Quotations about   drama

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Who sneers at epigrams and feigns to scout them,
Believe me, does not know a thing about them.
The real bores are the dreary epic spinners
Who rant of Tereus’ or Thyestes’ dinners,
Who rave of cunning Daedalus applying
The wings to Icarus to teach him flying,
Or else to show what dullards they esteem us
Bleat endless pastorals on Polyphemus.
My unpretentious Muse is not bombastic,
But deems these robes of Tragedy fantastic.
“Such things,” you say, “earn all men’s commendation,
As works of genius and inspiration.”
Ah, very true — those pompous classic leaders
Do get the praise — but then I get the readers!

[Nescit, crede mihi, quid sint epigrammata, Flacce,
Qui tantum lusus ista iocosque vocat.
Ille magis ludit, qui scribit prandia saevi
Tereos, aut cenam, crude Thyesta, tuam,
Aut puero liquidas aptantem Daedalon alas,
Pascentem Siculas aut Polyphemon ovis.
A nostris procul est omnis vesica libellis,
Musa nec insano syrmate nostra tumet.
“Illa tamen laudant omnes, mirantur, adorant.”
Confiteor: laudant illa, sed ista legunt.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 4, epigram 49 (4.49) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]
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"To Valerius Flaccus." (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Though little know'st what epigram contains,
Who think'st it all a joke in jocund strains.
He direly jokes, who bids a Tereus dine;
Or dresses suppers like, Thyestes, thine;
Feins him who fits the boy with melting wings,
Or the sweet shepherd Polyphemus sings.
Or muse disdains by fustian to excel;
by rant to rattle, or in buskin swell.
Those strains the learn'd applaud, admire, adore.
Those they applaud, I own; but these explore.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), ep. 48]

Thou know'st not, trust me, what are Epigrams,
Flaccus, who think'st them jest and wanton games.
He wantons more, who writes what horrid meat
The plagu'd Tyestes and vex't Tereus eat,
Or Daedalus fitting is boy to fly,
Or Polyphemus' flocks in Sicily.
My booke no windy words nor turgid needes,
Nor swells my Muse with mad smothurnal weedes.
Yet those things all men praise, admire, adore.
True; they praise those, but read these poems more.
[tr. May]

You little know what Epigram contains,
Who deem it but a jest in jocund strains.
He rather jokes, who writes what horrid meat
The plagued Thyestes and vex't Tereus eat;
Or tells who robed the boy with melting wings;
Or of the shepherd Polyphemus sings.
Our muse disdains by fustian to excel,
By rant to rattle, or in buskins swell.
Though turgid themes all men admire, adore,
Be well assured they read my poems more.
[Westminster Review (Apr 1853)]

He knows not, Flaccus, believe me, what Epigrams really are,
who calls them mere trifles and frivolities.
He is much more frivolous, who writes of the feast of the cruel
Tereus; or the banquet of the unnatural Thyestes;
or of Daedalus fitting melting wings to his son's body;
or of Polyphemus feeding his Sicilian flocks.
From my effusions all tumid ranting is excluded;
nor does my Muse swell with the mad garment of Tragedy.
"But everything written in such a style is praised, admired, and adored by all."
I admit it. Things in that style are praised; but mine are read.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

He does not know, believe me, what epigrams are, Flaccus,
who styles them only frivolities and quips.
He is more frivolous who writes of the meal of savage
Tereus, or of thy banquet, dyspeptic Thyestes,
or of Daedalus fitting to his son melting wings,
or of Polyphemus pasturing Sicilian sheep.
Far from poems of mine is all turgescence,
nor does my Muse swell with frenzied tragic train.
"Yet all men praise those tragedies, admire, worship them."
I grant it: those they praise, but they read the others.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

You think my epigrams are silly?
Far worse is bombast uttered shrilly --
Like Tereus baking human pie.
Or Daedal son who tried to fly.
Monster Cyclopes keeping sheep.
My verse is of such nonsense free.
It poses not as tragedy.
But praise for those things does exceed?
Those things men praise -- but mine they read.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

Trust me, Flaccus, anyone who says it's just "ditties" and "jokes"
doesn't know what epigram is.
The real joker is the poet who describes the feast of cruel
Tereus, or the dinner that gave Thyestes indigestion,
or Daedalus strapping melting wings ot his son,
or Polyphemus pasturing his Sicilian sheep.
No puffery gets near my little books;
my Muse doesn't swell and strut in the trailing robe of Tragedy.
"But that stuff gets the applause, the awe, the worship."
I can't deny it: that stuff does get the applause. But my stuff gets read.
[tr. Nisbet (2015)]

