I Have Been Here Before

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I Have Been Here Before is a play written by English dramatist J. B. Priestley, written in 1937 and was first produced at the Royalty Theatre, London, on Wednesday, 22 September 1937 by Lewis Casson. This is considered on of Priestley's "Time Plays" and was based in part on P. D. Ouspensky's theories of time and recurrence.

Act One[edit]

  • Nay, what tickled me was him saying he must ha' come at wrong year. now that's as good as aught I've heard o' some time. If he's going around asking for people -- not friends of his, mind you -- and he doesn't know where they are nor what year they'll be here -- I reckon he's got his work cut out.
    • Sam


  • A lot of use it is you or anybody else saying what they'd do if they had their time over again. A fat chance they have, haven't they? Time moves on and it takes you with it, whatever you say -- as I know only too well.
    • Sally


  • But now I see that we do not understand ourselves, the nature of our lives. What seems to happen continually just outside the edge of our attention -- the little fears and fancies, as you call them -- may be all-important because they belong to a profounder reality, like the vague sounds of the city outside that we hear sometimes inside a theatre.
    • Dr. Görtler

Act Two[edit]

  • Ormund: But being rich isn't simply the opposite of being poor. It's not really worth much -- being rich. Half the time there's a thick glass between you and most of the fun and friendliness of the world. There's something devilishly dull about most of the rich. Too much money seems to take the taste and colour out of things. It oughtn't to do, but it does -- damn it!
    Dr. Görtler: But power -- you have that, haven't you?
    Ormund: Yes, and that's a very different thing.
    Dr. Görtler: Ah! -- you like power.
    Ormund: Well, you get some fun out of it. I don't mean bullying a lot of poor devils. but putting ideas into action. And not being at the end of somebody else's bit of string.


  • I suppose -- in the last resort -- you trust life -- or you don't. Well -- I don't. There's something malicious . . . corrupt . . . cruel . . . at the heart of it. We don't belong. We're a mistake.
    • Ormund


  • But time is not single and universal. It is only the name we give to higher dimensions of things. In our present state of consciousness, we cannot experience dimensions spatially, but only successively. That we call time. but there are more times than one --
    • Dr. Görtler


  • Some people, steadily developing, will exhaust the possibilities of their circles of time and will finally swing out of them into new existences. Others -- the criminals, madmen, suicides -- live their lives in ever darkening circles of their time. Fatality begins to haunt them. more and more of their lives are passed in the shadow of death.
    • Dr. Görtler


Act Three[edit]

  • I have lived longer than you. I have thought more, and I have suffered more. And I tell you there is more truth to the fundamental nature of things in the most foolish fairy tales than there is in any of your complaints against life.
    • Dr. Görtler
  • Yes, but you do not know -- you will not understand -- that life is penetrated through and through by our feeling, imagination and will. In the end, the whole universe must respond to every real effort we make. We each live a fairy tale created by ourselves.
    • Dr. Görtler

External links[edit]

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