Putting English Literature Into English

There is perhaps no greater field in academia that has spent as much ink on critically analyzing quotes from history than English Literature. Entire fields and subfields are dedicated to critical analysis of the works of Shakespeare, Keats, Yeats and the like. However due to the nature of peer review, much of the historical insights and arguments that these subfields have provided to the world are often inaccessible to the world. Peer-reviewed journals typically exist behind a paywall and are only accessible to students and professors with an academic affiliation.

However, we at Quotes Explained, are lucky to have access to such information. However the work of synthesizing and critically analyzing such academic analysis is also complicated by the fact that language barrier between subfields. In this section of the website we’ll attempt to provide some of the most famous quotes from English literature and explain them in a way that can be understood by a modern audience (who possess a modern English vocabulary). 

Also, please keep in mind that each page is open to revision and update as new interpretations and arguments come in. If you’re looking to have a particular quote explained, head over to the contact page to submit the request. If the quote isn’t already in the queue, we’ll add it!

Note if you do spot any errors on any page, please use the form on the corresponding page to notify us of the error. If an error has been made, we’ll make a change and update the corresponding page noting the correction. However please make sure to include links to the correct references when submitting the request for a correction.  

Looking to have your own critical analysis published? While we’re currently looking for a dedicated editor to handle such requests, you can head over to the contact page now if you can’t wait. Though publication is not guaranteed, no submission will go unread. 

image of dunes in the desert

Fear is the Mind-Killer Dune Quote Explained

Who said “Fear is the mind-killer?” The short answer is that it’s a quote from Frank Herbert’s novel “Dune”. The phrase is part of a litany against fear, which the protagonist, Paul Atreides, learns from his mother, Lady Jessica, who is a member of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood. Read the full litany below.

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Young jrr tolkien

Who Said Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost?

J.R.R. Tolkien’s timeless quote, “Not all those who wander are lost,” has resonated with generations of readers, travelers, and adventurers since it was first penned in his seminal work, “The Lord of the Rings.” This seemingly simple line captures a profound truth about the human spirit and our innate desire to explore, learn, and grow. In this blog post, we will delve into the origins of this iconic quote, its context within the story, and its broader implications, to uncover the layers of meaning that have made it an enduring and inspiring mantra for wanderers everywhere.

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author of the line cowards die many times before their deaths

A Coward Dies A Thousand Deaths, Julius Caesar

One of the most impactful and memorable lines from the entire catalogue of William Shakespeare’s plays comes in Julius Caesar when the title character says “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.” What was Julius Caesar talking about? To whom was he talking to? We’ll address all of that and a little bit more but first, see below for the full quote with attribution.

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author of the line cowards die many times before their deaths

Though She Be But Little She Is Fierce Meaning

Whether you’ve been on social media before or in the home of someone with a daughter, you’ve probably seen the quote “Though she may be but little she is fierce.” While the quote as almost certainly been more widely seen outside of its original source, you may be surprised to learn that the quote actually comes from Shakespeare’s character Helena. We’ll get to that and more below.

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statue of Julius Caesar

The Fault, Dear Brutus, Is Not In Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is perhaps most associated with John Green’s breakout best-selling book but the inspiration for the quote actually comes from the one and only William Shakespeare. The quote, which was first spoken in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” We’ll explain the quote and from where it is derived.

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a prison cell with light shining in

The Opposite of Love is Not Hate, It’s Indifference Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel’s, perhaps most famous, quote is often truncated to simply the “opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” However, the full quote, and particularly the context of the quote is much deeper and darker than many who use the quote in contemporary life. Do note, that after Elie Wiesel’s full quote is given we’ll be discussing issues concerning the Holocaust and death. Readers be warned as things may get graphic.

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King Lear Speaking

Nothing Will Come of Nothing King Lear Explained

“Nothing will come of nothing” is one of the more succinct and scathing lines of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. While Shakespeare cannot claim he came up with this thought in the first place, his play does call the concept into question in a way its original authors did not.

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First Page of Shakespeare

To The Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought Sonnet 30 Explained

“When to the sessions of sweet silent thought..” as Shakespeare puts it at the beginning of his Sonnet 30. Whether he lost you at the turn or at those first few words, we’re here to help. We’re going to try to explain what Shakespeare was talking about and the literary techniques he employs to make his point.

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peter pan

To Die Will Be An Awfully Big Adventure Peter Pan

You’ve likely seen the quotation, “To live would be an awfully big adventure,” but if you think it should be attributed to Peter Pan, you’d be mistaken. The actual quotation from the young protagonist is, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.” This article will dive into the difference, and explore the way J. M. Barrie’s life played into the meaning behind one of his more controversial quotes.

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man walking alone on island beach

No Man Is An Island John Donne Meaning

The phrase “ask not for whom the bell tolls” has been used in modern books, movies, and even heavy metal music, but it has been around for nearly 400 years. English poet John Donne’s “No Man Is an Island” was the first instance of its use in literature. On this page we will go into detail about the quote’s origins and meaning.

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Emily Bronte

Whatever Souls Are Made of His and Mine Are The Same Meaning

Despite initial harsh criticism, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights has become one of the staples of Victorian literature. Set on the moors of northern England, it follows a set of characters as they both intentionally and inadvertently cause each other harm. The full quote, spoken by Catherine Earnshaw, is: “…he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.” Despite the line’s co-opting as a romantic ideal in recent years, its context in the book paints a darker picture than a Pinterest-ready quote.

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author of the line cowards die many times before their deaths

Piece of Work Meaning and Origins

Though everyone knows the author of the popular phrase “Piece of Work” they may not realize it. That’s because the quote is originally derived from a play by William Shakespeare (that William Shakespeare). That play, perhaps the most famous play in history, was Hamlet. The story (whose full title is The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark) tracks a ghost (and former King of Denmark) who tries to have his avenge his death. However this page is merely about one line that Shakespeare drops along the way that has become a cornerstone of the english language.

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