Who deem epigrams mere trifles,
     Flaccus, know not epigram.
He trifles who describes the meal
     wild Tereus, rude Thyestes ate,
The Cretan Glider moulting wax,
     the one-eyed shepherd herding sheep.
Foreign to my verse the tragic sock,
     it's turgid, ranting rhetoric.
"Men praise -- esteem -- revere these works."
     True: them they praise ... while reading me.
[tr. Whigham (1987)]

Added on 29-Oct-21 | Last updated 29-Oct-21
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Good news goes unnoticed. This is a well-known property of the press in the free world. Improvements are never dramatic. Life improves slowly and goes wrong fast, and only catastrophe is clearly visible.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
The Pursuit of Simplicity (1980)
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Added on 24-Sep-21 | Last updated 24-Sep-21
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The cat is, above all things, a dramatist; its life is lived in an endless romance, though the drama is played out on quite another stage than our own, and we only enter into it as subordinate characters, as stage managers, or rather stage carpenters.

Margaret Benson (1865-1916) English author and Egyptologist
The Soul of a Cat and Other Stories, “Epilogue,” sec. 2 (1901)
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Added on 13-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Great art is as irrational as great music. It is mad with its own loveliness.

George Jean Nathan (1892-1958) American editor and critic
“Intelligence and Drama,” The American Mercury (Dec 1925)
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Reprinted in House of Satan (1926).
Added on 7-Dec-20 | Last updated 7-Dec-20
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One does not go to the theater to see life and nature; one goes to see the particular way in which life and nature happen to look to a cultivated, imaginative and entertaining man who happens, in turn, to be a playwright.

George Jean Nathan (1892-1958) American editor and critic
The Critic and the Drama, ch. 2 (1922)
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Added on 9-Nov-20 | Last updated 9-Nov-20
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Political campaigns tend to be exercises in progressive degeneration. The steady increase, week after week, in excitement and strain and weariness produces an oversimplification of issues, an over dramatization of alternatives, a growing susceptibility to extreme and catastrophic statements. Candidates find themselves shouting things in the fall that they would never dream of whispering in the summer.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
The Age of Roosevelt, ch. 33, sec. 8 (1960)
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Added on 30-Apr-20 | Last updated 30-Apr-20
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To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Macbeth, Act 5, sc. 5 (1606)
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Added on 1-Jan-19 | Last updated 1-Jan-19
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But because we grew up surrounded by big dramatic story arcs in books and movies, we think our lives are supposed to be filled with huge ups and downs! So people pretend there is drama where there is none.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007) American novelist, journalist
Lecture
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Added on 24-Aug-17 | Last updated 24-Aug-17
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Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing.

Ralph Richardson (1902-1983) English actor
In The New York Herald Tribune (19 May 1946)
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Added on 13-Jun-17 | Last updated 13-Jun-17
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Christopher Columbus discovered the West Indies, and Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. We do not call their achievements creations because they are not personal enough. The West Indies were there all the time; and as for the telephone, we feel that Bell’s ingenious thought was somehow not fundamental. The groundwork was there, and if not Bell then someone else would have stumbled on the telephone almost as accidentally as on the West Indies.

By contrast, we feel that Othello is genuinely a creation. This is not because Othello came out of a clear sky; it did not. There were Elizabethan dramatists before William Shakespeare, and without them he could not have written as he did. Yet within their tradition Othello remains profoundly personal; and though every element in the play has been a theme of other poets, we know that the amalgam of these elements is Shakespeare’s; we feel the presence of his single mind. The Elizabethan drama would have gone on without Shakespeare, but no one else would have written Othello.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
“The Creative Process,” Scientific American (Sep 1958)
Added on 9-Jan-17 | Last updated 9-Jan-17
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I am weary of reading Newspapers. The Times are so full of Events, the whole Drama of the World is such a Tragedy that I am weary of the Spectacle.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Abigail Adams (27 Feb 1793)
Added on 4-Jan-17 | Last updated 4-Jan-17
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I have observed that in comedies the best actor plays the droll, while some scrub rogue is made the fine gentleman or hero. Thus it is in the farce of life. Wise men spend their time in mirth, ’tis only fools who are serious.

Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751) English politician, government official, political philosopher [Lord Bolingbroke]
(Attributed)

Quoted in Gleason's Pictorial (Boston) (3 Dec 1853).
Added on 19-Dec-16 | Last updated 19-Dec-16
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The pleasure arising from an extraordinary agitation of the mind is frequently so great as to stifle humanity; hence arises the entertainment of the common people at executions, and of the better sort at tragedies.

Jean-Antoine Dubois (1765-1848) French Catholic missionary in India [Abbe J. A. Dubois]
(Attributed)
Added on 22-Feb-16 | Last updated 22-Feb-16
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Making a film means, first of all, to tell a story. … What is drama, after all, but life with the dull bits cut out?

Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) English film director
In François Truffaut, Hitchcock, ch. 4 (1968)

Sometimes paraphrased as "Drama is life with the dull bits cut out."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Aug-16
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