Sarah Kane quotations





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Last in a long line of literary kleptomaniacs (a time honoured tradition)

Quotations used by Kane.  The page numbers refer to the Complete Plays.  Updates and queries are welcome. Also see the glossary.



He puts his mouth over one of Ian's eyes, sucks it out, bites it off and eats it
This is based on the true life account Among the Thugs by Bill Buford. "In the fight that ensued, Harry wrestled one of the policemen to the ground, lifted him up by the chest an then head-butted him- inflicting a hair-line crack across the forehead... he grabbed the policeman by his ears, lifted his head up to his own face and sucked on one of the policeman's eyes, lifting it out of the socket until he felt it pop behind his teeth.  Then he bit it off" (Blasted p50).

Phaedra's Love

a spear in my side
The bible, John 19:34 "But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side" (Phaedra's Love p69).
I was born into this shit
"Born into the family of God" is often used by born-again Christians (Phaedra's Love p77).
love never dies
The bible, Corinthians 13 modern translations (Phaedra's Love p92).
the nature of the sin
The bible, Romans 8:5 "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires" (Phaedra's Love p95).
God is merciful
The bible, Daniel 9:9 "The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him" (Phaedra's Love p95).
Lord, look down
The bible Psalm 80:14 and  Lutheran Hymn "O Lord, look down from heaven, behold And let Thy pity waken: How few are we within Thy Fold, Thy saints by men forsaken! True faith seems quenched on every hand, Men suffer not Thy Word to stand; Dark times have us o'ertaken." (Phaedra's Love p95).
heaven would be empty
proverb: "if god did not forgive, heaven would be empty" (Phaedra's Love p96).


The title is based on Aristotle who talked of theatre cleansing the audience of unwelcome emotions.
And the rats eat my face
Compare with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, where Winston is threatened with a rat against his face. "Have you seen a rat leap through the air?  They will leap onto your face and bore straight into it" He gives into the torture and betrays Julia (Cleansed 117).
Not me   please not me   don't kill me   Rod not me   don't kill me  ROD NOT ME   ROD NOT ME
Compare with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four "Do it to Julia!  Do it to Julia!  Not me!  Julia! I don't care what you do to her.  Tear her face off, strip her to the bones.  Not me!  Julia!  Not me!" (Cleansed 117).
Out of the ground grow daffodils... Tinker enters, he sees Grace
"blossoms and flowers indicate women's genitals, or, in particular, virginity" from Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Symbolism of Dreams, by Sigmund Freud.  Also compare with Strindberg's A Dream Play "the bud on the roof bursts open into a giant chrysanthemum" (Cleansed 133).
Love me or kill me
This is from 'Tis Pity She's a Whore by John Ford, 1633.  Act I scene 3 "Do not betray me to your mirth or hate/ Love me, or kill me, brother... Do not betray me to your mirth or hate/ Love me, or kill me, sister".  The play is about an incestuous relationship between brother and sister (Cleansed 135).
Eat it...
"sweets frequently represent sexual enjoyment" from Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Symbolism of Dreams, p192 by Sigmund Freud (Cleansed 139-140).


