Shakespeare is never popular among high schoolers and his unpopularity reaches into higher level English courses too. But what’s perhaps unbeknownst to most is how relatable his poetry can actually be. Sure, it’s full of pop culture references, puns, dirty jokes and rhyme patters that are almost 400 years old at this point. But when it comes to our deepest feelings and our snappiest remarks, Shakespeare could pen those down no other writer of his era. Case in point, here’s fifteen Shakespeare quotes that accurately describe being a college student.
1. “O. brave new world that has such people in’t!” (The Tempest)
This quote easily sums up freshman year for most people. It’s an optimistic one, which celebrates those who live in this “new world” known as campus. But it is also an adventurous one. It has an Age of Exploration air, in which the exploring freshman’s mouth hangs wide-open at the beauty and the opportunities that lie in this space. Alas, all that hope and optimism will crash as classes start, days get more complicated and dorm life really settles in, leading to…
2. “Come, let’s away to prison…” (King Lear)
This is a total waking up early for an 8:30 am class mood. Heck, to some this is a leaving to go to college period mood. Captain Underpants already joked about the similarities between elementary school and prison; in college, they actually make you sleep on the premises which is even more prison-like! This quote is the kind of thing you say to a roommate right before leaving your dorm, or to yourself as you take the trip from home to wherever you go to school.
3. “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” (Hamlet)
King Claudius may be talking about a murder here but let’s be real, this kind of sentiment can apply to college life too. We all talk like we’re angels, especially to our professors, but we still have thoughts that don’t match those words. I personally had an RA last semester who told us about the dangers of partying but wanted to and often did so himself. Like for Claudius, his words were “heaven” but his thoughts were “below.” Partiers, this quote is for you.
4. “But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.” (Hamlet)
How many times have you wanted to chew out a professor, argue over something or generally speak your voice on an issue but were unable to do so? This is doubly so if your school doesn’t have a protest culture in which voicing your disapproval of something is welcomed and accepted. For all the students who just want to scream about what annoys them but are never able to, this Shakespeare quote is for you.
5. “Sleep shall neither night nor day / hang upon his penthouse lid.” (Macbeth)
It’s easy to image some of our professors saying this when assigning homework to their students. Indeed, many of those don’t end up sleeping night nor day on occasion and even when we sleep, our schedules are out of line or the hours we get are way too short. Our penthouse lids need rest, dang it! Let us sleep!
6. “If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.” (Julius Caesar)
Finals, full stop. Really anything stressful about college can elicit this response if you’re stressed enough. Add that to the getting little sleep quote from above and you have a pretty good recipe for a Shakespearean panic attack.
7. “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” (The Tempest)
This might depend on your own personal experiences but there’s also a way to tie this back into the stress theme from the last quote. After all, who hasn’t had those moods where you’re so anxious that everything seems to tick you off? As a part of the college experience, quotes about or related to stress or pessimism fit whether they’re by Shakespeare or a random person on Twitter.
8. “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” (Hamlet)
This quote is a very succinct way of describing the student body in general. In all our years of education, we gain a sense of our identities, our interests and our skills but don’t know exactly what to do with them yet. Shakespeare speaks for the college crowd hundreds of years before the existence of colleges.
9. “You speak an infinite deal of nothing.” (The Merchant of Venice)
When you’re struggling to understand what your professor is saying, this quote comes to mind. Either the subject or their speaking style is so incomprehensible that they might as well be speaking in gibberish. This is one of the Shakespeare quotes that is so relatable!
10. “I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety.” (Henry V)
College students just want a job, a home and a good future (or maybe some drinks, which is where the ale comes in). The pragmatic mindset that they embody is perfectly represented by this quote from Henry V.
11. “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” (Richard II)
The procrastinator’s motto. Of course, anyone with bad time management skills will see themselves in this quote. By the way, this is a good time to get back to work if you are reading this to procrastinate. Just saying. This is one of the Shakespeare quotes that is so relatable!
12. “All hell shall stir for this.” (Henry V)
When you write a bad essay but it’s so close to the deadline and you just don’t care anymore so you submit it anyway. Alternatively, this could be when your professor gives you a bad grade on something you had to do well on. Either one works just fine!
13. “Oh, I am fortune’s fool!” (Romeo and Juliet)
When you mess up in general or you just want to blame a higher power for something you’ve done. Considering the difficulty of college life, you might find yourself coming back to this quote a lot more than you’d like. This is one of the Shakespeare quotes that is so relatable!
14. “Woe, Destruction, Ruin, and Decay…” (Richard II)
Another way to describe a terrible essay. Equally, it could describe your GPA, your academic year in general, your dorm room… anything that isn’t really that good at the moment even though it really should be much better.
15. “Though she be little, she is fierce.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
The tendency (or expectation) for smaller things are rowdier and angrier is not new although it’s nickname “The Napoleon Complex” is. In college life, you really are the small one. You have to listen to your professors, the administration, your government, your parents and so on and so forth. However, the majority of students are perserverant. They will stick around no matter is thrown at them. They are the little but fierce types that Shakespeare describes here. All the fierceness to them. This is one of the Shakespeare quotes that is so relatable!
So how relatable was this list with Shakespeare quotes? Do you have any more quotes to add? Leave your responses in the comments section down below!
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Hi! I'm Tyler and I'm a sophomore student at the University of Vermont. I'm an English major and I'm minoring in French and Linguistics. I'm particularly interested in reading, writing, philosophy and the natural world (although the Internet is somewhere I hang out often too).