I’m looking around for a good short speech from Shakespeare, suitable for memorization, hopefully either on the “nice” side or funny. Macbeth’s “tomorrow, and tomorrow” bit is about the right length, but I’d like something a little less dark. The “quality of mercy” speech is very nice, but rather long for my purposes. So can anyone help me with something shortish? It doesn’t have to be nicey-nice, just not quite so much about death.
How about the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V?
* This day is call'd the feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd, And rouse him at the name of Crispian. He that shall live this day, and see old age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.' Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.' Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, But he'll remember, with advantages, What feats he did that day. Then shall our names, Familiar in his mouth as household words- Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester- Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red. This story shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered- We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.*
Or John of Gaunt’s speech from Richard 2?
This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear’d by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world’s ransom, blessed Mary’s Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!
If your sole criterion is “not so much about death”, I’ve always been partial to Edmund’s monologue from Act 1, Scene 2 of King Lear:
How about Polonius’ “to thine own self be true” speech in Hamlet?
Otherwise, this site may help. It’s an archive of monologues from Shakespeare.
What about Jaques’ famous “All the world’s a stage” soliloquy?
As You Like It: Act II, Scene VII
How about Benedick’s monologue about love? Might be a little long, but it can be abridged or excerpted.
Or Enobarbus’ description of Cleopatra?
Thanks everyone, some of these are great. I’ll see what I can do.
I am thy father’s spirit,
Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confin’d to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purg’d away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand on end
Like quills upon the fretful porcupine.
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood.
– Hamlet, Act I, Scene V
Well, it’s short! :o
What a piece of work is man.
How noble in reason.
How infinite in faculty.
In form and moving how express and admirable.
In action, how like an angel. In apprehension, how like a God.
The beauty of the world.
The paragon of animals.
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?
Man delights not me.
I’m fond of Puck’s speech at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends. (Act v. Scene i.)
I also like the “All the world’s a stage” speech mentioned by Cuncator
“Why did you laugh when I said, ‘Man delights not me’?”
– Tom Cruise