A voice in the desert
The bible, Matthew (Crave p155).
he who comes after
The bible, John 1:27 "It is he, who coming after me is preferred before me" (thanks to houdini from the site forum for the update)
(Crave p155).
There is something in the way
Two suggestions:
- a reference to Nirvana's song Something in the Way, included in the 1991 album Nevermind (thanks to Houdini from the site forum).
- a reference to the Beatles song Something ("Something in the way she moves").  Unlikely but possible- Kane did use The Beatles in Cleansed (thanks to Alan from the site forum).
(Crave p155).
to die/ to sleep/ no more
Shakespeare's Hamlet Act III Scene 1.  Hamlet is contemplating suicide (Crave p158).
you're never as powerful as when you know you're powerless
used in born-again Christianity describing the route to the love of Jesus (Crave p159).
we pass these messages
a reference to reincarnation, with the one life influencing the next (Crave p158).
have another drink, another cigarette
compare with the Fleetwood Mac song Homeward Bound "Well it all seems the same when you've done it before/ There's no difference in the style/ There's no end in sight or my own front door/ I'll be a stay-at-home for a while/ So I'll have another drink and a cigarette/ Just to console myself some how/ It's not too bad if you can forget/ I've just got to find a way somehow" (Crave p160).
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, section II "A Game of Chess".  Kane uses capitals as does Eliot. (Crave p162).
this has to stop
compare with Roland Barthes A Loverīs Discourse "The sentiment of an accumulation of amorous sufferings explodes in this cry: This canīt go on" (Crave p170).
I have a bad bad feeling about this bad bad feeling
Star Wars trilogy (Crave p171).
One fine morning in the month of May
In Camusī novel The Plague a character keeps rewriting this sentence as the start of a novel (Crave p171).
No that's not it
T.S. Eliot The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (Crave p173 also p182).
only love can save me
song by Crystal Gayle "I'm out of control when you hold me close/ What'll I do if you let me go/ I'm over the edge and there ain't no doubt/ Only love can save me now" (Crave p174).
angel divine
possibly a reference to the song In Arms of Sleep by The Smashing Pumpkins "she comes to me like an angel out of time/ as I play the part of a saint on my knees/ there are some things I'll live without/ but I want you to know that I need you right now/ suffer my desire suffer my desire/ suffer my desire for you" (Crave p176).
his eyes were so blue and full of the sun
Osborneīs Look Back in Anger (Faber edition, page 44)- Alison says "His eyes were so blue and full of the sun" when referring to how she saw Jimmy in the past.  Thanks to Greta  from the discussion board for spotting the quote (Crave p176).
I crossed two rivers and wept by one
compare with "by the waters of Leman I sat down and wept" The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, section III "The Fire Sermon" (Crave p179).
the scream of a daffodil
compare with The Doors The scream of the butterfly (Crave p179).
a Vietnamese girl...
this refers to the famous photo by Nick Ut of a girl, Kim Phuc, covered in burning Napalm running in pain and terror (Crave 180).
a bubble of despair
a poem hate blows a bubble of despair into by e.e. cummings "hate blows a bubble of despair into/ hugeness world system universe and bang/.../ pleasure and pain are merely surfaces/ (one itself showing, itself hiding one)/ life's only and true value neither is/ love makes the little thickness of the coin/ comes here a man would have from madame death/ nevertheless now and without winter spring?/..." (Crave 181).
never keep souvenirs of a murder
translated title of a film Sincronica by Anne de Manicor (Crave p181).
a third person in my bed who's face eludes me
compare with The Waste Land "Who is that third who walks always beside you?... I do not know whether a man or a woman/ but who is that on the other side of you" (Crave p182).
nothing to be done
a repeated line in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.  Thanks to deadangel  from the discussion board for spotting the quote (Crave p182).
two women at the foot of the cross
The bible, John 19:25.  Mary Magdalene and the mother of Jesus were at the cross during the crucifixion (Crave 188).
thou shalt not kill thyself
based on the bible's ten commandments, changing murder (kill) to suicide (kill thyself) (Crave 188).
let the day perish in which I was born
The bible, Job 3:3. (Crave 189).
Let the stars of its dawn be dark/ May it not see the eyelids of the morning/ Because it did not shut the doors of my mother's womb
The bible, Job 41:18. Modern translations "Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none; may it not see the eyelids of the morning because it did not shut the doors of my mother's womb, and hide trouble from my eyes." (Crave 189). 
No that's not it/ No not at all/ That is not what I meant at all
T.S. Eliot The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (Crave p192).
why did I not die at birth/ come forth from the womb/ and die at birth
The bible, Job 3:11 (Crave p193).
red rock of ages
rock of ages is a religious hymn.  "While I draw this fleeting breath/ When mine eyes shall close in death/ When I soar to worlds unknown/ See Thee on Thy judgment throne/ Rock of Ages, cleft for me/ Let me hide myself in Thee".
red rock  refers to "there is shadow under this red rock" from  The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, section I "The Burial of the Dead" (Crave p193).
the mark of Cain
The bible, Genesis 4:15 "And the Lord said unto him/ therefore whosoever slayeth Cain/ vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold/ And the Lord set a mark upon Cain/ lest any finding him should kill him"  (Crave p195).
in den bergen, da fuhlst du dich frei
German: It appears in English in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land as "in the mountains, there you feel free".  Sarah Kane's translation to German is a literary joke, just as some of the notes T.S. Eliot provided are (Crave p196).
Glory be to the Father... As it was in the beginning... and ever shall be
a Christian hymn: "Glory be to the Father/ and to the Son/ and to the Holy Spirit/ As it was in the beginning/ is now/ and ever shall be/ world without end/ Amen." (Crave p197, 200).
into the light
from The Tibetan Book of the Dead.  When confronted with the light, if we can move into the light and accept it, birth and death become irrelevant (Crave p197 and p200).
deliver my soul from the sword
the bible: Psalms 22:20 (Crave p198).
which passeth all understanding
the bible: Philippians IV "the peace of God/ which passeth all understanding".  The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot ends with the eastern scripture which translates as "the peace which passeth all understanding" (Crave p198).
do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law
from The Book of Law by devil worshipper Aleister Crowley (Crave p199).
love is the law, love under will
from The Book of Law by devil worshipper Aleister Crowley (Crave p199).
Satan, my lord
from Magick in Theory and Practice by devil worshipper Aleister Crowley (Crave p199).
world without end... and ever shall be
Christian hymn"Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit/ as it was in the beginning/ is now and ever shall be/ world without end" (Crave p197, 200).

