SparkNotes Blog

How to Be an Adult, According to Shakespeare

I am an adult, technically, but I don’t know how to compromise, iron my pants, or do my taxes— usually I just staple a bunch of papers together, put them in an envelope, and throw it into the sea.

I’m sure William Shakespeare knew all the ins and outs of adulthood. He was an adult, after all. He lived to the ripe old age of 52 before dying of a disease known as “probably typhus,” and I’m betting somewhere in there he was doing grown-up things like eating kale or using coupons. Who better to answer our questions than he?

When you realize you’re an adult and there’s nothing to stop you from eating an entire cake in one sitting:
“The devil hath power t’ assume a pleasing shape.”
Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

When you’re doing a job interview and they ask why you want to work there:
“‘Tis not unknown to you, madam, I am a poor fellow.”
All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 1, Scene 3

When you’re avoiding your problems:
“Oh, that way madness lies; let me shun that.”
King Lear, Act 3, Scene 4

When they’re handing out free samples at the grocery store:
“I almost die for food, and let me have it.”
As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7

When you’re asking a friend to help you move:
“Give me some help here, ho!”
All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 2, Scene 1

When the teenagers next-door are throwing a wild party, but it’s 10:30 PM and you want to go to bed:
“Alack, what noise is this?”
Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5

How to accept a compliment like a grown-up:
“I thank ye; and be blest for your good comfort! [Exit.]”
As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7

How to remove toxic people from your life:
“I scorn you, scurvy companion.”
Henry IV, Part 2, Act 2, Scene 4

How to describe the noises your car is making to the mechanic:
“Hear the shrill whistle which doth order give to sounds confused.”
Henry V, Act 3, Prologue

What to say when you’re trying to make casual conversation at a work party:
“What seest thou else in the dark backward and abysm of time?”
The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2

When you’re applying for jobs and your résumé is looking a little scarce:
“Assume a virtue, if you have it not.”
Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4

When your neighbor keeps parking their car in front of your driveway even though you explicitly asked them not to:
“Cry ‘Havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war.”
Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1

What to say when people tell you to invest your money so you can “watch it grow”:
“Nothing will come of nothing.”
King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1

When you’re not sure how to remove stains so you just shout at the carpet:
“Out, damned spot! out, I say!”
Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 1

When your car won’t start but you can’t afford to fix it so you just turn the key in the ignition and pray:
“This is the third time; I hope good luck lies in odd numbers…”
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 5, Scene 1

When you realize time is a construct, and you can eat whatever you want literally whenever you want:
“We’ll go to supper i’ th’ morning.”
King Lear, Act 3, Scene 6

When you start paying for your own Netflix account so you can watch your dumb guilty pleasure shows in secret:
“Let not light see my black and deep desires.”
Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 4

When you realize you’re not as much of an adult as you thought you were:
“We have some salt of our youth in us.”
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 2, Scene 3

Want more Shakespeare out of context? Check out How to Flirt, How to Kiss, and What Going Back to School is Like… all according to Shakespeare.

This post was originally published in November 2016