Best Of Not By Shakespeare

AI Shakespeare

A significant portion of my traffic – I’m talking strong double digits here – is related to my collection of Not By Shakespeare posts. Once upon a time, I started collecting those social media posts that you see all the time with quotes like “When I saw you, I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.” And they’re attributed to Shakespeare, and you know perfectly well Shakespeare is not the author. You can never find a reference to what play (or sonnet or poem) the original came from because there isn’t one.

Then again, traffic’s traffic, so I might as well lean into it!

Top Ten Not By Shakespeare Posts

  1. I love thee, I love but thee With a love that shall not die Till the sun grows cold And the stars grow old. I personally love this quote and have used it on occasion. Just because it’s not by Shakespeare doesn’t mean it’s not a nice sentiment. I’m surprised to see it so low.
  2. When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry. I honestly don’t even understand this one.
  3. If you love and get hurt, love more. If you love more and hurt more, love even more. This is what we in the computer programming business call an infinite loop.
  4. Everyone I meet is in some way my superior. In that I learn from him. This one’s got some actual credentials – it’s from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  5. New friends may be poems, but old friends are alphabets. Do not forget alphabets, because you will need them to read the poems. What does this even mean?
  6. Expectation Is The Root Of All Heartache I would have thought this to be the most popular since it’s the simplest to search for. But I suppose it comes in too many generic variations for them all to find their way here.
  7. Love me or hate me, both are in my favor … This one brings serious “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best” vibes.
  8. Do not go gentle into that good night. I feel like this could have worked its way into Shakespeare’s work at some point. But Dylan Thomas gets credit for this one.
  9. I Would Challenge You To A Battle Of Wits, But I See You Are Unarmed This is a stubborn one. It pops up everywhere. I’m doing a project right now where I asked ChatGPT to generate a database of Shakespeare quotes for me, and sure enough, I had to pluck this one out — five times. It may remind you of Beatrice and Benedick, but she had something different to say about Benedick’s lack of wit.
  10. You say that you love rain, but you open your umbrella when it rains. Far and away the winner, there are weeks where my entire first page of search results is just variations of this quote. I’m happy that years after first posting it, we finally tracked down the original author. That probably helps!

I’ve got about thirty posts in the Not By Shakespeare category, but ninety percent of the traffic lands on one of the above. By listing them here, I hope that this page will get some traffic of its own. People can bookmark it for future queries.

Venn Shakespeare


Venn vs Euler Diagram
Venn <-> Euler

The most popular post I’ve ever made is the one depicting Shakespeare’s works as a Venn Diagram (although technically that shape is an Euler Diagram).  That post on Facebook has garnered over 2 million views at this point, and hundreds of comments. People have asked me if it is available as a poster (as far as I know it is not – I did not create the original image).

The problem is, I don’t like it.  Most of the comments are of the form “Why do you have play X in this category but not that one?” and “You forgot to put Y in the Z category” and so on.  The categories (Suicide, War, Romance, Supernatural) are, I think, too broad.  Does Romeo and Juliet count as war between the two families?  I would say no, but some people disagree.  How about Much Ado About Nothing? It starts with the men coming home from war.

So here’s what I propose.  Can we make a better one, or a set of better ones?  Something that more people can agree on? If we can make something that’s generally agreeable to a large audience I’ll be happy to make it available as a poster / stickers / t-shirt / etc…

I’ve been working with Bardfilm on some new categories.  The goal would be to find a set such that:

  • All plays are represented by at least one category.
  • Minimize the number of categories that have no entries.
  • No single category has too many entries.

What categories would you like to see?  “Supernatural” made our list as well.  I was thinking “Insanity” might be a good one. Bardfilm proposed “Fake Deaths” and “Cross-Dressing”.  If we can’t agree across all the categories we can look at doing one for Comedy, one for Tragedy, one for History, but I think those would end up looking a little sparse, and I’d feel bad about leaving out Romance.

