40 Vivid Quotes by Tennessee Williams

Last updated on Apr 12th, 2024

40 Vivid Quotes by Tennessee Williams

Thomas Lanier Williams (born March 26, 1911, Columbus, Mississippi, U.S. – died February 25, 1983, New York, New York, U.S.), known as Tennessee Williams, was an American playwright and one of the most prominent dramatists of the 20th century.

His notable works include plays such as The Glass Menagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), and The Night of the Iguana (1961).

Key Takeaways

  • Williams won two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama, one for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and another for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955.
  • In addition to plays, Williams also wrote two novels, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1950) and Moise and the World of Reason (1975), short stories, poetry, essays, and an autobiography, Memoirs (1975).
  • Many of his acclaimed works have numerous adaptations for film.
  • The American Theater Hall of Fame inducted Williams in 1979, four years before his death.

Here are the 40 best Tennessee Williams quotes on life, love, people, and more.

Table of Contents
  1. Best Tennessee Williams Quotes
  2. Tennessee Williams Quotes about Life
  3. Tennessee Williams Quotes on People
  4. Tennessee Williams Quotes about Freedom and Loneliness
  5. Misattributed

Best Tennessee Williams Quotes

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. - Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire Quotes)
1

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Scene Eleven, Page 179

In memory everything seems to happen to music. - Tennessee Williams (The Glass Menagerie Quotes)
2

In memory everything seems to happen to music.The Glass Menagerie (1944), Scene I, Page 5

I can't stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action. - Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire Quotes)
3

I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action.A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Scene Three, Page 60

Time is the longest distance between two places. - Tennessee Williams (The Glass Menagerie Quotes)
4

Time is the longest distance between two places.The Glass Menagerie (1944), Scene VII, Page 123

The violets in the mountains can break the rocks if you believe in them and allow them to grow! - Tennessee Williams (Camino Real Quotes)
5

The violets in the mountains can break the rocks if you believe in them and allow them to grow!Camino Real (1953), Block Ten, Page 97

Luck is believing you're lucky. - Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire Quotes)
6

Luck is believing you’re lucky.A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Scene Eleven, Page 163

Mendacity is a system that we live in. Liquor is one way out an' death's the other… - Tennessee Williams (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Quotes)
7

Mendacity is a system that we live in. Liquor is one way out an’ death’s the other…Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Act Two, Page 111

All your Western theologies, the whole mythology of them, are based on the concept of God as a senile delinquent. - Tennessee Williams (The Night of the Iguana Quotes)
8

All your Western theologies, the whole mythology of them, are based on the concept of God as a senile delinquent.The Night of the Iguana (1961), Act Two, Page 55

The theatre is a place where one has time for the problems of people to whom one would show the door if they came to one's office for a job. - Tennessee Williams Quotes
9

The theatre is a place where one has time for the problems of people to whom one would show the door if they came to one’s office for a job.The Interview with Kenneth Tynan (Februrary 1956)

All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be. - Tennessee Williams (The Glass Menagerie Quotes)
10

All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be.The Glass Menagerie (1944), Scene VI, Page 64

The future is called 'perhaps', which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you. - Tennessee Williams (The Past, Present and Perhaps Quotes)
11

The future is called ‘perhaps’, which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you.The Past, Present and Perhaps (New York Times, March 17, 1957)

We are all of us born, live and die in the shadow of a giant question mark that refers to three questions: Where do we come from? Why? And where, oh where, are we going! - Tennessee Williams (Period of Adjustment Quotes)
12

We are all of us born, live and die in the shadow of a giant question mark that refers to three questions: Where do we come from? Why? And where, oh where, are we going!Period of Adjustment (1960), Act I, Page 17

We're all of us guinea pigs in the laboratory of God. Humanity is just a work in progress. - Tennessee Williams (Camino Real Quotes)
13

We’re all of us guinea pigs in the laboratory of God. Humanity is just a work in progress.Camino Real (1953), Block Twelve, Page 113

Death is one moment, and life is so many of them. - Tennessee Williams (The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore Quotes)
14

Death is one moment, and life is so many of them.The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963), Scene Five, Page 68

If I got rid of my demons, I'd lose my angels. - Tennessee Williams Quotes
15

If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels.Playboy Interview: Tennessee Williams by C. Robert Jennings (April 1972)

The human heart would never pass the drunk-test. If you took the human heart out of the human body and put a pair of legs on it and told it to walk a straight line, it couldn't do it. - Tennessee Williams (Period of Adjustment Quotes)
16

The human heart would never pass the drunk-test. If you took the human heart out of the human body and put a pair of legs on it and told it to walk a straight line, it couldn’t do it.Period of Adjustment (1960), Act III, Page 68

There is a time for departure even when there's no certain place to go! - Tennessee Williams (Camino Real Quotes)
17

There is a time for departure even when there’s no certain place to go!Camino Real (1953), Block Eight, Page 78

