Shakespeare on Writing

Most of those who know me know that I’m something of a Shakespeare nut. That nuttiness led me to write my award-winning book, The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional, which pairs quotes from his works with verses from the King James Version of the Bible, as the KJV and Shakespeare’s works were produced in the same period, nation, and city, by men who knew each other. To many, Shakespeare is the epitome of a gifted and productive writer. So, what did he write about writers and writing? I’m so glad you asked. Here are some of my favorite Shakespeare quotes on the subject:

To be a well-favoured man is the gift of fortune; but to write and read comes by nature.
Much Ado About Nothing

Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs; Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth.
Richard II

He writes brave verses, speaks brave words, swears brave oaths, and breaks them bravely.
As You Like It

Why should I write this down, that’s riveted,
Screw’d to my memory?
Cymbeline

Sir, I thank God, I have been so well brought up
that I can write my name.
Henry VI Pt. 2

Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues
We write in water.
Henry VIII

Devise, wit;
write, pen; for I am for whole volumes in folio.
Love’s Labour’s Lost

Never durst poet touch a pen to write
Until his ink were temper’d with love’s sighs;
Love’s Labour’s Lost

If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say “This poet lies:
Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces.”
Sonnet 17

O’ let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother’s child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fix’d in heaven’s air:
Sonnet 21

O, know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
Sonnet 76

I think good thoughts whilst others write good words.
Sonnet 85

Yet writers say, as in the sweetest bud
The eating canker dwells, so eating love
Inhabits in the finest wits of all.
Two Gentlemen of Verona

Write till your ink be dry, and with your tears
Moist it again, and frame some feeling line
That may discover such integrity.
Two Gentlemen of Verona

 There you have it. These are only fourteen excerpts among many, from a man who wrote on deadline, in quarantine, and in multiple genres, producing 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several dozen plays—that we know of.

11 Responses to Shakespeare on Writing

  1. Avatar
    Shirlee Abbott June 3, 2020 at 5:39 am #

    “Why should I write this down, that’s riveted,
    Screw’d to my memory?”

    It pains me to disagree with the Bard, but I write things down because they so easily shake loose from my memory. I say, “I’ll never forget,” and later wonder what it was I was supposed to remember.

  2. Avatar
    Gordon Palmer June 3, 2020 at 6:25 am #

    Oh Hostetler, whyfore art thou?

    Thanks for the insightful list. “Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water,” caught my attention. It summed up how I see today’s media. I hope we all strive to turn that tide with our writing.

  3. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 3, 2020 at 6:59 am #

    Friend, should I compare the Bard
    to a bright midsummer day?
    I think that this might be quite hard,
    but I will try to, anyway.
    His metaphors unparalleled,
    like dewdrops shining in the sun
    have gloriously heralded
    what the writer has become,
    a craftsman of both heart and soul,
    writing with such gentle warmth,
    in making our condition whole,
    a benison upon an earth
    whose groans and roils find sweet release
    in Shakespeare’s words, a gentle breeze.

  4. Avatar
    Richard New June 3, 2020 at 7:44 am #

    I’ve always had the good fortune to understand Scripture much better than I ever understood Shakespeare.

  5. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. June 3, 2020 at 8:26 am #

    Dude knew his stuff…..

  6. Avatar
    Kay DiBianca June 3, 2020 at 9:52 am #

    For those of us who are afraid we may not have the talent or endurance it takes to be an author:

    “Our doubts are traitors,
    and make us lose the good we oft might win,
    by fearing to attempt.” — Measure for Measure

  7. Avatar
    Kristen Joy Wilks June 3, 2020 at 10:39 am #

    “and breaks them, bravely!” Ha! Amazing.

  8. Avatar
    Janet Ann Collins June 3, 2020 at 8:45 pm #

    Wow!. The more things change, the more they are the same.

  9. Avatar
    Sara June 3, 2020 at 10:53 pm #

    I’ve never really been much of a Shakespeare fan, since I have to study him in school, but I like the way you make him sound so inspirational for writers.

  10. Avatar
    Paula Geister June 4, 2020 at 2:25 am #

    I know your book; enjoyed your book; and recommended your book several times. Thanks for sharing the Bible and your love of Shakespeare with us.

    I was fortunate to have a teacher in high school who introduced us to Shakespeare. That started it for me! This year, I have three of Shakespeare’s plays on the To Read list. Bonus: I found the collector-worthy books on a display case at a thrift store.

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