What other ideas have you got for us? Tell us the category you think should be on our diagram, and which plays would be in it.

Shakespearean Collective Nouns

Once again, Bardfilm offers a guest post for our edification—or, at least, for our amusement.

The English language offers a host of interesting collective nouns. You can describe a lot of geese as a gaggle of geese. More than a few whales make up a pod of whales. When you see tons of crows around, it’s natural (and fun) to say, “A murder of crows was on the neighbor’s back tree this morning.”
But what if you have a lot of Hamlets running around? How do you refer to the twenty-three Lady Macbeths you saw auditioning last night?
Here’s a list for exactly those instances. Think how useful (and fun) it will be to say, “I’m not looking forward to auditions. There’s a whole scrub of Lady Macbeths out there!” Without much more ado, here they are:

Shakespearean Collective Nouns

  • An innocence of Desdemonas.
  • A sack of Falstaffs.
  • An assignation of Bottoms.
  • An ide of Caesars.
  • A jealousy of Iagos.
  • A wherefore of Romeos.
  • A vengeance of Hamlets.
  • A fahrenfoul of witches.
  • An obscurity of Pericleses.
  • A gurgle of Ophelias.
  • A torrent of Lears.
  • An equivocation of Porters.
  • An infinite variety of Cleopatras.
  • A platitude of Poloniuses.
  • A poke of Gloucesters.
  • A scrub of Lady Macbeths.
  • A discontent of Richard IIIs.

Feel free to add your own options in the comments below. I know you’ve seen one too many Juliets—how would you describe them as a group?

Our thanks to kj, the author of Bardfilm. Bardfilm is a blog that comments on films, plays, and other matters related to Shakespeare in a relatively-informal manner.


This “Best Of” article originally appeared December 2010.


Shakespeare Wedding Season

Remember when I wrote a book? Spring is peak season for weddings, and frequently I get traffic for people looking for Shakespeare wedding ideas. So I thought it was a good opportunity to revisit the story…

Has it been seven years? Man I forget how long it’s been that I’ve been doing this.  Then I realize that there’s probably a whole slew of readers who never saw the original project.

Back in 2010 I told myself, “Listen, take one of those ideas running around your brain and actually finish it.”  Ideas are the easy part.  Execution and completion are the hard part.  That’s the story of my life right there.  This was my pure will power effort to get something from the idea stage all the way to completion.

The result is Hear My Soul Speak: Wedding Quotations from Shakespeare. I’d been to one too many weddings where they trotted out Sonnet 116 again and I said to my wife, again, “Why can’t they ever recite something different? There’s so many Shakespeare wedding quotes to choose from.”  I read Sonnet 17, personally.  Actually I recited it to my wife during our first dance.Then it dawned on me that maybe it’s because they don’t know anything else to choose from. Everybody knows 116 (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments…” by the way) probably because they heard it at somebody else’s wedding and thought, “I’ll have that at mine, too.”

Then it dawned on me that maybe it’s because they don’t know anything else to choose from. Everybody knows 116 (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments…” by the way) probably because they heard it at somebody else’s wedding and thought, “I’ll have that at mine, too.”

Shakespeare Wedding QuotesSo I went through all the sonnets and quote databases I could, pruning out the not by Shakespeares (*), organizing them into how they might be used (the proposal, the vows, the guest book, the toast…) and explaining their context.

Hear My Soul Speak

The end result is a tidy little Shakespeare wedding quote reference book to use whether you’re getting married, in the wedding party, or just on the guest list.  If you’re in any of the above categories, check it out!  Shakespeare makes life better.

(*) Look, I love “I love none but thee til the stars grow old and the sun grows cold,” or however it goes, but it’s not Shakespeare. It’s Bayard Taylor.

Why I Love My Shakespeare Life

This post brought to you by three or four glasses of cabernet sauvignon, so put it in its appropriate context.

