Shakespeare Quotation Glossary

Students will produce a glossary of 10-15 quotations and/or examples of figurative language from the Shakespearean tragedy or comedy they read in class.  Each quotation should be initially translated into standard English; each glossary entry should also include a modern example for each quotation and/or a modern figurative language example.  In addition, as one way of exceeding proficiency, students may include a paragraph of explanation with each glossary entry, analyzing Shakespeare’s original wording and intent and comparing that wording and intent to the student’s modern example.



For example (quotation example):

(This is a quotation example which demonstrates skills BELOW proficiency.)

Shakespearean Quotation:  “So foul and fair a day I have not seen” (I.iii.38).

Initial Translation: I’ve never seen a day so foul and fair.

Modern Example:  I’ve never seen a day so horrible and wonderful.

Explanation: We don’t use words like “foul” and “fair” anymore, so I changed them to words we do use.


For example (quotation example):

(This is a quotation example which demonstrates proficiency.)

Shakespearean Quotation:  “What, you egg! Young fry of treachery!” (IV.ii.80-81).

Initial Translation: Hey, kid, you’re as disloyal as your father!

Modern Example: Are you kidding me?! You’re such a traitor! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, eh kid?


For example: Figurative Language example

(This is a figurative language example which demonstrates skills exceeding proficiency.)


Shakespearean Term: Hyperbole (figurative language)


Example from text: “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red” (II.ii.60-63).


Initial Translation: Would the entire ocean wash this blood off of my hands?  No, I think my hands would turn the entire ocean red instead. 


Modern Example: I’m sweating buckets over this thing man.  I can’t even believe I did that.  What was I thinking?!


*Explanation of figurative language: Here, Shakespeare uses hyperbole—an obvious exaggeration—to show the magnitude of guilt Macbeth feels after the murder of King Duncan.  For Macbeth, no amount of water—not even an entire ocean—can remove the blood from his hands, this blood being a symbol of the guilt he feels for what he’s done.


*Instead of providing an even more modern example of the Shakespearean quotation, an explanation is included of Shakespeare’s use of figurative language: in this case, his use of hyperbole in the characterization of Macbeth’s feelings after the killing of King Duncan.


Requirements (for proficiency):


  • Choose Shakespearean quotations which we no longer use in typical conversations (If the quotation seems too easy, it is, choose another one.).
  • Initially translate each quotation in your own words. You can use a dictionary or translation book for guidance, but translate the quotation into your own words. (Do not simply copy a translation from the book.)
  • Make sure the modern example is meaningful to you and is truly something you would say in conversation today.
  • Make sure your glossary entries demonstrate your understanding of Shakespeare’s intended usage of these words. 

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