Famous Last Words: Fictional Characters, Books and Plays

A select collection of the dying words spoken by famous literary figures

The characters in many of Shakespeare's plays, such as Hamlet and King Richard III, have spoken memorable last words before dying. Photo © Last Resort/Getty Images

Whether realized at the time they are said or only in hindsight, nearly everyone will express a word, phrase or sentence that proves the last thing he or she ever says while alive -- and that even includes people who never existed in the first place. Sometimes profound, sometimes everyday, here you will find a select collection of the last words spoken by fictional characters in famous books and plays.

Note: The following quotations are organized alphabetically by the fictional character's last name, followed by the title of the book or play, and then the name of the author.

Captain Ahab, Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! THUS, I give up the spear!

"Trekkies" might recognize the "From hell's heart..." quote as one of the memorable lines uttered by the villainous Kahn in the 1982 film Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.

Bilbo Baggins, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
Hullo, Frodo! Well, I have passed the Old Took today! So that's settled. And now I think I am quite ready to go on another journey.

Are you coming?

The journey to which Tolkien's famous hobbit refers (in the last book of The Lord of the Rings trilogy) is to the Undying Lands, where Bilbo spent his remaining years.

Beowulf, Beowulf (author unknown; translation by Seamus Heaney)
You are the last of us, the only one left of the Waegmundings.

Fate swept us all away, sent my whole brave high-born clan to their final doom. Now I must follow them.

Julius CaesarThe Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!

Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

Vito Corleone, The Godfather by Mario Putzo
Life is so beautiful.

Unlike his depiction in the Academy Award-winning 1972 film, crime-boss Corleone utters these last words in the original novel before suffering a heart attack while playing with his grandson.

Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Severus... please...

Jay Gatsby, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Well, good-by.

God, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Oh dear, I hadn't thought of that.

Hamlet, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare
O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o'er-crows my spirit:
I cannot live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited.

The rest is silence.

Hazel, Watership Down by Richard Adams
Yes, my lord. Yes, I know you.

Captain James HookPeter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Bad form.

Tessie Hutchinson, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
It isn't fair, it isn't right.

If you haven't read this classic short story, I encourage you to do so in order to understand the significance of Hutchinson's last words.

Kurtz, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The horror! The horror!

In the well-known 1979 film adaptation, "Colonel Walter Kurtz" (portrayed by Marlon Brando) whispers these same climactic words.

Willy Loman, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Now, when you kick off, boy, I want a seventy-yard boot, and get right down the field under the ball, and when you hit, hit low and hit hard, because it's important, boy. There's all kinds of important people in the stands, and the first thing you know... Ben! Ben, where do I...? Ben, how do I...? Sh!... Sh! Sh!... Shhh!

After uttering these lines and realizing he will never achieve his vision of the "American Dream," Loman jumps into his car and deliberately crashes it, killing himself, because he believes that his son will use the insurance proceeds to start a business and become rich.

Daisy Miller, Daisy Miller by Henry James
I don't care whether I have Roman fever or not!

King Richard III, The Tragedy of King Richard the Third by William Shakespeare
Slave, I have set my life upon a cast,
And I will stand the hazard of the die:
I think there be six Richmonds in the field;
Five have I slain to-day instead of him.
A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!

Eustacia Vye, The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
O, the cruelty of putting me into this ill-conceived world! I was capable of much; but I have been injured and blighted and crushed by things beyond my control! O, how hard it is of Heaven to devise such tortures for me, who have done no harm to Heaven at all!

Lawrence Wargrave, Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie
And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island. Signed, Lawrence Wargrave

Judge Wargrave concluded his confessional suicide note with this line before placing it in a bottle and throwing it into the sea.

General Zaroff, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this most excellent bed. On guard, Rainsford.

If you haven't read this classic short story, I encourage you to do so in order to understand the significance of Zaroff's last words.

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