C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.


All the world’s a stage.


All the world practices the art of acting.

Petronius Arbiter.

  • Come, sit down, every mother’s son, and rehearse your parts.
  • Shakespeare.

  • Lo, where the Stage, the poor, degraded Stage,
  • Holds its warped mirror to a gaping age!
  • Charles Sprague.

  • Who teach the mind its proper face to scan,
  • And hold the faithful mirror up to man.
  • Robert Lloyd.

  • The play’s the thing
  • Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.
  • Shakespeare.

    A fool cannot be an actor, though an actor may act a fool’s part.


    The part was aptly fitted and naturally performed.


    An actor should take lessons from a painter and a sculptor.


    Where they do agree on the stage, then unanimity is wonderful.


    They wear the livery of other men’s fortunes; their very thoughts are not their own.


    The concealment of art by the actor is as great a mark of genius as it is in the painter.

    François Delsarte.

    Let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them.


    To see Kean act was like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning.


    Let gorgeous Tragedy, in sceptred pall, come sweeping by.


    Comedians are not actors; they are imitators of actors.


  • On the stage he was natural, simple, affecting,
  • ’Twas only that when he was off, he was acting.
  • Goldsmith.

  • The world’s a theatre, the earth a stage,
  • Which God and Nature do with actors fill.
  • Thomas Heywood.

  • The drama’s laws, the drama’s patrons give,
  • For we that live to please, must please to live.
  • Samuel Johnson.

  • And what the actor could effect,
  • The scholar could presage.
  • Thomas Campbell.

    Even kings but play; and when their part is done, some other, worse or better, mounts the throne.


    See, how these rascals use me! They will not let my play run; and yet they steal my thunder.

    John Dennis.

    To-day kings, to-morrow beggars, it is only when they are themselves that they are nothing.


    The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays that part.


    God is the author, men are only the players. These grand pieces which are played upon earth have been composed in heaven.


  • A long, exact, and serious comedy;
  • In every scene some moral let it teach,
  • And, if it can, at once both please and preach.
  • Pope.

    The play bill which is said to have announced the tragedy of Hamlet, the character of the Prince of Denmark being left out.


    The stage is a supplement to the pulpit, where virtue, according to Plato’s sublime idea, moves our love and affection when made visible to the eye.


    In really good acting we should be able to believe that what we hear and see is of our own imagining; it should seem to us as a charming dream.


  • I can counterfeit the deep tragedian;
  • Speak and look back, and pry on every side,
  • Tremble and start at wagging of a straw,
  • Intending deep suspicion.
  • Shakespeare.

    Is it not a noble farce wherein kings, republics, and emperors have for so many ages played their parts, and to which the vast universe serves for a theatre?


    Everybody has his own theatre, in which he is manager, actor, prompter, playwright, sceneshifter, boxkeeper, doorkeeper, all in one, and audience into the bargain.

    J. C. and A. W. Hare.

  • As in a theatre, the eyes of men,
  • After a well-grac’d actor leaves the stage,
  • Are idly bent on him that enters next,
  • Thinking his prattle to be tedious.
  • Shakespeare.

  • In other things the knowing artist may
  • Judge better than the people; but a play,
  • (Made for delight, and for no other use)
  • If you approve it not, has no excuse.
  • Edmund Waller.

    I have seen no men in life loving their profession so much as painters, except, perhaps, actors, who, when not engaged themselves, always go to the play.


    It is their province to make the public weep and smile, tremble and resent, and to light all the passions of the human breast in their enthusiastic audiences.

    G. A. Sala.

    Who rant by note, and through the gamut rage; in songs and airs express their martial fire; combat in trills, and in a fugue expire.


    Notwithstanding all that Rousseau has advanced so very ingeniously upon plays and players, their profession is, like that of a painter, one of the imitative arts, whose means are pleasure, and whose end is virtue.


    Johnson told Garrick that he and his profession were mutually indebted to each other. “Your profession,” said the doctor, “has made you rich; and you have made your profession respectable.”


    It is with some violence to the imagination that we conceive of an actor belonging to the relations of private life, so closely do we identify these persons in our mind with the characters which they assume upon the stage.


    The actor is in the capacity of a steward to every living muse, and of an executor to every departed one: the poet digs up the ore; he sifts it from the dross, refines and purifies it for the mint; the actor sets the stamp upon it, and makes it current in the world.


