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Quotes for
Tevye (Character)
from Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

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Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Tevye: As the good book says, when a poor man eats a chicken, one of them is sick.
Mendel: Where does the book say that?
Tevye: Well, it doesn't say that exactly, but somewhere there is something about a chicken.

Tevye: [singing] Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?
Golde: [singing] I don't remember growing older. When did they?

Perchik: In this world it is the rich who are the criminals. Someday their wealth will be ours.
Tevye: That would be nice. If they would agree, I would agree.

Tevye: As Abraham said, "I am a stranger in a strange land... "
Mendel: Moses said that.
Tevye: Ah. Well, as King David said, "I am slow of speech, and slow of tongue."
Mendel: That was also Moses.
Tevye: For a man who was slow of tongue, he talked a lot.

Perchik: Money is the world's curse.
Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover.

Tevye: As the good book says, if you spit in the air, it lands in your face.

[to God]
Tevye: I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?

Tevye: You are just a poor tailor!
Motel: That's true, Reb Tevye, but even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness!

[Hodel is leaving on a train for Siberia]
Hodel: Papa, God alone knows when we shall see each other again.
Tevye: Then we will leave it in His hands.

[Perchik and Hodel have announced their engagement]
Tevye: He loves her. Love, it's a new style... On the other hand, our old ways were once new, weren't they?... On the other hand, they decided without parents, without a matchmaker!... On the other hand, did Adam and Eve have a matchmaker?... Well, yes, they did. And it seems these two have the same Matchmaker!

[repeated line]
Tevye: On the other hand...

[to God]
Tevye: Sometimes I think, when it gets too quiet up there, You say to Yourself, "What kind of mischief can I play on My friend Tevye?"

Motel: Times are changing, Reb Tevye. The thing is, over a year ago, your daughter, Tzeitel, and I gave each other our pledge that we would marry.
Tevye: You gave each other a... pledge?
Tzeitel: Yes, Papa. We gave each other our pledge.

[Tevye admires the lavishness of a butcher's home]
Tevye: And all this from killing innocent animals.

Lazar Wolf: How is your brother-in-law? In America?
Tevye: Oh, he's doing very well.
Lazar Wolf: Oh, he wrote you?
Tevye: No, not lately.
Lazar Wolf: Then how do you know?
Tevye: If he was doing badly, he would write.

Constable: You're an honest, decent person. Even though you are a Jew.
Tevye: Oh... THANK you, your honor. How often does a man get a compliment like that?

Tevye: Thank you, your honor. You are a good man. If I may say so, it's too bad you're not a Jew.
Constable: [laughs] That's what I like about you, Tevye. You're always joking.

Lazar Wolf: Have a drink?
Tevye: I won't insult you by saying no.

Tevye: [to Golde] Quiet, woman, before I get angry, because when I get angry even flies don't dare to fly!

Golde: Oh, you're finally here. Come, let's go home now.
Tevye: I want to see Motel's new machine.
Golde: You can see it some other time. Let's go home now.
Tevye: Quiet, woman, before I get angry! Because when I get angry, even flies don't dare to fly!
Golde: [sarcastically] I'm very frightened of you. After we finish supper I'll faint.
Tevye: [angrily] Golde, I am the head of the house! I am the head of the family! And I want to see Motel's new machine NOW!
[He looks inside then closes the door]
Tevye: Now, lets go home.

[first lines]
Tevye: A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask 'Why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous?' Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!

Tevye: Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!

Tevye: [to God] It may sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not. After all, with Your help, I'm starving to death.

Tevye: They gave each other a pledge? Unheard of. Absurd.

Perchik: Your daughter has a quick and witty tongue.
Tevye: Yes, the wit she gets from me, as the good book says...
Golde: The good book can wait, it's time for Sabbath.
Tevye: The tongue she gets from her mother.

Lazar Wolf: We can fight to keep our home.
Constable: Against our militia, our army? I wouldn't advise that!
Tevye: I have some advice for you. Get off my land. This is still my home, my land. Get off my land.

Tevye: [to Lazar Wolf] I always wanted a son, but I wanted one a little younger than myself.

Tevye: Where are you going?
Lazar Wolf: Chicago. In America.
Tevye: Chicago, America? We are going to New York, America. We'll be neighbors.

