College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
2155 Old Main Bldg 
4841 Cass Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201 United States
P: 313-577-2515
F: 313-577-9693

WSU students and faculty share their favorite Shakespeare quotes, works and moments

Date: 3/4/2016

Wayne State University, in collaboration with the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Public Library, has been selected as the host site for First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare — one of the world's most treasured books. When William Shakespeare passed, it was feared his work would follow. Thanks to his colleagues, John Heminge and Henry Condell, seven years after his death his work was published. In the anticipation of the First Folio’s visit to Detroit, WSU students and faculty share their favorite Shakespeare quotes, works and moments.


All the world's a stage, and all the men and women are merely players.- As You Like It



It really speaks to me because it makes me ask myself ‘What role am I playing or whose narrative am I living?’ Life is a huge production of human's contributions and it is also determined by our actions, whether they are positive or negative. This is important because, what we do or how we use our time given on earth, hugely impacts and shapes the following generations after us, whether if it is positive or negative. Rather than being consumed with the notion of self, our thinking should become more people-oriented. We should all take the time to ask ourselves 'What role or narrative am I producing and how is it being reproduced in the other players around me?'

Centra Smith, English student







My favorite Shakespearean work is Henry IV, Part One, which is a history play. There are a lot of reasons why this play is my favorite. First, Henry IV, Part One is one of Shakespeare's finest history plays, and it showcases Shakespeare's ability to turn England's history into a gripping drama with national stakes. At the same time, the play demonstrates Shakespeare's flair for generic experimentation by mingling high politics with comic tavern scenes. The interplay between these scenes is important in setting up the personal growth of Prince Hal, who initially seems interested only in practical jokes and petty thievery but eventually matures into one of England's greatest kings, Henry V. Finally, the play has some of Shakespeare's most intriguing and enduring characters: Prince Hal, Hotspur, and Falstaff.  In fact, Queen Elizabeth supposedly enjoyed Falstaff's character so much that she asked Shakespeare to write a play about Falstaff in love — the result was Merry Wives of Windsor. In short, Henry IV, Part One has it all--the grand drama of national politics, hilarious moments of physical and verbal comedy, a compelling coming of age story, and truly memorable characters.

Jaime Goodrich
Associate professor, British literary and cultural studies
Department of English


There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.-Hamlet

I'm a huge believer in the power of thought and how it can make or break one's life. Shakespeare understood this. The line above sums up the human being's power of intention. It is what we think about a situation that makes it what it is. I always try to choose the bright side and damn if I'm not happier for it! As an actor who has performed in countless plays, I’m always eager to work with new text, be in rehearsal and hang out with other actors.

Edmund Jones, MFA acting student







My favorite moment is from Measure for Measure. There is a prisoner, Barnadine, who has been convicted of murder and who has been in jail for nine years. When he is called to be executed, he declines because he is too tired and hungover. The moment is fantastically funny and dark and I love it because it so powerfully ties Shakespeare's humor to his most complex thought. Barnadine, I think, like Bartelby the Scrivener (Melville) and others, wonderfully refuses to participate in the policing of the individual state, a policing that takes place often simply because we allow it to take place. We need to be reminded of that individual power in an age like our own where we are saturated with data collecting devices, etc.

Ken Jackson
Chair of the Department of English







If it were now to die,
'Twere now to be most happy,-Othello


I love these lines for two reasons: one coming from within the play; one from without, an effect of quotation in another beloved literary work. Othello speaks these lines to Desdemona, his wife, early in the play. He is so greatly, passionately in love that he imagines it impossible to achieve any happier state. He has reached a moment of perfection, signified by the  pun on "to die," a common Elizabethan euphemism for orgasm. What he does not know, but we do, is the terrible irony of these words. He will shortly allow himself to be convinced that Desdemona is a deceiver and has sexually betrayed him. Love will turn to rage, ecstasy to death. The happiness he enjoys will be revealed as a frail and fragile thing, easily wrecked by paranoia and jealousy. 

More than three centuries later Virginia Woolf would write these lines into her novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925). Again the theme will be love, but in a very different and beautifully imagined revision. The novel's middle-aged heroine, Clarissa, will remember these lines, not as she thinks of her husband, Richard, but as she anticipates seeing her old friend Sally Seton, with whom she was once besottedly and impossibly in love. Tragedy turns to romance, and conventional arrangements of love transform into something new and striking in literature. One great writer quotes another to new effect, opening unanticipated meanings in familiar words.

Robert Aguirre
Associate dean of CLAS

Professor in the Department of English




Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.- Malvolio in Twelfth Night


When I was in college, I worked at the campus professional theater and I saw this play for 30 days including matinees. I loved the play, but I would always stop whatever I was doing to sit on the steps at the back of the theater to watch Malvolio's character literarily spat out these lines. This tickled my cynical, satirical college bones to no end. I loved it. It was the play that really brought me to the dimension, depth, humor and fun of Shakespeare.