We had company this evening, one of the dads came over to watch the baseball game while his daughter (and mine) were off at their first middle school dance, and the moms were off at some other mom’s house.  So eventually the guests depart, the game is over, and we’re left to clean up.

I realize that the television has stopped showing baseball and is now showing some old dude with a bushy beard talking to some other guys in poofy clothes. I run to the kitchen and grab my wife by the face while she is mopping.  “Henry IV Part 2!” I squeal at her.  “Do you have any idea how happy Shakespeare makes me?!”

“Who is that?” asks my 7yr old son.

“That is Prince Hal who at the end of the movie is King Henry,” I tell him.  “It is a very sad scene, one of the saddest scenes in all of Shakespeare, and it is awesome. It is one of my favorites.”

“Why is it sad?” he asks.

“Well,” I tell him, “Pretend that I am the king. That would make you the prince, right?  That means that one day you’re going to be the king.  Well, until then, you are just out hanging around with your friends, partying, doing crazy stuff, you know, like friends do.  And then one day you find out that the king, that’s me, has died, and that means that you’re the king now. And your best friend is all, ‘Oh, cool, you’re the king, we are going to do awesome stuff together!’ and you turn to him and you say, “We’re not friends anymore.”

“Why can’t I be friends with my friend anymore?” he asks.

“Because you’re the king now, and the king has very important responsibilities, and he’s not allowed to hang out with regular people and do crazy wild things like he’s been doing.  It’s very sad, and his friend knows it’s sad, and the king knows it’s sad, but they both know that it has to be that way.”

With that I race to the remote control and start bringing up my copy of Chimes at Midnight.

At this point my son begins to cry.  “I don’t want to see it if it’s sad!” he wails.  Despite my overwhelming desire to jump right to that scene, I resist and go help my wife clean the kitchen.  “I’ve shown you that scene, right?” I ask her.  I then begin reciting the scene.  “My jove, my king!  Speak to me, my heart!   I know thee not, old man…, so sad.  And so amazing.  Have I shown you that scene yet? You know I’m going to.”

My son is apparently now on a Shakespeare kick.  “I want to see where somebody says To be or not to be,” he tells me.  Being a Shakespeare Geek I happen to have Richard Burton’s Hamlet ripped and ready to go, and move to start it.  But then I realize that he’s already vetoed the sad stuff, and it’s not like Hamlet is a laugh riot.  So I ask him whether he wants to see To be or not to be, or if he wants to see one of the funny ones. He tells me he wants to see one of the funny ones.

Can do!  I fire up Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Taming of the Shrew. Here’s how I explain it to my boy.  “There’s this girl, Katherine, and she hates boys. She’s sworn that she’s never going to marry a boy because all boys stink. Well along comes this boy Petruchio, and he says I’m going to marry Katherine! And then they get into a whole big fight and she chucks things at his head, and it’s really funny.”

So there we sit, my son and I, watching Taming of the Shrew.  I fast forward to the famous “wooing” scene, and I do play by play as it approaches.  “Ok, see in there? That’s Katherine, and she hates to be called Kate. She’s pitching a tantrum and breaking all of her stuff.  Petruchio is outside, and he knows he has to go in there and woo her, and he’s building up his courage, telling himself that no matter how much she yells, he’s just going to tell her that her voice sounds like an angel singing…”

And we go through the entire scene, my son asking questions and me doing my best to keep him interested.  “What is that pile of stuff she fell in?” That’s feathers, in the old days you had to make your own pillows.  She thinks she got away from him, but he’s not done chasing her yet. See? Here he comes again…

“She’s holding an apple, is she going to throw an apple at him?” Probably, yes.  Sure enough Richard Burton pops his head up through the trap door and she hurls a macintosh at him.

At one point I realize that my wife has gone up to get into her pajamas and is now just hanging around waiting for our eldest to get home from the dance.  “I’m watching Taming of the Shrew with my son!” I tell her. “And he is paying attention! I am so very, very happy! And hey this isn’t even like it’s just Shakespare, this is Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, this is a classic love story we’re talking about here!”

