Sentences from the movie:
from memory and from
Note: These may not be in
the correct chronological order. Some are here simply because they are
funny, and non-native speakers might not understand them without help.
"Letters" relate to discussion questions (below).
A1. Tevye: A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our
little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on
the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking
his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask 'Why do we stay up there if it's so
dangerous?' Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep
our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition! Because of our
traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”
Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as
shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!
2. Tevye: Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many,
many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything: how to
sleep, how to eat... how to work... how to wear clothes. For instance, we
always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that
shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, "How did this tradition
get started?" I'll tell you! [pause] I don't know. But it's a tradition...
and because of our traditions... Every one of us knows who he is and what
God expects him to do.
Men: [singing] Who day and night must scramble for a living, feed a
wife and children, say his daily prayers, and who has the right as master
of the house to have the final word at home? The Papa! The Papa!
Tradition! The Papa! The Papa! Tradition!
Women: Who must know the way to make a proper home, a quiet home, a
kosher home? Who must raise a family and run the home, so Papa's free to
read the Holy Book? The Mama! The Mama! Tradition! The Mama! The Mama!
Sons: [singing] At three I started Hebrew School, at ten I learned a
trade. I hear they've picked a bride for me, I hope she's pretty.
Daughters: [singing] And who does Mama teach to mend and tend and
fix, preparing her to marry whoever Papa picks? The daughters! The
Men: [singing] The Papa!
Women: [singing] The Mama!
Sons: [singing] Sons!
Daughters: [singing] The Daughters!
All: [singing] Tradition!
3. Tevye: And in the circle of our little village, We've always had our
special types. For instance, Yente the matchmaker, Reb Nachum the
beggar... And most important of all, our beloved Rabbi.
Lebisch: Rabbi! May I ask you a question?
Rabbi: Certainly, Lebisch!
Lebisch: Is there a proper blessing... for the Tsar?
Rabbi: A blessing for the Tsar? Of course! May God bless and keep
the Tsar... far away from us!
4. Tevye: Then there are the others in our village. They make a much
bigger circle. We don't bother them, and so far, they don't bother us. And
among ourselves, we always get along perfectly well. [pointing to Itchak
and Avram] Of course, there was the time when he sold him a horse and told
him it was only six years old, when it was really 12. But now, it's all
over, and we live in simple peace and harmony.
Tevye [In Avram's ear]: It was twelve years old.
Itchak: It was six!
Avram: Tevye knows!
[they begin arguing]
5. Mordcha: May the authorities be like onions with their heads in the
6. Mordcha: May the Czar have his own personal plague!
7. Mordcha: Why should I break my head about the outside world? Let the
outside world break its own head! Well put, no?
8. Mordcha: If the rich could hire others to die for them we, the poor,
would all make a nice living.
9. Tevye: And until your golden day comes, Rev. Perchik, How will
Perchik: By giving lessons to children, Do you have any children?
Tevye: I have five daughters.
Perchik: [Looking to Tevye in disbelief] Five?
Perchik: Girls can learn too, girls are .
Mendel: A radical!
Tevye: Oh, go away!
10. Golde: You'll be late.
Tevye: Golde, I won't be late.
Golde: You'll be late.
Tevye: I won't be late! I won't be late! If you ever stop talking, I
won't be late!
11. [about Yente, the matchmaker]
Tzeitel: But Mama, the men she finds. The last one was so old and he
was bald. He had no hair.
Golde: A poor girl without a dowry can't be so particular. You want
hair, marry a monkey.
12. Yente: From such children come other children!
Golde: Motel is nothing! Yente, you said you had news for me...
Yente: Ah, children, they are your blessing in your old age. My poor
Aaron, God rest his soul, couldn't give me children. Between you and me, Golde, he hardly tried.
13. (Talking about the men they love, while their mother is arranging a
match for Tzeitel)
Hodel: [singing] For Papa, make him a scholar!
Chava: [singing] For Mama, make him rich as a king!
Hodel, Chava: For me, well, I wouldn't holler if he were as handsome
Hodel, Chava: Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a
match! Find me a
find, catch me a catch! Night after night in the dark I'm alone, so find
me a match of my own!
14. Hodel: We only have one Rabbi, and he only has one son. Why shouldn't
I want the best?
Tzeitel: Because you're a girl from a poor family. So whatever Yente
brings, you'll take. Right? Of course, right!
[sings, mimicking Yente]
Tzeitel: Hodel! Oh Hodel, have I made a match for you! He's
handsome, he's young! All right, he's sixty-two. But he's a nice man, a
good catch, true? True! I promise you'll be happy, and even if you're not,
there's more to life than that... Don't ask me what.
15. Tzeitel: Chava, I've found him; will you be a lucky bride! He's
handsome, he's tall! That is, from side to side, but he's a nice man, a
good catch, right?
Tzeitel: You heard he has a temper.
Hodel: He'll beat you every night.
Tzeitel: But only when he's sober...
Tzeitel, Hodel: So you're all right!
16. [Tevye admires the lavishness of a butcher's home]
Tevye: And all this from killing innocent animals.
17. Lazar Wolf: How is your brother-in-law in America?
Tevye: Oh, he's doing very well.
Lazar Wolf: Oh, he wrote you?
Tevye: No, not lately.
Lazar Wolf: Then how do you know?
Tevye: If he was doing badly, he would write.
18. (After Tevye gives Lazar permission to marry daughter Tzeitel, who is
much younger than Lazar; he thinks, ‘Well, married to a butcher she will
never be hungry.’)