    Few men of any modern nation have a proper sense of an æsthetical whole: they praise and blame by parts; they are charmed by passages. And who has greater reason to rejoice in this than actors, since the stage is ever but a patched and piecemeal matter?


    Players, sir! I look upon them as no better than creatures set upon tables and joint-stools to make faces and produce laughter, like dancing dogs.—But, sir, you will allow that some players are better than others?—Yes, sir; as some dogs dance better than others.

    Dr. Johnson.

    Remember that you are but an actor, acting whatever part the Master has ordained. It may be short or it may be long. If he wishes you to represent a poor man, do so heartily; if a cripple, or a magistrate, or a private man, in each case act your part with honor.


    Victor Hugo makes one of his heroines—an actress—say, “My art endows me with a searching eye, a knowledge of the soul and the soul’s workings; and, spite of all your skill, I read you to the depths.” This is a truth more or less powerful, as one is more or less gifted by the good God.

    Charlotte Cushman.

  • And, like a strutting player, whose conceit
  • Lies in his hamstring, and doth think it rich
  • To hear the wooden dialogue and sound
  • ’Twixt his stretch’d footing and the scaffoldage.
  • Shakespeare.

  • Is it not monstrous that this player here,
  • But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
  • Could force his soul so to his own conceit
  • That from her working all his visage wann’d.
  • Shakespeare.

  • A play there is, my lord, some ten words long,
  • Which is as brief as I have known a play;
  • But by ten words, my lord, it is too long,
  • Which makes it tedious.
  • Shakespeare.

    There is one way by which a strolling player may be ever secure of success; that is, in our theatrical way of expressing it, to make a great deal of the character. To speak and act as in common life is not playing, nor is it what people come to see; natural speaking, like sweet wine, runs glibly over the palate, and scarcely leaves any taste behind it; but being high in a part resembles vinegar, which grates upon the taste, and one feels it while he is drinking.


  • What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
  • That he should weep for her? What would he do,
  • Had he the motive and the cue for passion
  • That I have? He would drown the stage with tears.
  • Shakespeare.

  • To wake the soul by tender strokes of art,
  • To raise the genius, and to mend the heart;
  • To make mankind, in conscious virtue bold,
  • Live o’er each scene, and be what they behold—
  • For this the tragic Muse first trod the stage.
  • Pope.

  • It’s very hard! Oh, Dick, my boy,
  • It’s very hard one can’t enjoy
  • A little private spouting;
  • But sure as Lear or Hamlet lives,
  • Up comes our master, Bounce! and gives
  • The tragic Muse a routing.
  • Hood.

    Good, my lord, will you see the players well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used; for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time: after your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their ill report while you live.


  • I have heard
  • That guilty creatures sitting at a play,
  • Have, by the very cunning of the scene,
  • Been struck so to the soul that presently
  • They have proclaim’d their malefactions;
  • For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
  • With most miraculous organ.
  • Shakespeare.

    O, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that, neither having the accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature’s journeymen had made men and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.


  • The play is done; the curtain drops,
  • Slow falling to the prompter’s bell:
  • A moment yet the actor stops,
  • And looks around, to say farewell,
  • It is an irksome word and task:
  • And, when he’s laughed and said his say,
  • He shows, as he removes the mask,
  • A face that’s anything but gay.
  • Thackeray.

  • Like hungry guests, a sitting audience looks:
  • Plays are like suppers; poets are the cooks.
  • The founder’s you: the table is this place:
  • The carvers we: the prologue is the grace.
  • Each act, a course, each scene, a different dish,
  • Though we’re in Lent, I doubt you’re still for flesh.
  • Satire’s the sauce, high-season’d, sharp and rough.
  • Kind masks and beaux, I hope you’re pepper-proof?
  • Wit is the wine; but ’tis so scarce the true
  • Poets, like vintners, balderdash and brew.
  • Your surly scenes, where rant and bloodshed join,
  • Are butcher’s meat, a battle’s a sirloin:
  • Your scenes of love, so flowing, soft and chaste,
  • Are water-gruel without salt or taste.
  • George Farquhar.

    I think I love and reverence all arts equally, only putting my own just above the others; because in it I recognize the union and culmination of my own. To me it seems as if when God conceived the world, that was Poetry; He formed it, and that was Sculpture; He colored it, and that was Painting; He peopled it with living beings, and that was the grand, divine, eternal Drama.

    Charlotte Cushman.

    Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness.