Theater Quotes
for Contemplation

As the actors of our stages get their masks and their costumes, robes of state or rags, so a soul is allotted its fortunes, and not at haphazard but always under a Reason: it adapts itself to the fortunes assigned to it, attunes itself, ranges itself rightly to the drama, to the whole principle of the piece; then it speaks out its business, exhibiting at the same time all that a soul can express of its own quality, as a singer in a song... Just so the soul, entering the drama of the universe, making itself a part of the play, bringing to its acting its personal excellence or defect, receives in the end its punishment or reward. But these actors, souls, old a peculiar dignity; they act in a vaster place than any stage; the Author has made them masters of all this world; they themselves determine the honor or discredit in which they are agents, since their place and part are in keeping with their quality; they therefore fit into the Reason of the universe, each adjusted to the appropriate environment, as every string (of the lyre) is set in the precisely right position for the due production of tones within its capacity. All is just and good in a universe in which every actor is set in his own appropriate place, though it be to utter in darkness... The universe is good when everyone throws his own voice towards a total harmony, singing out a life— thin, harsh, imperfect though it be. The harmony is made of tones unequal, differing, but together they form the perfect consonance.
— Plotinus (204-270)
The Enneads, III.17

Is it not a noble farce, where kings, republics, and emperors have for so many ages played their parts, and to which the whole vast universe serves for a theatre?
— Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
Essays, II.36 Of the Most Excellent Man

The wide and universal theatre...
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players
They have their exits and their entrances
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
— Shakespeare (1564-1616)
As You Like It,II.7.137

The world's a theatre, the earth a stage, Which God and Nature do with actors fill.         — Thomas Heywood (d. 1650)
             Apology for Actors (1612)

At the Teatro San Luca yesterday I saw an improvised comedy played in masks with great bravura. The actors were, of course, unequal... We were entertained for more than three hours with one incredible situation after the other. But once again, the basis of everything is the common people; the spectators in the play and the crowd becomes part of the theatre. During the daytime, squares, canals, gondolas and palazzi are full of life as the buyer and the seller, the beggar and the boatman, the housewife and the lawyer offer something for sale, sing and gamble, shout and swear. In the evening these same people go to the theatre to behold their actual life, presented with greater economy as


make-believe interwoven with fairy stories and removed from reality by masks, yet, in its characters and manners, the life they know. They are delighted, like children, shouting, clapping and generally making a din. From sunset to sunset, from midnight to midnight, they are just the same. Indeed, I never saw more natural acting than that of these masked players, an a which can only be achieved by an extraordinarily happy nature and long practice.
— Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Italian Journey, Venice, Oct. 4, 1786

The theatre, like the fresco, is art fitted to its place. And therefore it is above all else the human art, the living art.
— Roman Rolland (1866-1944)
Jean Christophe, Book III,
“Love & Friendship”

Simpler, easier, higher, happier—these words should be inscribed on the front of every theatre— the temple of art. Only love of art and everything sublime and beautiful that lives in the heart of every man, only that should be brought into a theatre by everyone entering it and poured out from every man as from a pail of pure water, a thousand of which will today wash off the dirt from the whole building, if it had yesterday been contaminated by the passions and intrigues of men. Those who found a studio or a theatre ought first of all to pay the greatest possible attention to the atmosphere that prevails in. Great care must particularly be taken to make sure that fear in whatever shape or form does not find its way into a studio and dominate the minds of those who either run it or study in it, and that the hearts of everybody there should be inspired and united only by beauty. Without the idea of union in beauty no theatre can exist, nor indeed would such a theatre serve any purpose.
— Konstantin Stanislavsky (1863-1938)
The Art of the Stage, II.95

It is through you, actors, that the forces which are understood by millions and that tell of everything that is beautiful on earth, find expression. The forces which reveal to people the happiness of living in a widened consciousness and in the joy of creative work for the whole world. You, the actors of a theatre, which is one of the centres of human culture, will never be understood by the people if you are unable to reflect the spiritual needs of your time, the now in which you are living.
— Konstantin Stanislavsky (1863-1938)
The Art of the Stage, XXIV.226

Fate has written a tragedy; its name is
The Human Heart.
The Theatre is the House of Life,
Woman the mummer's part;
The Devil enters the prompter's box
and the play is ready to start.
— Robert Service (1874-1958)
The Harpy, Stanza 12

Before our eyes is fought a battle of symbols... for there can be theatre only from the moment when the impossible really begins and when the poetry that occurs on the stage sustains and superheats the realized symbols.
— Antonin Artaud (1895-1948)
The Theatre and Its Double

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (2-11-1999)