Meanwhile I get random questions, like “So if I was king, would I still be able to be best friends with David?”  “Absolutely,” I tell him, “The rules were different back then.  Hal’s friend Falstaff was kind of a bad guy.”

“Kind of?”

“Well…how can I explain it? Not like a bad bad guy, he was…..hmmm…”


“Yeah, medium.  He was hanging out with guys that were medium.  And when you’re a  king you can’t hang out with those kind of people anymore.”

Eventually Petruchio catches Katherine, and I end that particular movie.  I ask if my son still wants to see to be or not to be, he tells me yes.  “Ok,” I tell him, “This is going to be cool. Because the man that was just playing Katherine’s boyfriend, who was chasing her all over the place?  Well, now he’s Hamlet.”

Just picture this, for a moment.  My 7yr old son is curled up under a blanket on the couch waiting for the To be or not to be scene.  I am standing in front of the television with a remote control in one hand and my phone in the other, where I have brought up the text of Hamlet and am now working back and forth to determine whether I’ve fast forwarded too far.  At last I hit the right moment, and pause it.  “Ok here we go!” I tell him.  “See that guy? That’s Claudius, the bad guy king.”

“Why is he a bad guy king?”

“Because he stole the throne from Hamlet.  And that guy there?  That’s Polonius. He works for the king, so he’s a bad guy too.  That girl? That’s Hamlet’s girlfriend.  Polonius has told her that she has to go to Hamlet and say that she doesn’t love him.”

“Why can’t she just say no?”

“Because that guy is her father. And when you were a girl back in Shakespeare’s time, when your father told you to do something, you had to do it, even if he was a bad guy and you didn’t want to.”

And with that, I was watching Richard Burton perform Hamlet while sitting on the couch with my son.  It was….bliss.

I explain to my son, “Now see you have to wait for the end, because this is a very important scene.  Ophelia, Hamlet’s girlfriend, is going to come up to Hamlet and give him back his presents and tell him that she doesn’t love him.”


“Well because her father told her she has to. Also, because she thinks he’s a little crazy, like everyone else does. Hamlet doesn’t know that, though. Hamlet thinks that she’s the only person left who understands that he’s only pretending.”

“Why is he pretending to be crazy?”

“So he can spy on the bad king. He thinks that the bad guy king cheated to win the throne, and Hamlet wants to win it back, so to do that he has to get close to the bad king to learn more about whether he is guilty, and he thinks that the way to do that is to pretend to be crazy so nobody will pay attention to him. Now,shhhh, here comes Ophelia…”

Funny thing? I don’t like the way they do this scene.  I race to my iPad and begin googling.

At this point, by the way, my daughter has arrived home and she is now off to bed, along with my wife. They are both calling down that my son needs to go to bed. I call back that he’ll be up in a minute.

I then bring up Kenneth Branagh’s rendition of this scene.  “Watch this,” I tell my son, “It is the same scene, only different people doing it.  When Ophelia gives the presents back I want you to watch Hamlet’s face.”  *play*  “Wait…..wait……..see? SEE? Right here, SEE?  He’s so happy to see her, he knows that she’s the only one that believes him…and then he realizes that she thinks he’s crazy too, and at first he is so sad, you can see how he’s almost going to cry…and now look how mad he gets….”

I then go on to show him the Derek Jacobi and Kevin Kline versions of the same scene, before deciding that he only wanted to hear To be or not to be, and having now heard it, all he wants to do is go to bed.

I finally shut it all down, and tell him how very happy it makes me to be able to watch Shakespeare with him. He tells me that he only wanted to hear somebody say to be or not to be and, having heard that, he’s fine with going to bed.

And that’s precisely what he did. Me? I ran to my laptop to blog this whole evening, because it’s been one to remember.