Shakespeare sure knew how to coin phrases that glint with unforgettable imagery and ring with intriguing, thought-provoking truths, hence all those appearances they make on modern-day Insta memes. 

So, here’s our run-down of 8 inspirational Shakespearean quotes — highlighted this month for what would have been the 460th Birthday of Shakespeare and the annual Shakespeare Week. Though this annual celebration was created to encourage kids to discover the delights of the Bard, grown-ups definitely shouldn’t miss out on the chance to enjoy his work in new ways, not least because the following quotes can be practically applied to our modern-day lives. For more Shakespearean inspiration, you might want to explore our Collection of brilliant books based on the work of the Bard. 

Plus you can scroll down to see some of our favourite books featuring the man himself, that deserve to be on every bookshelf - and buy the to furnish your own.

1. “It is a tale; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”

Source: Macbeth

What can we learn from it? This might be re-phrased as “be weary of empty vessels who make most noise”. Think boasters, braggers and blaggers. Think folks who make empty promises, fail to follow-up on their words, and like to waffle on witlessly. Talking of which…

 2. "Brevity is the soul of wit”

Source: Hamlet

What can we learn from it? Kind-of related to the above, this is a succinct reminder to keep things to the point. So, we’ll leave it at that, though it’s worth saying that Shakespeare smartly put these words into the mouth of one of his most verbose characters, Polonius, during an especially long-winded speech.

 3. "And oftentimes excusing of a fault doth make the fault the worse by the excuse”

Source: King John

What can we learn from it? If you mess up, own up. Making excuses doesn’t fix the fault. Taking responsibility and putting things right does.

4. “Go wisely and go slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall” 

Source: Romeo and Juliet

What can we learn from it? A wise reminder to look before we leap, to take the time to consider our actions, and what the consequences of those actions might be.

5. “Strong reasons make strong actions”

Source: King John

What can we learn from it? A great one to go hand in hand with going “wisely and slowly”. If you want your actions to have impact, base them on the solid ground of reasoned thought.

6. "Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing”

Source: Troilus and Cressida

What can we learn from it? While having end-goals is all well and good, it’s important to be aware of the journey en route to them. That’s where the real joy is — in the actual doing. While the sense of achievement, of having reached that goal, can be pretty elating, don’t miss out on appreciating the path while you’re still travelling it.  

7. "We know what we are but know not what we may be" 

Source: Hamlet

What can we learn from it? This is a great quote to draw on when struggling with self-doubt, or wracked by introspective worries of the kind that crop up around New Year. It tells us that no situation is fixed, that change is possible.

8. “How far that little candle throws his beams. So shines a good deed in a naughty world”

Source: The Merchant of Venice

What can we learn from it? The smallest of things can have huge impact, especially in darker times, so don’t forget to do little good deeds that’ll make a big difference. Fun fact — this quote was adapted in the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie as “So shines a good deed in a weary world”.

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in April 1564. The exact date of his birth is not recorded, but it is most often celebrated around the world on 23rd April. So this year, in celebration of what would be his 460th Birthday, we share here some of our favourite reminders of the wonderful world of the Bard.