How About Death Quotes?

It’s easy to find what Shakespeare said on various subjects related to love and romance.  But how about going in a different direction – what are some of your favorite death quotes? I’m not talking about the “And now I will kill you” sort of stuff, I’m talking about stuff said in mourning, in praise and tribute to the deceased, and so on.  The kind of thing that you might say to a grieving loved one, use in a eulogy, write in a sympathy card, and so on. Disclaimer : This post is motivated entirely by curiosity, I have no personal crisis for which I need eulogy material. One of my favorites, from King John: Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form;
Then, have I reason to be fond of grief?
I know that the original context is far too heated and angry to be appropriate, but taken by itself  I see this passage as something very comforting.  Switch out that final question mark for a period and it says something completely different. For something shorter and sweeter, and bordering on cliche, there’s always “Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest,” from Hamlet. What else?

9 thoughts on “How About Death Quotes?

  1. I really like that one too, Duane

    I think even with the "?" it says what I think you're implying it would say with a period. It's a rhetorical question, I believe. to France. ie., Since Grief occupies the place of my child so completely, will you now consider your complaint that I'm too fond of grief? For at the times I've just spoken of, you would then be saying I'm too fond of my child, wouldn't you?

    This one also gives me goosebumps:

    RICH. No matter where; of comfort no man speak:
    Let's talk of Graves, of Worms, and Epitaphs;
    Make Dust our Paper, and with Rainy eyes
    Write Sorrow on the Bosom of the Earth.
    Let's choose Executors, and talk of wills:
    And yet not so, for what can we bequeath,
    Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
    Our Lands, our Lives and all are Bolingbroke's,
    And nothing can we call our own, but Death,
    And that small Model of the barren Earth,
    Which serves as Paste and Cover to our Bones;
    For Heavens sake let us sit upon the ground,
    And tell sad stories of the death of Kings;
    How some have been deposed, some slain in war,
    Some haunted by the Ghosts they have deposed;
    Some poison'd by their Wives, some sleeping kill'd,
    All murder'd. For within the hollow Crown
    That rounds the mortal Temples of a King,
    Keeps Death his Court, and there the Antique sits
    Scoffing his State, and grinning at his Pomp,
    Allowing him a breath, a little Scene,
    To Monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks,
    Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
    As if this Flesh, which walls about our Life,
    Were Brass impregnable: and humour'd thus,
    Comes at the last, and with a little Pin
    Bores through his Castle Walls, and farewell King.
    Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood
    With solemn Reverence: throw away Respect,
    Tradition, Form and Ceremonious duty,
    For you have but mistook me all this while:
    I live with Bread like you, feel Want,
    Taste Grief, need Friends: subjected thus,
    How can you say to me, I am a King?
    RII 3.2.1504-37

  2. The passages below, are often combined into one speech — perhaps with the lines referring to exorcism and witchcraft cut —

    Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
    Nor the furious winter's rages;
    Thou thy worldly task hast done,
    Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
    Golden lads and girls all must,
    As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

    Fear no more the frown o' the great;
    Thou art past the tyrant's stroke;
    Care no more to clothe and eat;
    To thee the reed is as the oak:
    The sceptre, learning, physic, must
    All follow this, and come to dust.

    Fear no more the lightning flash,

    Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;

    Fear not slander, censure rash;

    Thou hast finish'd joy and moan:

    All lovers young, all lovers must
    Consign to thee, and come to dust.

    No exorciser harm thee!

    Nor no witchcraft charm thee!

    Ghost unlaid forbear thee!

    Nothing ill come near thee!

    Quiet consummation have;
    And renowned be thy grave!

    PS: SPOILER ALERT The lines are spoken by two brothers over the joint grave of their sister (whom they don't know is their sister) and the headless body of a man one of them has killed, who, when the sister awakens from her potion-induced sleep, she presumes is her husband because of the clothes he's wearing) Can you see why this play is so compelling? END SPOILER

  3. Night hangs upon mine eyes, my bones would rest
    That have but laboured to attain this hour.

    Julius Caesar, somewhere in Act 5… forgive me if I've misquoted, I'm quoting from memory.

    Ed @ I love Cymbeline! It's a shame nobody else seems to, though. 🙁

  4. Cross, don't know if you're in the Boston area, but it's being performed in February by Actors Shakespeare project.

    It's a hidden gem, admittedly less accessible than some plays, but by no means should it be so underperformed (if that's a word.)

  5. There's a slightly different version of this one in Q2, and it has since been 'emended' to something else, different from both in modern versions, but this is one of my favorites.

    If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it bee not to come, it will bee now; if it be not now, yet it will come; the readinesse is all, since no man ha's ought of what he leaves. What is't to leave betimes?
    Ham. F1

  6. An old classic, of course, is Lear's lament over Cordelia's body:

    "Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
    Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
    That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone for ever!
    I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
    She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;
    If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
    Why, then she lives."

    And shortly thereafter:

    "And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life!
    Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
    And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more,
    Never, never, never, never, never!
    Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir.
    Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
    Look there, look there!"

    No matter how many times I read or hear it, it's brutal.

  7. I'm not a big fan of Macbeth, but this bit just gets me every time:

    "She should have died hereafter;
    There would have been a time for such a word.
    To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
    To the last syllable of recorded time,
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    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."

  8. No argument with Lear or Macbeth.
    Two other votes:

    “O ill-starr'd wench,
    Pale as thy smock: when we shall meet at compt,
    This look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven,
    And fiends will snatch at it. Cold, cold, my girl?
    Even like thy chastity. O cursed, cursed slave!
    Whip me ye devils,
    From the possession of this heavenly sight:
    Blow me about in winds, roast me in sulphur,
    Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire.
    O Desdemon! dead Desdemona; dead. Oh, oh!”

    Antony and Cleopatra:
    “Noblest of men, woo’t dye?
    Has thou no care of me, shall I abide
    In this dull world, which in thy absence is
    No better than a Stye? Oh see my women:
    The Crowne o’th’earth doth melt. My Lord?
    Oh wither’d is the Garland of the Warre,
    The Souldiers pole is falne: young Boyes and Gyrles
    Are levell now with men: The oddes is gone,
    And there is nothing left remarkable
    Beneath the visiting Moone.”

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