Shakespeare Quotes on Grief, Loss, Mortality, and Death

While words can never fully express how much someone means to us, language can still provide comfort, hope, and even inspiration following the death of a loved one.

Here's a select collection of quotes on grief, loss, mortality, and death from the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare, the famous English poet and playwright who penned classics like Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet.

Plays of Shakespeare, book open on shelf
 duncan1890 / Getty Images

You might find some of these lines helpful when writing a eulogy, obituary, or condolence letter, especially if you're having trouble finding the right words and need inspiration.


"Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity."
(Act I, Scene II, Line 75)

"To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life."
(Act III, Scene I, Line 77)

Henry VI, Part III

"To weep is to make less the depth of grief."
(Act II, Scene I, Line 86)

Julius Caesar

"When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes."
(Act II, Scene II, Line 31)

"Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come."
(Act II, Scene II, Line 34)

King John

"We cannot hold mortality's strong hand."
(Act IV, Scene II, Line 84)


"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."
(Act V, Scene V, Line 26)

Measure for Measure

"If I must die,
I will encounter darkness as a bride,
And hug it in mine arms."
(Act III, Scene I, Line 93)

Much Ado About Nothing

"Everyone can master a grief but he that has it."
(Act III, Scene II, Line 27)

Richard III

"'Tis a vile thing to die, my gracious lord,
When men are unprepared and look not for it."
(Act III, Scene II, Line 64)

Romeo and Juliet

"Death lies on her like an untimely frost
Upon the sweetest flower of all the field."
(Act IV, Scene V, Line 33)

Sonnet 60

"Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend."

Sonnet 71

"If you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it, for I love you so
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe."

Sonnet 116

"Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom."

The Tempest

"He that dies pays all debts."
(Act III, Scene II, Line 144)

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By Chris Raymond
Chris Raymond is an expert on funerals, grief, and end-of-life issues, as well as the former editor of the world’s most widely read magazine for funeral directors.