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Shakespeare’s Most Profound and Passionate Lines About Love

Whether he was writing comedies, histories, tragedies, or sonnets, William Shakespeare almost always touched upon the theme of love. Across his complete works — including 39 plays and 154 sonnets — the word “love” appears 2,191 times.

Of course, his characters sometimes expressed doubts about love. Take Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, for example, who quipped, “I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.”

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Shakespeare commented on all aspects of love: unrequited, compassionate, lustful, and everything in between. He saw all the nuances — all the joy and tragedy — that love could provoke. He also made a distinction between the courtly love of the nobles and the uninhibited sexual love of the common people, but for Shakespeare, neither was any more true or valuable than the other.

Shakespeare’s most famous star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, became an archetype for young love, even though their tale ended in tragedy. Their love was immature at first, but grew into something more profound. Happier endings are found in the playwright’s comedies, perhaps most notably in the witty romance between Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.

Through his many plays and sonnets — comedic, tragic, or otherwise — Shakespeare left us with a wealth of quotes about love. Here are some of the most profound and passionate lines from the pen of history’s most celebrated bard.  

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind.
Helena in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream"

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The course of true love never did run smooth.
Lysander in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream"

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I know no ways to mince it in love, but directly to say “I love you.”
King Henry in "Henry V"

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Speak low if you speak love.
Don Pedro in "Much Ado About Nothing"

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I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.
Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing"

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See how she leans her cheek upon her hand. O, that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek!
Romeo in "Romeo and Juliet"

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My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.
Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet"

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Hear my soul speak: The very instant that I saw you did my heart fly to your service.
Ferdinand in "The Tempest"

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If music be the food of love, play on.
Orsino in "Twelfth Night"

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Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.
Olivia in "Twelfth Night"

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Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
"Sonnet 18"

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No sooner met but they looked, no sooner looked but they loved, no sooner loved but they sighed, no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason, no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy; and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage.
Rosalind in "As You Like It"

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Doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love.
Hamlet (as read by Polonius) in "Hamlet"

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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.
"Sonnet 116"

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And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.
Biron in "Love's Labour's Lost"

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So are you to my thoughts as food to life, / Or as sweet-seasoned showers are to the ground.
"Sonnet 75"

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Love comforteth like sunshine after rain.
"Venus and Adonis"

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I love you more than words can wield the matter; dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty; beyond what can be valued, rich or rare; no less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour.
Goneril in "King Lear"

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Featured image credit: IanDagnall Computing/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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