Tevye: Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything: how to sleep, how to eat... how to work... how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, "How did this tradition get started?" I'll tell you!
[pause]
Tevye: I don't know. But it's a tradition... and because of our traditions... Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.
Men: [singing] Who day and night must scramble for a living, feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers, and who has the right as master of the house to have the final word at home? The Papa! The Papa! Tradition! The Papa! The Papa! Tradition!
Women: Who must know the way to make a proper home, a quiet home, a kosher home? Who must raise a family and run the home, so Papa's free to read the Holy Book? The Mama! The Mama! Tradition! The Mama! The Mama! Tradition!
Sons: [singing] At three I started Hebrew School, at ten I learned a trade. I hear they've picked a bride for me, I hope she's pretty.
Daughters: [singing] And who does Mama teach to mend and tend and fix, preparing her to marry whoever Papa picks? The daughters! The daughters! Tradition!
Men: [singing] The Papa!
Women: [singing] The Mama!
Sons: [singing] Sons!
Daughters: [singing] The Daughters!
All: [singing] Tradition!

Tevye: And in the circle of our little village, We've always had our special types. For instance, Yente the matchmaker, Reb Nachum the beggar... And most important of all, our beloved Rabbi.
Leibesh: Rabbi! May I ask you a question?
Rabbi: Certainly, Lebisch!
Leibesh: Is there a proper blessing... for the Tsar?
Rabbi: A blessing for the Tsar? Of course! May God bless and keep the Tsar... far away from us!

Tevye: Then there are the others in our village. They make a much bigger circle. We don't bother them, and so far, they don't bother us. And among ourselves, we always get along perfectly well.
[pointing to Itchak and Avram]
Tevye: Of course, there was the time when he sold him a horse and told him it was only six years old, when it was really 12. But now, it's all over, and we live in simple peace and harmony.
[In Avram's ear]
Tevye: It was twelve years old.
[Avram nods]
Itchak: It was six!
Avram: Tevye knows!
[they begin arguing]

[last lines]
Tevye: All right children. Let's go.

[Hodel and Perchik begin dancing]
Mendel: She's dancing with a man!
Tevye: I can SEE that she's dancing with a man!
[pause]
Tevye: And I'm going to dance with my wife!

Tevye: [to God] Anyway, Motel and Tzeitel have been married for some time now. They work very hard, and they're as poor as squirrels in winter. But, they're so happy, they don't know how miserable they are.

Tevye: [to God] As the Good Book says, ev...
[chuckles]
Tevye: Why should I tell You what the Good Book says?

Tevye: [in song] Do you love me?
Golde: [speaking] I'm your wife!
Tevye: [speaking] I know!
[in song]
Tevye: But do you love me?
Golde: [singing] Do I love him? For twenty-five years I've lived with him, fought with him, starved with him. Twenty-five years, my bed is his...
Tevye: Shh!
Golde: [singing] If that's not love, what is?
Tevye: [singing] Then you love me!
Golde: I suppose I do!
Tevye: Oh.
[sings]
Tevye: And I suppose I love you too.
Tevye, Golde: [singing] It doesn't change a thing, but even so... After twenty-five years, it's nice to know.

Villager: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
Tevye: Very good. That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.

Lazar Wolf: How is it going with you, Reb Tevye?
Tevye: How should it go?
Lazar Wolf: You are right.
Tevye: And you?
Lazar Wolf: The same.
Tevye: I'm sorry to hear that.

Golde: You'll be late.
Tevye: Golde, I won't be late.
Golde: You'll be late.
Tevye: I won't be late! I won't be late! If you ever stop talking, I won't be late!

Chava: I'll write to you in America if you like.
Golde: [shouts] We'll be staying with Uncle Avram!
Chava: Yes, Mama!
Tevye: [annoyed] We'll be staying with Uncle Avram! We'll be staying with Uncle Avram! The whole world has to know our business!

