In a recent alumni survey, my grad school asked, “What’s your favorite line from Shakespeare?”
I was stumped. I don’t think I have one. Everyone else does, I’m sure, and I even know what many of my friends’ favs are. But I am completely at a loss.
I do have a favorite line in each show, but often I don’t discover it until I’m directing. Some of them are super obvious. Is there a better line in Romeo and Juliet than “My love is as boundless as the sea”? Or in Much Ado, what could possibly top, “I would eat his heart in the marketplace”? “It is required you do awake your faith” is the most magical moment, not just of Winter’s Tale, but perhaps of all theater, ever. And for Love’s Labour’s, “The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo” is a perfect encapsulation of the play, and also of the harsh truth of life.
But some of the lines that I love the most, I love because of what they reveal about the play, or the character. In Antony and Cleopatra, it’s “Not know me yet?” So much of that play about performance, seeming, and the desire to be truly known is wrapped up in that one sentence.
For Richard III, it’s “There is no creature loves me, / And if I die no soul will pity me.” I love it because it’s the thing that makes Shakespeare better than the rest of us–he wants to show us the humanity even in the villain. More than that, he sees and believes in that humanity.
I’m curious where other people are with this. Do you have a favorite line of all, or are you more in my camp, having ones that spark you for each play?