W. S. Gilbert
- A popular speaker, however unpopular and insignificant, has only to wind up his speech with half-a-dozen lines of Shakespeare (and to make it clearly understood that they are Shakespeare's) and he will sit down amid thunders of applause.
- "Unappreciated Shakespeare", Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, Christmas Number, 9 December 1882.
Trial by Jury (1875) 
- She may very well pass for forty three
In the dusk with the light behind her.
- But I submit, my lord, with all submission,
To marry two at once is Burglaree!
The Sorcerer (1877) 
- Oh! my name is John Wellington Wells,
I'm a dealer in magic and spells,
In blessings and curses
And ever-filled purses,
In prophecies, witches, and knells.
If you want a proud foe to "make tracks"--
If you'd melt a rich uncle in wax--
You've but to look in
On our resident Djinn,
Number seventy, Simmery Axe!
- Mr Wells' song, Act I.
- "Simmery Axe" is the traditional pronunciation of "St. Mary Axe", a road in the City of London.
In Gilbert's day, the last building was number 68, though number 70 was built later.
- Or you or I must yield up his life to Ahrimanes. I would rather it were you.
H.M.S. Pinafore (1878) 
- From such a face and form as mine, the noblest sentiments sound like the black utterances of a depraved imagination!
It's human nature! I'm resigned.
- What, never? / No, never! / What, never? / Well, hardly ever!
- Things are seldom what they seem;
Skim milk masquerades as cream.
- Now landsmen all, whoever you may be,
If you want to rise to the top of the tree,
If your soul isn't fettered to an office stool,
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule—
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
And you all may be Rulers of the Queen's Navee.
- The first Lord's Song.
The Pirates of Penzance (1879) 
- When your process of extermination begins, let our deaths be as swift and painless as you can conveniently make them.
- Against our wills, papa—against our wills!
- Yes, but you don't go!
- Art stopped short at the cultivated court of the Empress Josephine.
- An attachment à la Plato for a bashful young potato, or a not-too-French French bean!
- Yes, I am the Apostle of Simplicity. I am called Archibald the All-Right, for I am infallible.
- Archibald: To understand this, it is not necessary to think of anything at all.
Saphir: Let us think of nothing at all!
- I know what love is. There was a happy time when I didn't, but bitter experience has taught me.
- A pallid and thin young man,
A haggard and lank young man,
A greenery-yallery, Grosvenor Gallery,
Foot-in-the-grave young man!
- The Law is the true embodiment
Of everything that’s excellent.
It has no kind of fault or flaw,
And I, my Lords, embody the Law.
- The House of Peers, thoughout the war
Did nothing in particular
And did it very well.
Princess Ida (1884) 
- I can tell a woman's age in half a minute -- and I do!
- ...a Man, however well-behav’d,
At best is only a monkey shav’d!
- Man is nature's sole mistake.
The Mikado (1885) 
- I am, in point of fact, a particularly haughty and exclusive person, of pre-Adamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial atomic globule. Consequently, my family pride is something inconceivable. I can’t help it. I was born sneering.
- …in the first place, self decapitation is an extremely difficult, not to say dangerous, thing to attempt; and, in the second, it’s suicide, and suicide is a capital offence.
- Pooh Bah: This professional conscientiousness is highly creditable to you, but it places us in a very awkward position.
Koko: Your position is grace itself compared to that of a man in the act of chopping off his own head!
- To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!
- (Koko is negotiating the terms by which he can behead Nanki-Poo in his place, and they involve letting the latter be married to his fiance until he is executed)
- Koko: But my position during the next month will be most unpleasant, most unpleasant!
- Nanki-Poo: Not nearly so unpleasant as mine at the end of it.
- I have a left shoulder-blade that is a miracle of loveliness. People come miles to see it. My right elbow has a fascination that few can resist.
- Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.
- It's an unjust world, and virtue is triumphant only in theatrical productions.
- The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this and every country but his own.
If someday it should happen that a victim must be found
I've got a little list, I've got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
Who never would be missed - who never would be missed!
- Song, "They'll none of them be missed".
My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time--
To let the punishment fit the crime.
The Gondoliers (1889) 
- I should have preferred to ride through the streets of Venice; but owing, I presume, to an unusually wet season,
the streets are in such a condition that equestrian exercise is impractical.
- In enterprise of martial kind,
When there was any fighting,
He led his regiment from behind—
He found it less exciting.
- Of that there is no manner of doubt -
No probable, possible shadow of doubt -
No possible doubt whatever.
- Oh, philosophers may sing
Of the troubles of a King,
But of pleasures there are many and of worries there are none;
And the culminating pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure
Is the gratifying feeling that our duty has been done.
- When everyone is somebody, then no one's anybody.
Utopia Limited (1893) 
- Great Britain is that monarchy sublime,
To which some add (but others do not) Ireland.
- Final chorus, concluding lines.
- Humour is a drug which it's the fashion to abuse.
- I suppose he expected to see me kissing all the carpenters
- Comment on a (possibly apocryphal) conversation between Gilbert and a French designer during the first night of Princess Ida.
- No one can have a higher opinion of him than I have--and I think he is a dirty little beast.
- Take my daughters, most of whom are beauties
- Modified libretto for the finale of Act II of The Pirates of Penzance in response to his not choosing the female chorus for the 1906 revival
- Beautiful Mabel, I'd sing if I could but I am not able!
- Shouted from the stalls during rehearsals for The Pirates of Penzance when the actor playing Frederic was not present
- (During the period after the debut of Ruddigore, which was far less successful at the box office than its predecessor The Mikado)
- Gentleman: How is Bloodygore doing?
- Gilbert: The title is Ruddigore.
- Gentleman: Surely that's the same thing.
- Gilbert: Then it is the same to say "I admire your ruddy countenance" -- which I do -- as "I like your bloody cheek" -- which I don't.