M.L. Liebler
Senior lecturer in creative writing
Department of English





Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no more
Of dumps so dull and heavy.
The fraud of men was ever so
Since summer first was leafy.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny, nonny.-Much Ado About Nothing


My favorite of Shakespeare’s plays is Much Ado About Nothing. I’m partial to the comedies to begin with, but I am especially fond of the play’s ruminations on love and deceit: how deceptive love can be, how one can be deceived into falling in or out of love, how, in some ways, we seem to crave the frauds and falsehoods associated with wooing and romance. The song places it all out there: ladies, stop making yourselves miserable. Men have and will always be deceivers. Better to forget about them and move on. Yet, no one in the play follows that advice, really. And for a play that sets up this warning, Much Ado About Nothing isn’t completely cynical. The play doesn’t give up on love, and in fact, it is the two people who’ve been most adamant in rebelling against love who are the most entertaining: Benedict and Beatrice rally against love — especially the flowery words and charming enticements young lovers use to trap each other. Then, they are tricked into falling in love, but over the course of the play, they become the steadiest lovers of the group, especially when placed in juxtaposition to Hero and Claudio. In the end, they both put on a great act of not being as in love as they truly are, and yet, it is clear that they can each see through the deceit to the truth underneath. The message I take away from it is: in the end, we’re all deceivers in love, in one way or another.

Chera Kee
Assistant professor, film and media studies
Department of English


A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
 - As You Like It


As a future healthcare provider, this quote reminds me it is important to admit when I don't know something so I can seek guidance from others. There is always something new I am discovering in the cadaver lab, like the time we found a teratoma, and I can’t be afraid to ask questions. Failure isn’t something to be afraid of, but something everyone, especially healthcare workers, can learn from. I believe Shakespeare knew the power of humility as he wrote this quote, and that’s a characteristic all should strive towards.

Chelsea Niemi, graduate physician assistant studies student








My personal/emotional favorite is a seemingly modest line from The Tempest. After the initial storm subsides, Prospero tries to calm his daughter, Miranda, who believes her father has used his magical powers to destroy the ships at sea. Prospero simply says,

I have done nothing but in care of thee,
Of thee, my dear one, thee, my daughter,…

While some see Prospero’s use of magical powers to seek retribution and justice from those who had banished him, I prefer to believe that Prospero recognizes that it is time for his daughter to experience love. Miranda has been raised in isolation on the island with only a “monster” (Caliban) and a spirit (Ariel) as companions. This simple, honest, parental caring (albeit with magical powers) has brought the royal court to Prospero’s island to allow Miranda to experience a brave new world. To paraphrase: “everything I do, I do for thee.” Parenthetically, we named our daughter Miranda, but it was years later that this line so struck me. 

Blair Anderson, associate professor of theatre

Department of Theatre and Dance





My favorite Shakespeare? That’s easy. It’s the soliloquy from Hamlet, maybe the most quoted of all Shakespeare’s lines:  “To be or not to be, that is the question . . . .”  Everybody knows the speech, people can recite it back, bits of it at least, but maybe they forget important details. Remember who Hamlet is? He’s a college student, back home on Spring Break, maybe, his father the King has just died, his uncle newly married to Hamlet’s mother, so the young Prince runs into his friend Horatio, who tells him about the ghost, the ghost that seems to be Hamlet’s dead father. And when Hamlet confronts the apparition, he hears a tale of murder—how his uncle Claudius has poisoned the King, the ghost of Hamlet’s father now demanding revenge. Imagine what weight descends on that young man’s shoulders. He is plagued by indecision, which brings him to that famous speech, where he confesses to himself all the confusion and pain that afflict him. What to do? Is it better to suffer affliction quietly, or should he act? He contemplates suicide as a way of escape, but what of the afterlife? What then?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Death and indecision plague Prince Hamlet through all five acts until he is wounded by a poisoned sword and dies. Yes, it’s a tragedy—a great tragedy, that has kept audiences compelled through the centuries, enlisting in that young man’s incommensurable pain and confusion, and finding release finally and reconciliation through the wonderful device of Shakespeare’s genius. Hamlet is isolated and plagued by the weight of his burdens, but we are made whole by the vehicle of this play—like the blessed embrace of a friend, to whom we confess our secret, fearing the worst, and the friend doesn’t turn away, no, the friend says “I have felt that, I have suffered too, you are not alone.” So we share what audiences have shared for centuries, made one with them, as affliction turns to wonder at our shared and needy humanity.

Jerry Herron
Dean, Irvin D. Reid Honors College
Professor of English


191   What do you read, my lord? 
192   Words, words, words.
193   What is the matter, my lord?
194   Between who?
195   I mean, the matter that you read, my lord. 

I really enjoy the way this reveals Hamlet's deliberate obfuscation, and his playing at madness to hide his real purposes. I also enjoy the word play. "Words, words, words" is literally true but also a reflection on talk and the way it can be misunderstood or manipulated, which also applies to the way that Hamlet deliberately misconstrues Polonius' "the matter.” Instead of Polonius' question about what he is reading, Hamlet deliberately interprets this as 'what's the trouble,’ hence the next question. In a small part of one scene, Hamlet's manipulation of his image as being mad is shown as just that — manipulation.

Jan Blaschak, English honors student



 By Julianne Hudson, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences communications associate