Tevye: [about Perchik] Is he in bad trouble, that hero of yours?
[Hodel nods]
Tevye: Arrested?
[she nods again]
Tevye: Convicted?
Hodel: Yes. But he did nothing wrong. He cares nothing for himself. Everything he does is for other people.
Tevye: Yes, but if he did nothing wrong, he wouldn't be in trouble.
Hodel: Oh Papa, how can you say that? What wrongs did Joseph do? And Abraham, and Moses? And they had troubles.
Tevye: Yes, but... But why won't you tell me where he is now, this Joseph of yours?
Hodel: It is far, Papa. Terribly far. He is in a settlement in Siberia.
Tevye: [shocked] Siberia! And he asks you to leave your father and mother, and join him in that frozen wasteland and marry him there?
Hodel: No, Papa. He did not ask me to go. I *want* to go. I don't want him to be alone. I want to help him in his work.
Tevye: Hodel...
Hodel: Papa.
[sings]
Hodel: How can I hope to make you understand, why I do what I do? Why I must travel to a distant land, far from the home I love. Once I was happily content to be, as I was, where I was. Close to the people who are close to me, here in the home I love. Who could see that a man would come, who would change the shape of my dreams? Helpless now, I stand with him, watching older dreams grow dim. Oh, what a melancholy choice this is, wanting home, wanting him... Closing my heart to every hope but his, leaving the home I love. There where my heart has settled long ago, I must go, I must go. Who could imagine I'd be wandering so far from the home I love. Yet... there with my love, I'm home.
[the train is heard]
Tevye: [concerned] And, who my child will there be to perform a marriage there in the wilderness?
Hodel: [smiling] Papa, I promise you, we will be married under a canopy.
Tevye: Yes, yes. No doubt, a Rabbi or two were also arrested.
[the train pulls in, Tevye lifts Hodel's luggage aboard]
Hodel: [crying and hugging him] Papa! God alone knows when we shall see each other again.
Tevye: Then, we will leave it in His hands.
[he helps her aboard and watches the train pull out]
Tevye: [looking up] Take care of her. See that she dresses warm.

Golde: Tevye! Tevye!
Tevye: What is it?
Golde: It's Chava. She left home this morning, with Fyedka.
Tevye: What?
Golde: I've looked everywhere for her. I even went to the priest. He told me they were married.
Tevye: Married?
Golde: Yes.
Tevye: Well... Go home, Golde. We have other children at home. You have work to do, I have work to do, go home.
Golde: [anguished] But Chaveleh!
Tevye: Chava is dead to us! We'll forget her.
[gently]
Tevye: Go home. Go home, Golde.
[Golde walks away, crying]

[after Chava elopes]
Tevye: [singing] Little bird... Little Chaveleh. I don't understand what's happening today. Everything is all a blur... All I can see is a happy child, the sweet little bird you were, Chaveleh, Chaveleh... Little bird, little Chaveleh, you were always such a pretty little thing, everybody's favorite child... Gentle and kind and affectionate, what a sweet little bird you were, Chaveleh, Chaveleh...

Tevye: And until your golden day comes, Rev. Perchik, How will you live?
Perchik: By giving lessons to children, Do you have any children?
Tevye: I have five daughters.
Perchik: [Looking to Tevye in disbelief] Five?
Tevye: Daughters...
Perchik: Girls can learn too, girls are .
Mendel: A radical!
Tevye: Oh, go away!

Tevye: [after seeing Chava and Fyedka talking] What were you and he talking about?
Chava: Nothing. We were just talking.
Tevye: Good.
[walks away]
Chava: [chasing after Teyve] Papa! Fyedka and I... We've known each other for a long time...
Tevye: Chaveleh, I would be much happier if you remained friends from a distance. You must not forget who you are and who that man is.
Chava: He has a name, Papa.
Tevye: Of course. All creatures on Earth have a name.
Chava: Fyedka is not a creature, Papa. Fyedka is a man!
Tevye: Who says he isn't? It's just that he's a different kind of man. As the Good Book says, "Each shall seek his own kind." In other words, a bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together?
Chava: The world is changing, Papa!
Tevye: [rounding on her] No!
[calmly]
Tevye: No. Some things do not change for us. Some things will never change.
Chava: We don't feel that way.
Tevye: We?
Chava: Fyedka and I... We want to be married.
Tevye: What? Are you out of your mind? Don't you understand what that means, marrying outside of the faith?
Chava: But, Papa...
Tevye: I said no! Never talk about it again. Never mention his name again. Never see him again. Do you understand me?
Chava: [quietly] Yes, Papa. I understand you.

Tevye: In the middle of the dream, in walks your grandmother Tzeitel, may she rest in peace.
Golde: Grandmother Tzeitel? How did she look?
Tevye: Well, for a woman who's dead 30 years, she looked very good.

[the constable enters Anatevka]
Tevye: Welcome, your honour, what's the good news in the world?
Constable: I see you have company.
Tevye: [looks at them nervously] They are my friends.
Constable: It's just as well. What I have to say is for their ears also. How much time do you need to sell your house and household goods?
Tevye: Why should I sell my house? Is it in anybody's way?
Constable: I came to tell you that you have to leave Anatevka.
Tevye: How did I come to deserve such an honour?
Constable: Not just you of course, but all of you!