There are a great many celebrations of Shakespeare’s birth this year, but what might Shakespeare have to say about births? Or about babies? For any expectant parents out there, or people interested in some pithy quotes for nursery wall hangings or onesies, here is what I have discovered.
Doing a simple web search for “Shakespeare Baby quotes” fails to yield much. Last year’s celebrations of the Royal Baby included a well circulated webpage from What’s Onstage with quotations from Shakespeare. The language and quotations chosen in this list were primarily gruesome, full of descriptions of children as a vexation, thankless and beating their nurses. So what are some good choices?
What about Shakespeare terms of endearment which might look nice on a wall or a shirt?
- “Child of Fancy” from Love’s Labour Lost
- “Pretty sweeting” from Feste’s song in Twelfth Night
- “Sweet disaster” from All’s Well That Ends Well
- “Well educated infant” sounds like unadulterated self congratulation, but hey, we’re talking about putting Shakespeare quotes on baby outfits.
Some popular phrases are
- Beatrice’s “Then there was a star danced, and under that was I born” or
- Helena’s description of Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”
Some classic phrases which do nicely for little ones include,
- “We are such stuff as dreams are made on,” or
- “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
Enigmatic phrases might be,
- “What’s to come is still unsure” or
- “Can one desire too much of a good thing?”
But some lesser known phrases come from The Winter’s Tale, where the little prince is called
- “a gallant child; one that, indeed, physics the subjects, makes old hearts fresh” and another young prince is,
- “He’s all my exercise, my mirth, my matter” and ends with “He makes a July’s day short as December, and with his varying childness cures in me thoughts that would thick my blood.”
In Henry VIII, Cramner gives a long prophetic speech about the wonders of the baby who will become Elizabeth I, including
- “truth shall nurse her, holy and heavenly thoughts still counsel her”
If none of these quotes suit your fancy, I suggest reading the sonnets. Some of the ones about sleepless nights get rather humourous when applied to parents of infants. Including, but not limited to Sonnet 28, the first quatrain of which I’ll post here.
How can I then return in happy plight,
That am debarred the benefit of rest?
When day’s oppression is not eas’d by night,
But day by night and night by day oppressed.