Lazar Wolf: Have a drink?
Tevye: I won't insult you by saying no.
(Lazar calls him “Papa”)
Tevye: I always wanted a son, but I wanted one a little younger than
19. Men: [singing] And if our good fortune never comes, here's to
All: To life, to life, L'Chaim!
20. Constable: You're an honest, decent person. Even though you are a
Tevye: Oh... THANK you, your honor. How often does a man get a
compliment like that?
21. Tevye: Thank you, your honor. You are a good man. If I may say so,
it's too bad you're not a Jew.
Constable: [laughs] That's what I like about you, Tevye. You're
22. (When Motel asks Tevye for permission to marry daughter Tzeitel)
Motel: Times are changing, Reb Tevye. The thing is, over a year ago,
your daughter, Tzeitel, and I gave each other our pledge that we would
Tevye: You gave each other a... pledge? They gave each other a
pledge? Unheard of. Absurd.
Tzeitel: Yes, Papa. We gave each other our
Tevye: But you are just a poor tailor!
Motel: That's true, Reb Tevye, but even a poor tailor is entitled to
23. (The Papa pretends to have a dream, to convince his wife that “the
ancestors” want Tzeitel to marry Motel instead of Lazor.)
Tevye: In the middle of the dream, in walks your grandmother Tzeitel,
may she rest in peace.
Golde: Grandmother Tzeitel? How did she look?
Tevye: Well, for a woman who's dead 30 years, she looked very good…
Fruma Sarah (Lazor’s dead wife; also in the dream): How could you
allow it? How? How could you let your daughter take my place? Live in my
house, carry my keys, and wear my clothes, pearls?
Ghosts: [singing] How could you allow your daughter to take her
Fruma Sarah: Pearls!
Fruma Sarah: Pearls!
Fruma Sarah: Pearls!
Fruma Sarah: Peeeeeearls!
24. Tevye: [singing] Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the
little boy at play?
Golde: [singing] I don't remember growing older. When did they?
25. Perchik: [sings] They look so natural together.
Hodel: [sings] Just like two newlyweds should be.
Perchik, Hodel: [singing] Is there a canopy in store for me?
All: [singing] Sunrise, sunset; sunrise, sunset; swiftly fly the
years... one season following another, laden with happiness and tears.
26. [Hodel and Perchik begin dancing at Tzeitel’s wedding]
Mendel: She's dancing with a man!
Tevye: I can SEE that she's dancing with a man! [pause] And I'm
going to dance with my wife!
C27. the police officer (after his men destroyed things): “Orders are
28. Tevye (papa) likes to quote the Bible, but he
doesn’t always remember the quotes correctly, or mixes “common wisdom”
with actual scriptures. Here are some examples:
29. Tevye: As the good book says, if you spit in the air, it lands in your
30. Tevye: As the Good Book says, when a poor man eats a chicken, one of
them is sick.
31. Where does the Book say that?
32. Tevye: Well, it doesn't say that exactly, but somewhere there
is something about a chicken.
33. Tevye: As Abraham said, "I am a stranger in a strange land... "
Mendel: Moses said that.
Tevye: Ah. Well, as King David said, "I am slow of speech, and slow
Mendel: That was also Moses.
Tevye: For a man who was slow of tongue, he talked a lot.
34. Perchik: I'm a very good teacher.
Hodel: I heard that the Rabbi who must praise himself has a
congregation of one.
Perchik: Your daughter has a quick and witty tongue.
Tevye: Yes, the wit she gets from me, as the Good Book says...
Golde: The Good Book can wait, it's time for Sabbath.
Tevye (quietly to Perchik): …the tongue she gets from her mother.
35. Perchik: In this world it is the rich who are the criminals. Someday
their wealth will be ours.
Tevye: That would be nice. If they would agree, I would agree.
36. Perchik: Money is the world's curse.
Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover.
37. Perchik: You'll all chatter yourselves away into the grave.
38. Tevye (papa) is often “looking up” and
talking to God. Examples:
38a. Tevye: [to God] I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But,
once in a while, can't You choose someone else?
38b. Tevye: [to God] Sometimes I think, when it gets too quiet up there,
You say to Yourself, "What kind of mischief can I play on My friend Tevye?"
38c. Tevye: [to God] It may sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not. After
all, with Your help, I'm starving to death.
38d. Tevye: [to God] Anyway, Motel and Tzeitel have been married for some
time now. They work very hard, and they're as poor as squirrels in winter.
But, they're so happy, they don't know how miserable they are.
38e. Tevye: [to God] As the Good Book says… [he chuckles] Why should I tell
You what the Good Book says?
C39. Perchik: There's a question... A certain question I want to discuss
Perchik: It's a political question.
Hodel: What is it?
Perchik: The question of... marriage.
Hodel: Is this a political question?
Perchik: Well, yes. Yes, everything's political. Like everything
else, the relationship between a man and a woman has a socioeconomic base.
Marriage must be founded on mutual beliefs. A common attitude and
philosophy towards society...
Hodel: And affection?
Perchik: Well, yes, of course. That is also necessary. Such a
relationship can have positive social values. When two people face the
world with unity and solidarity...
Hodel: And affection?
Perchik: Yes, that is an important element! At any rate, I
personally am in favor of such a socioeconomic relationship.
Hodel: I think... you are asking me to marry you.
Perchik: Well... in a theoretical sense... yes. I am.
Hodel: I was hoping you were.
Perchik: Oh, Hodel. I’m very, very happy!
(continued in other column)