4.48 Psychosis

remember the light and believe the light/ an instant of clarity before eternal night
from The Tibetan Book of the Dead.  When confronted with the light, if we can move into the light and accept it, birth and death become irrelevant (4.48 Psychosis p206, also Crave above).  This echoes Aslan in the Silver Chair (C.S. Lewis) 'Remember the signs and believe the signs' command. That links into the allusion to Prince Rilian who is enchanted except for one hour a day when he is in his right mind but people think he is mad. Compare with engine of sorcery below.  Thanks to site visitor alicelouise for the C.S. Lewis reference.
the sword in my dreams
"sharp weapons of every kind... knives, daggers, spears, sabres... represent the characteristic of penetrating or injuring the body" from Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Symbolism of Dreams, by Sigmund Freud (4.48 Psychosis p213).
the dust of my thoughts
perhaps a reference to Sir Walter Raleigh's letter to his wife, written just before he expected to die "You shall now receive (my dear wife) my last words in these my last lines. My love I send you that you may keep it when I am dead, and my council that you may remember it when I am no more. I would not by my will present you with sorrows (dear Besse) let them go to the grave with me and be buried in the dust." (4.48 Psychosis p213).
My love, my love why have you forsaken me
The bible, Matthew 27:46 "My god, my god, why have you forsaken me"  (4.48 Psychosis p219).
drowning in a sea of logic/ this monstrous state of palsy
compare the bible, Matthew 9 "And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came to his own city.  And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.  And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?" (4.48 Psychosis p223).
sleep with a dog and rise full of fleas
Italian proverb (4.48 Psychosis p225).
spirits of sight
La Vita Nuova, XI, Dante translated from the Italian by Mark Musa "when she was about to greet me, one of Love's spirits, annihilating all others of the senses, would drive out the feeble spirits of sight saying 'Go and pay homage to your mistress,' and Love would take their place " (4.48 Psychosis p225).
it shall come to pass
The bible, Zechariah 14:6 "it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark" (4.48 Psychosis p228).
gird yourselves, for ye shall be broken in pieces
The bible, Isaiah 8:9 (4.48 Psychosis p228).
behold the light of despair/ the glare of anguish/ and ye shall be driven to darkness
The bible, Isaiah 8:22 "and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness." (4.48 Psychosis p228).
if there be blasting
The bible, Chronicles 6:28 "If there be dearth in the land, if there be pestilence, if there be blasting, or mildew, locusts, or caterpillars; if their enemies besiege them in the cities of their land; whatsoever sore or whatsoever sickness there be." (4.48 Psychosis p228).
shouted from the rooftops
The bible, Matthew 10:26 "Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (4.48 Psychosis p228).
a scall on my skin
The bible, Leviticus 13:34 "And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the scall: and, behold, if the scall be not spread in the skin, nor be in sight deeper than the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean" (4.48 Psychosis p228).
my noisome breath
Goetia, Astaroth 29 "The Twenty-ninth Spirit is Astaroth. He is a Mighty, Strong Duke, and appeareth in the Form of an hurtful Angel riding on an Infernal Beast like a Dragon, and carrying in his right hand a Viper. Thou must in no wise let him approach too near unto thee, lest he do thee damage by his Noisome Breath" (4.48 Psychosis p228).
The bible, Psalms 35:15 "But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not" (4.48 Psychosis p229).
let us reason together
The bible, Isaiah 1:18 (4.48 Psychosis p229).
burn incense unto Baal
The bible, Jeremiah 11:13 "ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal" (4.48 Psychosis p229).
the mountain of the Lord's house
The bible, Isaiah 2:2 "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it" (4.48 Psychosis p229).
engine of sorcery
"Lie there, vile engine of sorcery," he said, "lest your mistress should ever use you for another victim".  C.S. Lewis The Silver Chair, Chapter 11  (4.48 Psychosis p229).  Compare with remember the light above.
dancing on glass
Motley Crue song Dancing on Glass "I've been thru hell/ and I'm never goin' back/ to dancing on glass".  Site visitor Stefano adds "there is a song by The Creatures (from the album Feast, 1983) with the same title which might be prior to the Motley Crue one. Besides, I remember in Conradīs story Typhoon the anecdotal tale about a former sailor working at the coal furnace who lost a bet: he bet he would not cut his feet if jumping on broken glasses, but it was some 5 years he stopped his work, hence he cut his feet, not anymore hardened by the coal heat. " (4.48 Psychosis p230).
as deep as forever
possibly song Wife by Toyah "Big big tears/ By the bright blue sea/ As deep as forever/...This is a comedy in three acts/...Sweat drips off my brow/ I know my lines, my moves/ My place in life/ And it's ticking away/ I'm not going on tonight/ That insecure feeling/ A void of nothing-ness/ I'm dripping away" (4.48 Psychosis p239).
the chicken's still dancing/ the chicken won't stop
the quote is from the Herzog film Stroszek.  It was the last film seen by Joy Division singer Ian Curtis before he committed suicide.  As a tribute the words are scratched into the vinyl of the posthumously released LP (from Stephen on site discussion page). (4.48 Psychosis p243).


one day some trainspotter may feel impelled to write a thesis on the number of lines in her plays that are actually borrowed from the works of Joy Division, the Pixies, Ben Harper, Radiohead, Polly Harvey, the Tindersticks, even Elvis Presley. Her theatrical gods were Beckett, Pinter, Bond, Potter, but she wrote directly from her own experience and from her heart

James MacDonald



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