Thursday, August 05, 2010

Best Ending Lines?

Ok, best opening lines was fun, now let’s do best ending.  I don’t think I’ll stick with “ending line”, that might be a bit tricky to pull off.  Might not always work as just a single line, in other words.
Here’s the rules :

  • Must be the actual ending.  Work backwards from the definite end of the play.  You can take as much of the last scene as you want, but it has to include the actual end.  So, in other words, I can’t have the big fight scene in Macbeth, I’d be restricted to Malcolm’s final speech, which isn’t nearly as interesting.
  • “Best”, for the purposes of this game, has more to do with particularly memorable or poetic aspects of the actual words.  Not because the scene was particularly cool.
Romeo and Juliet’s got a good contender with the Prince’s line, “For never was a story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
Puck, of course, knocks it out of the park for Midsummer.  His whole closing speech, from “If we shadows have offended” all the way through to “Robin shall restore amends” is note perfect.
I think this category is interesting because it brings up those opportunities where we think Shakespeare should have ended, but didn’t.  The obvious case there being Hamlet, where “The rest is silence” has been the closing line for many a film version, but in the script Shakespeare has Horatio and Fortinbras go on for a few dozen more lines.

UPDATE: Did everybody see this? picked up a story that Gunaxin did on 20 best closing lines - days after we decided to do it :).  I wish I could figure out how to get some of that Digg traffic, I'm tellin ya!


Cross said...

Are we counting epilogues? If not, I'd have to go with Feste's song at the end of Twelfth Night... if so, probably the song still, but it's a close call between that and Tempest's. As You Like It's is interesting, but I don't know if I'd call it one of the "best".

JM said...

Actually, I like Fortinbras' final lines for a number of reasons, and strongly disagree with those who have cut them. I think they bring important closure to the play. "The rest is silence" only for Hamlet; not for the world, for those who live on, and not for the audience. Fortinbras also reminds us, impartially, of what Hamlet might have been were it not for the slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)-fortune. In addition, I think they're some pretty good lines on their own:

Let four Captains
Beare Hamlet like a Soldier to the Stage,
For he was likely, had he been put on,
To have prov'd most royally:
And for his passage,
The Soldiers Musicke, and the rites of Warre
Speake lowdly for him.
Take up the body; such a sight as this
Becomes the Field, but here shows much amiss.
Go, bid the Soldiers shoot.

Ed said...

One that stays with me is the Chorus's ironic, deflating,jaded final speech in Henry V.

And I also like Fortinbras' pronouncement at the end of Hamlet (Often cut because he is), which like the finale of HV,is a bit of a eulogy as well as the first command of a ambitious king, reminiscent of the first commands of another ambitious king in Act One...

Duane said...

While I like the Hamlet ending for the big picture, I just don't think it's the ending that leaves the audience's jaw dropped like some of the others might. Maybe I'm not giving enough credit to the audience, but I assume that Fortinbras is a complete stranger to them when he walks on stage, and how can you pay real attention to what a random guy in the last scene says? You're too busy wondering "Wait, now who is this?" I realize that Hamlet basically says "Oh, that's Fortinbras coming" but who knows if the audience really has time to get what's going on at that point.

Cross said...

Fortinbras aside, I just don't think "The rest is silence" is a good ending. It's just too sudden - the play began without him, it should end without him as well. It gives a better scope to the story, I think.

Ed said...

I see your point re Fortinbras, Duane. And I do wonder how often he is cut, and whether the Branagh movie has inspired directors to use him more often. Rufus Sewell was a particularly creepy Fortinbras.

I've seen it done with Horatio (Fortinbras was excised) given the final lines:
"Now cracks a noble heart.Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

Monica said...

Tennant's recent hamlet ends on Horatio's line leaving Fortinbras off screen about to enter. After discussing this with my fiance (who is a History grad student and sees things in a different light), we very much enjoyed that ending. I liked it because of the tightness of that final scene. Horatio rushes in to grab the falling/dying Hamlet and the two of them fill the shot. Horatio reaches across Hamlet for the poisoned cup, rather than away from him. and they fight over the cup and it gets thrown off screen all while the camera remains transfixed on them until hamlets death and Horatio's lines. It is only after his lines that the camera shot pulls out to reveal the all of the carnage of the room and that is when my fiance pointed out that Fortinbras had become irrelevant. Because for my fiance, the point of Fortinbras' entrance in that final scene is to catalog and observe the carnage and receive Horatio's verbal history. But with the use of security cameras throughout the movie, the visual record is preserved. Indeed that final shot, though it doesn't look through the camera lens that has been shown us many times throughout the movie. It is a view of the carnage from above the room. This is reminiscent of the security cameras earlier in the film. It was an interesting choice with interesting consequences for the aftermath of the film, though not as pointed as Branagh's Hamlet being carried christlike from the room by Fortinbras' men.

JM said...

In the Folio he has a scene of eight lines with the Captain after Claudius sends Ros. & Guild. after Hamlet. Immediately following that (in Quarto 2) Hamlet enters and speaks with the Captain (about Fortinbras) as he observes Fortinbras' army march before him. Then follows the wonderful soliloquy (most times included in anyone's "edit" anyway) "How all Occasions do inform against me.
So In Shakespeare's play, the end is not the first time Fortinbras is seen. We've become so used to indiscriminate editing that it now seems like an afterthought or out of place for him to "suddenly appear" at the end of the play. Olivier, with some editing, gave most of the lines at play's end to Horatio. At least they were included.
I believe them to be there for a reason. I even found a way to include both Fort. and his lines in a two hour version (and Reynaldo as well!). Apparently, S. had a reason for the lines and characters. To simply dismiss them as so much superfluity, as so many so-called editors have done, is to dismiss Shakespeare. After all, it's his play. This is how HE chose to end it.
But there are always those who would do him one better, I suppose. One would think that with all the genius floating around they'd be writing their own plays instead of "improving upon" Shakespeare's.

Anonymous said...

No love for Edgar? Gives me chills each time.

Duane said...

Edgar who? In King Lear, Kent and Albany have the last lines:

I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls me, I must not say no.


The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

catkins said...

Othello!!! Especially as you have defined it, Duane. Give me the last 32 lines. I can't resist. Here they are. I can never hold back tears.

Soft you; a word or two before you go:
I have done the state some service, and they know't:
No more of that. I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me, as I am. Nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak,
Of one that loved not wisely, but too well:
Of one, not easily jealous, but being wrought,
Perplex'd in the extreme: Of one, whose hand
(Like the base Indian) threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe: Of one, whose subdued eyes,
Albeit unused to the melting mood,
Drops tears as fast as the Arabian trees
Their medicinable gum. Set you down this:
And say besides, that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant, and a turban'd Turk
Beat a Venetian, and traduced the state,
I took by the throat the circumcised dog,
And smote him, thus.
Stabs himself
O bloody period.
All that's spoke, is marr'd.
I kiss'd thee, ere I kill'd thee: No way but this,
Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.
This did I fear, but thought he had no weapon:
For he was great of heart.
[To IAGO] O Spartan dog:
More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea:
Look on the tragic loading of this bed:
This is thy work: the object poisons sight,
Let it be hid. Gratiano, keep the house,
And seize upon the fortunes of the Moor,
For they succeed on you. To you, Lord Governor,
Remains the censure of this hellish villain:
The time, the place, the torture, oh enforce it:
Myself will straight aboard, and to the state,
This heavy act, with heavy heart relate.