Top Ten Tuesday: Memorable Things Characters Have Said

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

This week’s topic takes us by the hand and leads us to characters’ memorable quotations – and as an English teacher we do love our quotations! And for me this is a chance to geek out with a few of my favourite classic texts.

Hamlet, Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Hamlet – both the play and the character are extraordinary. The ghost on the battlements. The exploration of Hamlet’s mental anguish. The depiction of a corrupt state.

Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me, it is a prison.

I have heard of your paintings too, well enough. God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

O most pernicious woman! O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain! My tables—meet it is I set it down That one may smile and smile and be a villain.

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving How express and admirable; in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

And of course you cannot delve into Hamlet and look for quotations without the To be or not to be speech. It is glorious in its beauty and its indecision and combination of philosophy and

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Satan, Paradise Lost, John Milton

Another extraordinary text – the sheer melliflousness of Milton’s verse and his flowing latinate lexis are simply beautiful. And combined with that there is the character of Satan, who is a – perhaps inadvertently – invested with heroic grandeur and a palpable psychological reality. Indomitable. Vulnerable. Broken.

Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven

Awake, arise, or be for ever fall’n.

Receive thy new possessor–one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.

Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven.

Arthur Parnassus, The House in the Cerulean Sea, T J Klune

And finally, bringing things up to date with a nimble leap over four centuries, and because I am reading Klune’s latest Under The Whispering Door at the moment which has – as well as a wonderfully A Christmas Carol-ish vibe at the moment – a genuinely laugh-out-loud first chapter and wonderful characters

Your voice is a weapon. Never forget that.

The things we fear the most are often the things we should fear the least. It’s irrational, but it’s what makes us human. And if we’re able to conquer those fears, then there is nothing we’re not capable of.

The world is a weird and wonderful place. Why must we try and explain it all away? For our personal satisfaction?

Sometimes … our prejudices color our thoughts when we least expect them to. If we can recognize that, and learn from it, we can become better people.

Harrowhawk Nongesimus and Gideon Nav, Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

I know this is cheating but the banter between these two was delightful!

“Harrow said, with some difficulty: “I cannot conceive of a universe without you in it.”

“Yes you can, it’s just less great and less hot,” said Gideon.”

“Fuck you, Nav—”

“I need you to trust me.”

“I need you to be trustworthy.”

“I must no longer accept,” she said slowly, “being a stranger to you.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” said Gideon, sudden sweat prickling the back of her neck, “yes you can, you once told me to dig myself an ice grave. Stop before this gets weird.”

You are my only friend. I am undone without you.”

“Too many words,” said Gideon confidentially. “How about these: One flesh, one end, bitch.”

So a lovely fun topic – and a reminder that the profound, the relevant, the poignant and the beautiful can be found in all literature and all books, whether they have been categorised as literary of genre fiction, adult or young adult, classic or contemporary. There were oh so many more books I could have quoted from for this that I am sure I will lament when I catch up on your lists…

Happy TTT!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

  • November 16: Books to Read If You Love/Loved X (X can be a genre, specific book, author, movie/TV show, etc.)
  • November 23: Characters I’d Love An Update On (Where are they now that the book is over?)
  • November 30: Bookish Memories (Share stories of your reading life as a child, events you’ve gone to, books that made an impression on you, noteworthy experiences with books, authors you’ve met, etc. Reminisce with me!)

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