Sarah Bernhardt (23 October 1844 – 26 March 1923), born Marie Henriette Bernardt, was a French stage actress. Bernhardt is regarded as one the finest actresses of the 19th century, and was the first actor to become a worldwide celebrity. Also known as "The Divine Sarah".
- Quand même
Bernhardt's motto, a versatile french phrase meaning "anyway, nevertheless; really; how about that; finally"
- Once the curtain is raised, the actor ceases to belong to himself. He belongs to his character, to his author, to his public. He must do the impossible to identify himself with the first, not to betray the second, and not to disappoint the third. And to this end the actor must forget his personality and throw aside his joys and sorrows. He must present the public with the reality of a being who for him is only a fiction. With his own eyes, he must shed the tears of the other. With his own voice, he must groan the anguish of the other. His own heart beats as if it would burst, for it is the other's heart that beats in his heart. And when he retires from a tragic or dramatic scene, if he has properly rendered his character, he must be panting and exhausted.
- The Art of the Theatre (1925), p. 171
- Me pray? Never! I'm an atheist.
- As quoted in What Great Men Think of Religion (1945) by Ira D Cardiff
- Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.
- As quoted in Madam Sarah (1966) by Cornelia Otis Skinner, p. xvi
- Acting is all internal, but must be externalized.
My Double Life (1907)
- Ma Double Vie [My Double Life : Memoirs of Sarah Bernhardt] (1907) Full text online
- Victor Hugo could not promise without keeping his word. He was not like me: I promise everything with the firm intention of keeping my promises, and two hours after I have forgotten all about them. If any one reminds me of what I have promised, I tear my hair, and to make up for my forgetfulness I say anything, I buy presents — in fact, I complicate my life with useless worries. It has always been thus, and always will be so.
- Ch. 25
- My fame had become annoying for my enemies, and a little trying, I confess, for my friends. But at that time all this stir and noise amused me vastly. I did nothing to attract attention. My somewhat fantastic tastes, my paleness and thinness, my peculiar way of dressing, my scorn of fashion, my general freedom in all respects, made me a being quite apart from all others. I did not recognise the fact.
I did not read, I never read, the newspapers. So I did not know what was said about me, either favourable or unfavourable. Surrounded by a court of adorers of both sexes, I lived in a sunny dream.
- Ch. 25
- Those who know the joys and miseries of celebrity when they have passed the age of forty know how to defend themselves. They are at the beginning of a series of small worries, thunderbolts hidden under flowers, but they know how to hold in check that monster advertisement. It is a sort of octopus with innumerable tentacles. It throws out to right and left, in front and behind, its clammy arms, and gathers in, through its thousand little suckers, all the gossip and slander and praise afloat, to spit out again at the public when it is vomiting its black gall. But those who are caught in the clutches of celebrity at the age of twenty two know nothing.
- Ch. 28
- I am so superstitious that if I had arrived when there was no sunshine I should have been wretched and most anxious until after my first performance. It is a perfect torture to be superstitious to this degree, and, unfortunately for me, I am ten times more so now than I was in those days, for besides the superstitions of my own country, I have, thanks to my travels, added to my stock all the superstitions of other countries. I know them all now, and in any critical moment of my life, they all rise up in armed legions for or against me. I cannot walk a single step or make any movement or gesture, sit down, go out, look at the sky or ground, without feeling some reason for hope or despair, until at last, exasperated by the trammels put upon my actions by my thought, I defy all superstitions and just act as I want to act.
- Ch. 33
- Life is short, even for those who live a long time, and we must live for the few who know and appreciate us, who judge and absolve us, and for whom we have the same affection and indulgence. The rest I look upon as a mere crowd, lively or sad, loyal or corrupt, from whom there is nothing to be expected but fleeting emotions, either pleasant or unpleasant, which leave no trace behind them. We ought to hate very rarely, as it is too fatiguing; remain indifferent to a great deal, forgive often and never forget.
- Ch. 33
- There are five kinds of actresses: bad actresses, fair actresses, good actresses, great actresses— and then there is Sarah Bernhardt
- She is the Muse of Poetry herself. Neither intelligence nor artistry have anything to do with it. She is guided by a secret instinct. She recites as the nightingale sings, as the wind sighs, as water murmurs, as Lamartine once wrote.
- A symphony of golden flutes and muted strings; silver dawn lit by lambent lightnings, soft stars and a clear-cut crescent moon.
- Maurice Baring, on Bernhardt's legendary "voix d'or" (golden voice)