Shakespeare Quotes Translated

I was taking a gander at some Shakespeare today when I realized that he made everything sound much more significant than it really was. I mean, you can take any Shakespeare quote and take it out of his phrasing and it sounds, well, like crap. That was the beauty of Shakespeare. Read on to see what I mean.

Shakespeare: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry" ~ From Hamlet

Translation: "Don't borrow or lend money. Whether you borrow or lend it, you will probably get screwed. Also, loans mess up the economy." (I am not sure on the last bit. He could have meant, "Loans make it harder to breed animals properly" or "Loans make it harder to get married.")

"The lady doth protest too much." ~ From Hamlet

Translation: "God, she whines a lot." or "Her protestations lead me to believe that she is hiding something."

Shakespeare: "Brevity is the soul of wit." ~ From Hamlet

Translation: "If the joke isn't short, it isn't funny."

Shakespeare: "When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions." ~ From Hamlet

Translation: "When the going gets tough, it keeps getting tougher."

Shakespeare: "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." ~ From As You Like It

Translation: "It takes a smart man to know he is an idiot."

Shakespeare: "Tempt not a desperate man." ~ From Romeo and Juliet

Translation: "It's not nice to bring beer to an AA meeting."

Shakespeare: "For you and I are past our dancing days." ~ From Romeo and Juliet

Translation: "We're old."

Shakespeare: "A plague on both your houses." ~ From Romeo and Juliet

Translation: "I hope both of you and both of your families die horrible deaths."

Shakespeare: "O my love, my wife! Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty."
~ From Romeo and Juliet

Translation: "Even though I think you're dead, I still think you're hot."

Shakespeare: "Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall." ~ From The Merchant of Venice

Translation: "How good of a person you are has no bearing on how successful you will be."

Shakespeare: "As he was valiant, I honor him; but, as he was ambitious, I slew him." ~ From Julius Caesar

Translation: "I liked him, but he was getting greedy, so I had to off him." (Sounds like a line out of The Sopranos.)

Shakespeare: "There's daggers in men's smiles."

Translation: "Just because he's smiling, does not mean he will not shank you."

All translations are my own. Be advised that I only speak limited Shakespearean, so don't expect this list to be relevant or useful. (Like how I saved that for the end?)

Shelly Barclay


  1. The one that you said means nothing: "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." ~ From As You Like It, certainly doesn't mean nothing. Socrates would agree with it completely all, this is what he was all about. True wisdom is knowing the limits of your knowledge. Only a fool would think he knows everything. Not meaningless!

  2. kpr, you should have read that quote the way it was intended. I realize what it is meant to mean, but that does not mean it makes any sense. It's philosophical nonsense. If a man is wise, how can he know he is a fool? For, if he were a fool, how could he be a wise man? It's a contradiction in terms.

    Now, again, I know it what the quote is meant to mean. I do understand that a wise man would know that he doesn't know everything, but that does not mean he is a fool.

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  4. Protest = Profess
    He's not saying she whines a lot. In the context of the play within a play, Gertrude is saying that the Queen character is making too many promises to the King character.

  5. Maggie, what a shrewd reader you are. :) Yes, when Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, protest had roughly the same meaning as profess.

    It can also be translated to mean that what she professes is meaningless because she does so much "protesting." lol

    Thank you for pointing that out for future readers. The translation is meant to be humorous and in a modern sense, as I am sure is obvious from some of my other "translations." I will be sure to do a more scholarly one soon.