The word “love” appears 2,146 times in Shakespeare’s collected works (including a handful of “loves” and “loved”). Add to that 59 instances of “beloved” and 133 uses of “loving” and you’ve got yourself a “whole lotta love.” So, what does Shakespeare have to say about the subject? Here are 20 quotations from the Bard about love.
“What is Love?”
What does Shakespeare have to say about love? Let’s start with the basics.
“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.”
In an interview on Shakespeare Unlimited, Folger Director Emerita Gail Kern Paster noted that Sonnet 116 is a frequent choice for wedding toasts. Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, editors of The Folger Shakespeare, wrote of this famous sonnet, “The poet here meditates on what he sees as the truest and strongest kind of love, that between minds. He defines such a union as unalterable and eternal.”
“A lover’s eyes will gaze an eagle blind.
A lover’s ear will hear the lowest sound,
When the suspicious head of theft is stopped.
Love’s feeling is more soft and sensible
Than are the tender horns of cockled snails.
. . .
And when love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Make heaven drowsy with the harmony.”
– Love’s Labor’s Lost, Act 4, scene 3, lines 328 – 339
In Love’s Labor’s Lost, the King of Navarre and his three friends vow to spend three years cloistered from the world, studying, fasting, and seeing no women. But as soon as they’ve signed the contract, the Princess of France and her three pals show up to meet with the King. Of course, everyone immediately falls in love and the four men have to figure out how to extricate themselves from their solemn oaths. In Act 4, scene 3, Berowne, the wittiest of the four fellows, argues that love, not rigorous study, will make them better men. In fact, Berowne says, love is like a superpower that “gives to every power a double power.” The full speech is a beautiful testament to the gifts of love.
– A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 1, scene 1, lines 240 – 241
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”