Monday, January 14, 2008

What a piece of work is 'Pan'

I was searching through the Dawn Patrol archives and happened across a list I made more than three years ago, counting down my five favorite bits of dialogue from J.M. Barrie's play "Peter Pan," which is in turn one of my favorite works of literature. I like Barrie largely for his humor and his insights into human nature.

The list starts with an exchange between two Lost Boys:

5. CURLY: Let us carry her down into the house.

SLIGHTLY: Ay, that is what one does with ladies.

4. WENDY: Oh, Peter, how I wish I could take you up and squdge you! [He draws back] Yes, I know.

3. WENDY [knowing she ought not to probe but driven by something within]: What are your exact feelings for me, Peter?

PETER [in the class-room]: Those of a devoted son, Wendy.

WENDY [turning away]: I thought so.

PETER: You are so puzzling. Tiger Lily is just the same; there is something or other she wants to be to me, but she says it is not my mother.

2. HOOK: Most of all I want their captain, Peter Pan. 'Twas he cut off my arm. I have waited long to shake his hand with this. [Luxuriating] Oh, I'll tear him!

SMEE [always ready for a chat]: Yet I have oft heard you say your hook was worth a score of hands, for combing the hair and other homely uses.

HOOK: If I was a mother I would pray to have my children born with this instead of that.

...And my Number One favorite "Peter Pan" quote, from a Lost Boy (which would be tragic, except that Wendy turns out to be unharmed)—

1. TOOTLES [gulping]: I did it. When ladies used to come to me in dreams I said 'Pretty mother,' but when she really came I shot her!