Peter Grimes

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Peter Grimes (1945) is an opera composed by British musician Benjamin Britten. The libretto is written by Montagu Slater.

Main Characters in the Opera[edit]

(taken from the Wikipedia page)

  • Peter Grimes, a fisherman
  • Ellen Orford, a widow, Borough schoolmistress
  • Balstrode, retired merchant skipper
  • Auntie, landlady of The Boar
  • Two Nieces
  • Mrs. (Nabob) Sedley, a rentier widow
  • Swallow, a lawyer
  • Ned Keene, apothecary and quack
  • Bob Boles, fisherman and Methodist
  • Rev. Horace Adams, the rector
  • Mr. Hobson, a carrier
  • Borough Villagers (in chorus)

Quotes from the Libretto[edit]


Peter, we shall restore your name.
Warmed by the new esteem
That you will find.

Until the Borough hate
Poisons your mind.

There'll be new shoals to catch.
Life will be kind.

Ay! only of drowning ghosts.
Time will not forget:
The dead are witness,
And fate is blind.

The hot sun
Will spread his rays around.

Ellen and Peter (in unison):
My voice out of the pain
Is like a hand
That I can feel and know:
Here is a friend.

Act One[edit]

Man invented morals but tide have none.

I live alone. The habit grows.

The storm is here. O come away.

The storm is here and I shall stay.

What harbour shelters peace?
Away from tidal waves, away from storm?
What harbour can embrace
Terrors and tragedies?

Act Two[edit]

Now the great Bear and Pleiades where earth moves
Are drawing up the clouds of human grief,
Breathing solemnity in the deep night.
Who can decipher,
In storm or starlight,
The written character
of a friendly fate –--
As the sky turns, the world for us to change?
But if the horoscope' s bewildering
Like a flashing turmoil of a shoal of herring,
Who can turn skies back and begin again?

He's mad or drunk.
Why's that man here?

Act Two[edit]

Peter! You cannot buy your peace.
You'll never stop the gossips' talk
With all the fish from out the sea.
We were mistaken to have dreamed...
Peter! We've failed. We've failed...

(He cries out as if in agony. Then strikes her. The basket falls.)


So be it! –-- And God have mercy upon me!

The Scallop by Maggi Hambling is a sculpture dedicated to Benjamin Britten on the beach at Aldeburgh. The edge of the shell is pierced with the words "I hear those voices that will not be drowned" from Peter Grimes.

But dreaming builds what dreaming can disown.
Dead fingers stretch themselves to tear it down.
I hear those voices that will not be drowned
Calling, there is no stone
In earth's thickness to make a home
That you can build with and remain alone.

Act Four[edit]

When horror breaks one heart
All hearts are broken.

Steady. There you are. Nearly home.
What is home? Calm as deep water.
Where's my home? Deep in calm water.
Water will drink my sorrows dry,
And the tide will turn.

To hell with all your mercy.
To hell with your revenge.
And God have mercy upon you.

Balstrode (goes up to Peter and speaks):
Come on, I'll help you with the boat.


Balstrode (speaking):
Sail out till you lose sight of land, then sink the boat.
D'you hear? Sink her.
Goodbye Peter.

External links[edit]

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