.

There be players, that I have seen play, -
and heard others praise, and that highly, -
not to speak it profanely, that,
neither having the accent of Christians,
nor the gait of Christian, Pagan, nor man,
have so strutted, and bellowed,
that I have thought some of nature's journeymen
had made men and not made them well,
they imitated humanity so abominably.

Hamlet - III. 2.


Why, what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust?
And, live we how we can, yet die we must.

King Henry V. Part 3d - V. 2.


If to do were as easy as to know what were good
to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men's
cottages princes' palaces. It is a good divine that
follows his own instructions: I can easier teach
twenty what were good to be done, than be one of
twenty to follow mine own teaching. The brain may
devise laws for the blood; but a hot temper leaps
o'er a cold decree: such a bare is madness, the
youth, to skip o'er the meshes of good counsel,
the cripple.

The Merchant of Venice - I. 2.


Princes have but their titles for their glories,
An outward honor for an inward toil;
And, for unfelt imaginations,
They often feel a world of restless cares:
So that, between their titles, and low name,
There's nothing differs but the outward fame.

King Richard III. - I. 4.


In a false quarrel these is no true valor.

Much Ado About Nothing - V. 1.

Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just;
And he but naked, though locked up in steel,
Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.

King Henry VI., Part 2d - III. 2.


Men in rage strike those that wish them best.

Othello - II. 3.


Men shall deal unadvisedly sometimes,
Which after-hours give leisure to repent.

King Richard III. - IV. 4.


The purest treasure mortal times afford,
Is - spotless reputation; that away,
Men are but gilded loam, or painted clay.
A jewel in a ten-times-barred-up chest
I - a bold spirit in a loyal breast.

King Richard II. - I. 1.


The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to scourge us.

King Lear - V. S.

If these men have defeated the law,
and outrun native punishment,
though they can outstrip men,
they have no wings to fly from God.

King Henry V. - IV. 1.


A sear nobly got, or a noble scar,
is a good livery of honor.

All's Well that Ends Well - IV. 6.

To such as boasting show their scars,
A mock is due.

Troilus and Cressida - IV. 5.


Better conquest never can'st thou make,
Than arm thy constant and thy nobler parts
Against those giddy loose suggestions.

King John - III. 1.


Men at some time are masters of their fates;
The fault is not in our stars,
But in ourselves.

Julius Caesar - I. 2.


Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven: the fated sky
Gives us free scope; only, doth backward pull
Our slow designs, when we ourselves are dull.

All's Well that Ends Well - I. 1.


Out of this silence, yet I picked a welcome;
And in the modesty of fearful duty
I read as much, as from the rattling tongue
Of saucy and audacious eloquence.

Midsummer Night's Dream - V. 1.

The silence often of pure innocence
Persuades, when speaking fails.

Winter's Tale - II. 2.

Silence is the perfectest herald of joy:
I were but little happy, if I could say how much.

Much Ado About Nothing - II. 1.


Whose edge is sharper than the sword; whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile; whose breath
Rides on the posting winds, and doth belie
All corners of the world; kings, queens, and states,
Maids, matrons, nay, the secrets of the grave,
This viperous slander enters.

Cymbeline - III. 4.


The innocent sleep;
Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.

Macbeth - II. 2.


Against self-slaughter
There is a prohibition so divine,
That cravens my weak hand.

Cymbeline - III. 4.


Though I look old, yet am I strong and lusty:
For in my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood;
Nor did not with unbashful forehead woo
The means of weakness and debility:
Therefore my age is as a lusty winter,
Frosty, but kindly.

As You Like It - II. 3.


There was never yet philosopher,
That could endure the tooth-ache patiently;
However, they have writ the style of the gods,
And made a pish at chance and sufferance.

Much Ado About Nothing - V. 1.


Though those, that are betrayed,
Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor
Stands in worse case of woe.

Cymbeline - III. 4.


The better part of valor is - discretion.

King Henry IV., Part 1st - V. 4.

When Valor preys on reason,
It eats the sword it fights with.

Antony and Cleopatra - III. 2.

What valor were it, when a cur doth grin
For one to thrust his band between his teeth,
When he might spurn him with his foot away?

King Henry VI., Part 1st - I. 4.


Take care
How you awake the sleeping sword of war:
We charge you in the name of God, take heed.

King Henry IV., Part 1st - I. 2.


Welcome ever smiles,
And farewell goes out sighing.

Troilus and Cressida - III. 3.


Good wine is a good familiar creature,
if it be well used.

Othello - II. 3.

O thou invisible spirit of wine,
if thou hast no name to be known by,
let us call thee - devil!. . . O, that
men should put an enemy in their mouths,
to steal away their brains!
that we should with joy, revel,
pleasure, and applause,
transform ourselves into beasts!

Othello - II. 3.


A woman impudent and mannish grown
Is not more loathed than an effeminate man.

Troilus and Cressida - III. 3.


Words without thoughts
never to heaven go.

Hamlet - III. 3.

Few words shall fit the trespass best,
Where no excuse can give the fault amending.

Troilus and Cressida - III. 2.


You have too much respect upon the world:
They lose it, that do buy it with much care.

Merchant of Venice - I. 1.


Not a man, for being simply man,
Hath any honor; but honor for those honors
That are without him, as place, riches, favor,
Prizes of accident as oftas merit;
Which when they fall, as being slippery standers,
The love that leaned on them, as slippery too,
Do one pluck down another, and together
Die in the fall. But 'tis not so with me.

Troilus and Cressida - III. 3.

The End

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