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Best Literature Quotes Ever!

November 13, 2012
List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

Quoting Shakespeare can be awesome, but it can backfire too if you’re not careful. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The reason I like the Best Literature Quotes Ever is because they can make a guy seem smarter than he really is.  I’ve gotten by in life by surrounding myself with people who are way more intelligent than I am.  One way to attract smart people is to appear intelligent, and I’ve been successful at that when I’ve needed to be.  One way is to be able to quote a line from literature when the correct situation arises.

The great thing about Best Literature Quotes Ever is that you don’t have to read the literature that the quotes are from.  I used to own a book of famous quotes, and I memorized a few (not many) that I figured could come in handy.  The only problem is that I had to make sure to hide the book of quotes (and my football magazines) whenever my intelligent friends came over.  I might have been a fraud, but I didn’t want my intelligent friends to think I was a fraud.  They probably knew anyway.

A Best Literature Quote Ever has to meet several criteria in order to be effective.  The quote has to be short.  If the quote is too long, it’s hard to memorize it.  If you misquote a line from literature, then some overeducated guy will correct you in front of everybody and make you look stupid.  That defeats the whole purpose of learning a Best Literature Quote Ever!

The literary quote also has to have a universal context.  You should be able to interject it easily into conversations.  It does you no good to memorize a great literary quote and never be able to use it.  But be careful.  If you use it in the wrong circumstance, you can look like you’re trying too hard.

WARNING!!  Stuff like “Bah, humbug!” or “Elementary, my dear Watson” doesn’t count because everybody knows these.



“… a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

I almost used this once when a woman accidentally passed gas in public.  Instead, I took the blame and apologized to everybody.


“These words are razors to my wounded heart.”  Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare

I said this when my literary girlfriend in college broke up with me.  When I found out she broke up with me to date a professor, I think I quoted a song by Fishbone instead.


“Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”  Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

I would say this to my literary girlfriend (before she broke up with me).  It’s probably why she broke up with me.


“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”  Othello by William Shakespeare

My ex-literary girlfriend said this to me (or paraphrased it) when she found out I was mad about her dating a professor.  I hate it when my own techniques are used against me.


“Surprises, like misfortunes, seldom come alone.”  Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

It took me a long time to get another girlfriend after that literary girlfriend broke up with me.  It was a misfortune but not really a surprise.  It was years and years later before I met my wife (that was NOT a misfortune).


“A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get.”   The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

This could come in handy when some inexperienced snot just out of college starts bossing me around on my job, but I’ve never used it because inexperienced snots out of college don’t handle criticism from older subordinates very well.  Fortunately, we haven’t hired many snots out of college recently as bosses.  I guess that’s a benefit of a bad economy.


“I am now quite cured of seeking pleasure in society, be it country or town. A sensible man ought to find sufficient company in himself.”  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

A perfect justification for porn (not that I’ve ever… never mind).


“Men get tired of everything, of heaven no less than of hell; and that all history is nothing but a record of the oscillations of the world between these two extremes. An epoch is but a swing of the pendulum; and each generation thinks the world is progressing because it is always moving.”  Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw

I like this quote, but I never managed to memorize it, so I’ve never used it.


“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”   Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Somebody needs to tell that to the Real Housewives (of any city).


“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.”   Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

This quote sounds cooler than it really is.  I have run from danger in a cowardly fashion several times, and I don’t regret it at all.  I have not died a single time yet.


“There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.”  Emma by Jane Austen

Never use this quote during a discussion about politics.  Better yet, never get into discussions about politics.


“Poor nations are hungry, and rich nations are proud; and pride and hunger will ever be at variance.”  Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift

And that explains the behavior of the United Nations.  Oops… I forgot my rule about never talking politics.


“Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.”  Emma by Jane  Austen

Jane Austen has never been to Detroit.


“From hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”  Moby Dick by Hermann Melville

A far better quote than “Call me Ishmael.”  I shouted this at the end of a football game when we lost to our rivals.  My football obsessed friends were impressed that I knew some Shakespeare.


“If you observe, people always live for ever when there is an annuity to be paid them.”  Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I guess if I make it to retirement, I have it made.


“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”   Ulysses by James Joyce

In my book of quotes, this was punctuated correctly.  I’m not sure what it looked like in Ulysses.


“Grief makes one hour ten.”  King Richard II by William Shakespeare

So did reading Shakespeare while I was in high school.


“One man’s ways may be as good as another’s, but we all like our own best.”  Persuasion by Jane Austen

The key word is “may.”


“Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.”  Great Expectations  by Charles Dickens



Since I haven’t read every single book ever (or read every single book of quotes in literature or gone to every website that lists literary quotes), I don’t know for sure that these are the best literature quotes ever.  I probably (definitely) missed some.

Since I know this list cannot be complete, feel free to help me out.  What do you think should be added to the BEST LITERATURE QUOTES EVER?

  1. jamesroom964x permalink

    “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

  2. I was totally cracking up. I’ll have to think of some quotes . . . which is a much better errand than thinking about work.

    • At least when you think of your quotes, you’ll have actually read the books where they came from (or have actually read the books from where they came).

  3. Not to beat Shakespeare to death, but he was just so darn good. This may not be number one, but should at least be on the list:

    “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.” –from “As You Like It”

    And this is one I have remembered since high-school, for obvious reasons of immaturity:

    “Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.” –Melville from Moby Dick

    • That Melville quote almost makes me wish that I’d actually read Moby Dick (instead of pretending to). On the other hand, I’m glad I didn’t use that quote with my football buddies. The “All the world’s a stage” quote is right up there and should be on the list.

  4. I would probably definitely forget to hide the book of quotations. Or worse, I would forget to remove it from the coffee table because I was studying it the night before I was entertaining while I was watching Honey Boo Boo.

  5. stevehankey permalink

    It’s a bit lengthy but definitely worth it.

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Coach Carter (2005).

    The original quote is from Marianne Williamson but I prefer this version. Contemporary rather than classic literature but still I find it very moving. I’ve got it up on my wall.

  6. Poward permalink

    I think ‘intelligent people’ can spot yo stank from a mile away.

  7. Pilgram’s Progress: About a man who left home. It didn’t say why. Statements in it were interesting but tough. Huckleberry Finn

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