The Free Dictionary Blog > 14 Shakespeare quotes NOT written by Shakespeare
14 Shakespeare quotes NOT written by Shakespeare
There are probably a few on your Facebook feed right now: flowery Shakespeare quotes about love or life, attributed, for authority, to the world's most famous writer, the "Bard," William Shakespeare. But despite the myriad Shakespeare plays and poems, he didn't write everything, and many popular lines often attributed to him were in fact composed by other playwrights and poets. Read on so you can impress your English major friends or at least avoid a literary blunder. And give credit where it is due.
1. Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam AHH, 1850
Most people today quote the above line in response to lost romantic love, but it actually comes from Tennyson's poem In Memoriam AHH, in which he grieves his close friend, fellow poet Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly at age 22.
2. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
The actual line: "Heav'n has no rage, like love to hatred turn’d, / Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn'd."
The plays of Congreve are considered the greatest achievement of Restoration comedy. After publishing a novel of intrigue, Incognita (1692), and translations of Juvenal and Persius (1693), he turned to writing for the stage. His first comedy, The Old Bachelor (1693), produced when he was only 23, was extremely successful.
3. The pen is mightier than the sword.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Richelieu, 1839
Bulwer-Lytton is best remembered for his extremely well-researched historical novels, particularly The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) and Rienzi (1835). The son of Gen. William Bulwer and Elizabeth Lytton, he assumed the name Bulwer-Lytton in 1843 when he inherited the Lytton estate "Knebworth."
4. Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, 1808
Scott is considered the father of both the regional and the historical novel. His first major poems, including Marmion, were published after he was admitted to the bar and appointed sheriff-deputy of Selkirkshire, Scotland.
5. No man is an island.
John Donne, The Bait, 1624
Early in his career as a poet, Donne also served as secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, but his court career was ruined by the discovery of his marriage in 1601 to Anne More, niece to Sir Thomas Egerton's second wife, and he was imprisoned for a short time.
6. Come live with me and be my love.
Christopher Marlowe, Passionate Shepherd to his Love, 1599
Marlowe, considered the greatest English dramatist before Shakespeare, was stabbed in a barroom brawl by a drinking companion in 1593. Although a coroner's jury certified that the assailant acted in self-defense, the murder may have resulted from a definite plot, due, as some scholars believe, to Marlowe's activities as a government agent.
7. Remember, that time is money.
Benjamin Franklin, Advice to a Young Tradesman, 1748
Many of Franklin's sayings have become standard American proverbs. Despite being formally educated only until age 10, Franklin sold books, created a circulating library, helped to establish an academy that eventually became the University of Pennsylvania, invented such diverse things as the Franklin stove, bifocal eyeglasses, and a glass harmonica, and investigated electricity.
8. I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley Invictus, 1875
Although crippled by tuberculosis of the bone, Henley led an active, vigorous life. As editor of several reviews successively, he introduced to the public a galaxy of young writers, including Kipling, Wells, and Yeats.
9. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
The full version: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height. My soul can reach.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnets from the Portuguese, 1850
After spending much of her early life in a state of semi-invalidism, Barrett Browning released her volume Poems and won immediate fame—as well as the attention of the poet Robert Browning. The two fell in love, and although their courtship was secret because of the opposition of Elizabeth's tyrannical father, they wed in 1846. Happy in her marriage, Barrett Browning recovered her health, and her greatest poetry, Sonnets from the Portuguese, was inspired by her own love story
10. So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear, Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost; Evil be thou my Good.
John Milton went blind years before Paradise Lost was published in 1667. Celebrated metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell served as one of Milton’s secretaries after the blindness set in.
11. War is the trade of kings.
John Dryden King Arthur, II.ii, 1691
Dryden found fame as a poet during the English Restoration period. He then fell prey to the changing political tides when the Protestant William III took the throne after Dryden announced his conversion to Roman Catholicism. As a result, Dryden lost his laureateship and court patronage.
12. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
Dickens wrote rapidly, sometimes working on more than one novel at a time, and usually finished an installment just when it was due. Haste did not prevent his loosely strung and intricately plotted books from being the most popular novels of his day, drawing fans from every English social strata—from barely literate factory workers to Queen Victoria.
13. These lovely lamps, these windows of the soul.
Guillaume Du Bartas, Divine Weekes and Workes, Sixth Day 1578
A Huguenot soldier under Henry IV, Du Bartas is known chiefly for his epic poems. In lofty verse they retell the main events of the Bible from a Protestant viewpoint.
14. Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.
Full version: “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”
The Mourning Bride, Congreve’s only tragedy, was produced in 1697. After 1700, Congreve did little literary work, possibly due to his failing health, as he suffered from gout.
What is your favorite non-Shakespearean Shakespeare quote?
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