Article image

The Funniest Lines Shakespeare Ever Wrote

William Shakespeare is estimated to have written roughly 37 plays, although the debates continue as to which he wrote on his own — as opposed to collaboratively — and what other works may have been lost entirely.

Of those 37 or so plays, some 14 to 18 are considered comedies. However, his histories and tragedies also contain lines designed to make the audience laugh. Comedy, after all, has always been one of the most effective ways of keeping an audience engaged — and if you were going to stand for hours on end to watch a show, you’d probably need some levity to make it through.

Of course, humor is highly subjective, and the comedy in Shakespeare’s plays ranges from bawdy jokes to witty wordplay. There are clever puns and references that only well-read audience members might pick up on, but there are also jokes of a sexual nature that would make some viewers blush. And it may go without saying that, having lived hundreds of years ago, Shakespeare also made some quips that are now considered off-color for a variety of reasons.

With that in mind, here are 12 examples of Shakespeare at his wittiest, from flagrantly comedic characters such as Nick Bottom, whose head is transformed into that of a donkey in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to the gallows humor of the gravediggers in Hamlet.

How art thou out of breath, when thou hast breath to say to me that thou art out of breath?
Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet”

Share Quote

I must to the barber’s, monsieur, for methinks I am marvellous hairy about the face; and I am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me I must scratch.
Nick Bottom in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Share Quote

He took the bride about the neck and kissed her lips with such a clamorous smack that at the parting all the church did echo.
Gremio in “The Taming of the Shrew”

Share Quote

I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.
Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing”

Share Quote

This woman’s an easy glove, my lord: she goes off and on at pleasure.
Lafeu in “All's Well That Ends Well”

Share Quote

I have an answer will serve all men … It is like a barber’s chair that fits all buttocks: the pin-buttock, the quatch-buttock, the brawn-buttock, or any buttock.
Fool in “All's Well That Ends Well”

Share Quote

They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.
Moth in “Love's Labour's Lost”

Share Quote

What, you egg?
Murderer in “Macbeth”

Share Quote

O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words. I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; for thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon.
Costard in “Love's Labour's Lost”

Share Quote

Is our whole dissembly appeared?
Dogberry in “Much Ado About Nothing”

Share Quote

He shall recover his wits [in England]. Or if he do not, ’tis no great matter there … There the men are as mad as he.
Gravedigger in “Hamlet”

Share Quote

Mine eyes smell onions; I shall weep anon.
Lafeu in “All's Well That Ends Well”

Share Quote

Featured image credit: Everett Collection/ Shutterstock

Author image
About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
Play more header background
Play more icon
Daily Question
Who said, "The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn"?

More Inspiration

happiness theme icon

Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.

separator icon
George Orwell
motivation theme icon

A good friend is a connection to life — a tie to the past, a road to the future.

separator icon
Lois Wyse
hope theme icon

Chance favors only the prepared mind.

separator icon
Louis Pasteur
love theme icon

Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.

separator icon
Les Brown
wisdom theme icon

I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.

separator icon
Simone de Beauvoir
happiness theme icon

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves.

separator icon
Etty Hillesum
motivation theme icon

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

separator icon
Dalai Lama
hope theme icon

Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

separator icon
C.S. Lewis
love theme icon

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much.

separator icon
Bessie Anderson Stanley
wisdom theme icon

You cannot save people, you can only love them.

separator icon
Anaïs Nin
happiness theme icon

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.

separator icon
Virginia Woolf