Beware the Ides of March: Shakespeare's Wit and Wisdom

The Ides of March is almost here -- are you ready?

The Ides of March is a harmless day that a simple Shakespeare quote drove to notoriety. Actually, the Ides of March was a Roman holiday honoring the god of war, Mars, on March 15. It also happens to be the day Julius Caesar was assassinated, when a seer warned him that harm would befall him no later than the Ides of March.

Shakespeare, of course, seized upon the dramatic possibilities, warning Caesar in his play to 'beware the Ides of March.' Like many Shakespeare quotes, this one has passed into common usage as a general warning. So as the Ides of March draws near, what better time to reflect on a few other Shakespeare quotations that have become modern idioms and colloquialisms?

1. Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,
With bated breath and whisp'ring humbleness,
Say this...

-Shylock, the Merchant of Venice

2. I must be cruel only to be kind.
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.

-Hamlet, Hamlet

3. ...but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all--here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We'd jump the life to come.

-Macbeth, Macbeth

4. Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?

-Rosalind, As You Like It

5. I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had
him of. What do you call your knight's name, sirrah?

-Mrs. Page, The Merry Wives of Windsor

6. Yet do I fear thy nature,
It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way.

-Lady Macbeth, Macbeth

7. Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,
When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?

-Dromio, The Comedy of Errors

8. For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In complement extern, 'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.

-Iago, Othello

9. He hath eaten me out of house and home, he hath
put all my substance into that fat belly of his: but I will have some
of it out again, or I will ride thee a-nights like the mare.

-Hostess Quickly, Henry the IV

10. Sweets to the sweet, farewell!
I hop'd thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife:
I thought thy bride-bed to have deck'd, sweet maid,
And not have strew'd thy grave.

-Ophelia, Hamlet

Some people say that Shakespeare contributed more sayings and idioms to the English language than any other single person, and when you browse through his quotations, it's certainly true that you see a lot of familiar words. Whether you're giving sweets to the sweet or warding yourself against the Ides of March, it's William Shakespeare you have to thank!

For more Shakespeare quotes, check out the popular inspirational quotes section at, a website that specializes in 'Top 10' lists of quotations in dozens of categories.