A tribute to two of my favourite art forms: literature and musical theatre! If you’ve ever watched Les Mis and found yourself thinking, “you know what this needs? A monologue on the history of the Parisian sewer system”, this is the list for you.
Les Misérables, Victor Hugo (Les Misérables)
At moments, Marius covered his face with his hands, and the vague past tumultuously traversed the twilight which filled his brain. He saw Mabeuf fall again, he heard Gavroche singing beneath the grape, he felt upon his lip the chill of Eponine’s forehead; Enjolras, Courfeyrac, Jean Prouvaire, Combeferre, Bossuet, Grantaire, all his friends, rose up before him, then dissipated. All these beings, dear, sorrowful, valiant, charming or tragical, were they dreams? had they really existed?
The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux (The Phantom of the Opera)
Poor, unhappy Erik! Shall we pity him? Shall we curse him? He asked only to be ‘someone,’ like everybody else. But he was too ugly! And he had to hide his genius or use it to play tricks with, when, with an ordinary face, he would have been one of the most distinguished of mankind! He had a heart that could have held the empire of the world; and in the end had to content himself with a cellar. Surely we must pity the Opera ghost!
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, T.S. Eliot (Cats)
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place – MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire (Wicked)
People always did like to talk, didn’t they? That’s why I call myself a witch now: the Wicked Witch of the West, if you want the full glory of it. As long as people are going to call you a lunatic anyway, why not get the benefit of it? It liberates you from convention.
Goodbye To Berlin, Christopher Isherwood (Cabaret)
‘That girl didn’t like me much, did she?’ she remarked as we were driving off.
‘No, Sally. Not much.’
‘I’m sure I don’t know why … I went out of my way to be nice to her.’
‘If that’s what you call being nice …!’ I laughed, in spite of my vexation.
‘Well, what ought I to have done?’
‘It’s more a question of what you ought not to have done … Haven’t you any small-talk except adultery?’
‘People have got to take me as I am,’ retorted Sally grandly.
Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw (My Fair Lady)
I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.
Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens (Oliver!)
[Oliver] rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said, somewhat alarmed at his own temerity, -
‘Please, sir, I want some more.’
The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds; and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder, the boys with fear.
‘What!’ said the master at length, in a faint voice.
‘Please, sir,’ replied Oliver, ‘I want some more.’
Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare (West Side Story)
When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow – review here (Hamilton)
In speech no less than in writing, Hamilton’s fluency frequently shaded into excess. Hamilton had the most durable pair of lungs in the New York bar and could speak extemporaneously in perfectly formed paragraphs for hours. But it was not always advantageous to have a brain bubbling with ideas. Robert Troup complained that the prolix Hamilton never knew when to stop: “I used to tell him that he was not content with knocking [his opponent] in the head, but that he persisted until he had banished every little insect that buzzed around his ears.”