Some mystery should be left in the revelation of character in a play, just as a great deal of mystery is always left in the revelation of character in life, even in one's own character to himself. - Tennessee Williams (Where I Live: Selected Essays Quotes)
18

Some mystery should be left in the revelation of character in a play, just as a great deal of mystery is always left in the revelation of character in life, even in one’s own character to himself.Where I Live: Selected Essays (1978), Page 72

You can be young without money, but you can't be old without it. - Tennessee Williams (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Quotes)
19

You can be young without money, but you can’t be old without it.Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Act One, Page 38

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Everybody is nothing until you love them. - Tennessee Williams (The Rose Tattoo Quotes)
20

Everybody is nothing until you love them.The Rose Tattoo (1951), Act One, Scene Six, Page 37

I don't want realism. I want magic! - Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire Quotes)
21

I don’t want realism. I want magic!A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Scene Nine, Page 144

The scene is memory and is therefore nonrealistic. Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart. - Tennessee Williams (The Glass Menagerie Quotes)
22

The scene is memory and is therefore nonrealistic. Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart.The Glass Menagerie (1944), Scene I, Page 3

There's no better credit-card in the world than driving up at a bank door in a Cadillac limousine. - Tennessee Williams (Period of Adjustment Quotes)
23

There’s no better credit-card in the world than driving up at a bank door in a Cadillac limousine.Period of Adjustment (1960), Act I, Page 8

Hate is a thing, a feeling, that can only exist where there is no understanding. - Tennessee Williams (Sweet Bird of Youth Quotes)
24

Hate is a thing, a feeling, that can only exist where there is no understanding.Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), Forward, Page xi

Silence about a thing just magnifies it. - Tennessee Williams (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Quotes)
25

Silence about a thing just magnifies it.Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Act One, Page 15

We have to distrust each other. It is our only defence against betrayal. - Tennessee Williams (Camino Real Quotes)
26

We have to distrust each other. It is our only defence against betrayal.Camino Real (1953), Block Ten, Page 96

After all, high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace. - Tennessee Williams (Memoirs Quotes)
27

After all, high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace.Memoirs (1975), Chapter 11, Page 252

Time doesn't take away from true friendship, nor does separation. - Tennessee Williams Quotes
28

Time doesn’t take away from true friendship, nor does separation.Memoirs (1975), Chapter 6, Page 98

Tennessee Williams Quotes about Life

Life is an unanswered question, but let's still believe in the dignity and importance of the question. - Tennessee Williams (Where I Live: Selected Essays Quotes)
29

Life is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the dignity and importance of the question.Where I Live: Selected Essays (1978), Page 113

Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going. - Tennessee Williams (The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore Quotes)
30

Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going.The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963), Scene Three, Page 38

We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it. - Tennessee Williams (The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore Quotes)
31

We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it.The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963), Scene Six, Page 85

Once you fully apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle you are equipped with the basic means of salvation. - Tennessee Williams (The Glass Menagerie Quotes)
32

Once you fully apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle you are equipped with the basic means of salvation.The Glass Menagerie (1944), The Catastrophe of Success, Page xviii

Tennessee Williams Quotes on People

All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness! - Tennessee Williams (The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore Quotes)
33

All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness!The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963), Scene One, Page 10

Walls are built up between people a hell of a damn sight faster than - broken down. - Tennessee Williams (Period of Adjustment Quotes)
34

Walls are built up between people a hell of a damn sight faster than – broken down.Period of Adjustment (1960), Act I, Page 19

We are all civilized people, which means that we are all savages at heart but observing a few amenities of civilized behavior. - Tennessee Williams (Sweet Bird of Youth Quotes)
35

We are all civilized people, which means that we are all savages at heart but observing a few amenities of civilized behavior.Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), Forward, Page ix

Men don't want anything they get too easy. But on the other hand men lose interest quickly. - Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire Quotes)
36

Men don’t want anything they get too easy. But on the other hand men lose interest quickly.A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Scene Five, Page 94

Tennessee Williams Quotes about Freedom and Loneliness

To be free is to have achieved your life. - Tennessee Williams (Memoirs Quotes)
37

To be free is to have achieved your life.Memoirs (1975), Chapter 11, Page 230

Caged birds accept each other but flight is what they long for. - Tennessee Williams (Camino Real Quotes)
38

Caged birds accept each other but flight is what they long for.Camino Real (1953), Block Seven, Page 71

When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone. - Tennessee Williams (Camino Real Quotes)
39

When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone.Camino Real (1953), Prologue, Page 6

We're all of us sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life! - Tennessee Williams (Orpheus Descending Quotes)
40

We’re all of us sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life!Orpheus Descending (1957), Act Two, Scene One, Page 31

Misattributed

1

Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.Tehyi Hsieh, Chinese epigrams inside out, and proverbs, 1948