The Picture of Dorian Gray

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A young actress, from a poor family, who performs Shakespeare’s heroines every evening at a low class theater. Dorian falls in love with her performances, but she finds performance paltry in comparison to true love and her acting suffers after her engagement to Dorian. Dorian, in turn, is uninterested in her after she no longer has her art. He leaves her heartbroken and Sybil, a Juliet-like martyr for love, commits suicide. She is a symbolic character, pure in her love and embodying an artistic ideal.

Sybil Vane Quotes in The Picture of Dorian Gray

The The Picture of Dorian Gray quotes below are all either spoken by Sybil Vane or refer to Sybil Vane. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Mortality of Beauty and Youth Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray published in 2003.
Chapter 4 Quotes

“I have seen her in every age and every costume. Ordinary women never appeal to one’s imagination. They are limited to their century.”

Related Characters: Dorian Gray (speaker), Sybil Vane
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Dorian describes seeing Sybil Vane play Juliet in Romeo and Juliet to Lord Henry, confessing that he has fallen in love with her. Dorian uses the dramatically romantic rhetoric typical of the novel, explaining that in contrast to "ordinary" women, Sybil is appealing because her profession as an actress makes her transcend time and reality. This emphasizes Dorian's obsession with escaping time, and reinforces the sexist dismissal of women in the novel. Leading up to this passage, Lord Henry has claimed that there is no such thing as a female genius, and that there are only five women in London worth talking to; Dorian's words here confirm the impression that the world of the novel is homoerotic male one, and that––even in light of Dorian's newfound love for Sybil––the (male) characters see relationships between men as superior to relationships with women. 

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Chapter 6 Quotes

“I am changed, and the mere touch of Sybil Vane’s hand makes me forget you and all your wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories.”

Related Characters: Dorian Gray (speaker), Lord Henry Wotton, Sybil Vane
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Lord Henry has been teasing Dorian for his lovesick state and for agreeing to marry Sybil so quickly; however, Dorian doesn't mind, telling Lord Henry that his love for Sybil has made him forget Lord Henry's "fascinating, poisonous" theories. One could interpret this quote as revealing the lingering innocence and purity of Dorian's personality, qualities that are brought out by his love for Sybil. At the same time, Dorian is obviously not as free from Lord Henry's corrupting influence as he claims. Although he seems aware of the dangerous nature of Lord Henry's ideas, he nonetheless still calls them "fascinating" and "delightful." Furthermore, it is clear that Dorian's love for Sybil has been influenced by Lord Henry; unlike other women, Sybil represents the ideals of art, illusion, and even "foolishness" that Lord Henry embraces. 

Chapter 7 Quotes

“The painted scenes were my world. I knew nothing but shadows and thought them real.”

Related Characters: Sybil Vane (speaker)
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

The play has finished and Dorian has gone to see Sybil backstage, bewildered and disappointed by her terrible performance. Although Sybil is also aware that she performed badly, she is not upset by this fact but is actually overjoyed, as she sees it as a sign that she no longer needs to escape her sad reality through acting. She explains to Dorian that prior to meeting him, the theatre was her "world." This statement once again collapses the distinction between art and reality, confirming the impression that the best artists locate their life's meaning in their work. Dorian idealizes this, but Sybil's words suggest that creating great art requires the artist to suffer, a bargain that emphasizes the thematic connection between beauty and torment.

Sybil's statement "I knew nothing but shadows and thought them real" is directly reminiscent of the philosopher Plato's famous Allegory of the Cave. In the allegory, a group of people spend their entire lives chained inside a cave, watching shadows projected on the cave wall and believing that these shadows are "real." When one prisoner escapes into the wider world, he is suspicious of what he sees, though eventually comes to understand that this is true reality. 

Plato was distrustful of appearances, arguing that reason was the only way to gain true knowledge. He believed that music and painting could have a corrupting effect on people. Sybil's mention of shadows here thus refers to the idea that, although it is tempting to be seduced by the world of appearances and representation, this can have dangerous consequences.

“So I have murdered Sybil Vane,” said Dorian Gray, half to himself, “murdered her as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife. Yet the roses are not less lovely for that.”

Related Characters: Dorian Gray (speaker), Sybil Vane
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

Dorian has written a long letter to Sybil in an attempt to atone for his cruelty; however, Lord Henry then arrives and tells him that Sybil has committed suicide. Dorian is shocked and feels responsible, yet at the same time notices that the roses looks just as lovely as they always do. This passage shows Dorian's growing corruption, especially in contrast to the portrayal of Sybil's childlike innocence ("cut her little throat"). Although Dorian is highly disturbed by what has happened, he can't hep but observe that on the surface, things still seem as "lovely" as if nothing has happened. This directly corresponds to the fact that Dorian himself looks as pure and charming as ever; it is only the painting that is beginning to show his increasing moral corruption.

“The girl never really lived and so she never really died.”

Related Characters: Lord Henry Wotton (speaker), Sybil Vane
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
Dorian is horrified by Sybil's death, and Lord Henry attempts to soothe him by arguing that––because Sybil lived through her acting––she did not live as normal people do and thus hasn't "really" died. On one level, this reveals Lord Henry's reverence for art and artists, confirming his belief that art transcends life. However, it could also be interpreted as rather callous. Lord Henry does not seem particularly moved by Sybil's death, thereby increasing the impression that he is careless and immoral. Furthermore, his disdain for the theatre and for women in general means that the statement "she never really lived" could also be interpreted as an elitist, sexist judgment that Sybil's life was unimportant and meaningless. 
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Sybil Vane Character Timeline in The Picture of Dorian Gray

The timeline below shows where the character Sybil Vane appears in The Picture of Dorian Gray. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
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...Dorian tells him that he is actually too in love to marry. The girl is Sybil Vane, an actress, a genius on the stage, Dorian thinks. Lord Henry explains that women... (full context)
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...cast with old, ill-fitting actors for the most part, but that the girl playing Juliet, Sybil Vane, shone. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, classically beautiful, and... (full context)
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When Henry asks what kind of relationship Dorian has with Sybil, Dorian defends that it has been entirely innocent and calls Sybil “sacred”. He describes how... (full context)
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...ages. He urges that they finally dine together that evening, but Dorian wants to see Sybil play Imogen at the theatre - every night is another unmissable heroine. But Dorian does... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Chapter Five begins in the home of Sybil Vane and her family. Sybil is raving about her ‘Prince Charming’ to her mother. Mrs.... (full context)
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Mrs. Vane is a tired, anxious woman but Sybil is full of color and beauty as her mind revels in thoughts of Dorian. She... (full context)
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...of the ‘tableau’ of the room, but Jim has no taste for drama. He asks Sybil to come for a walk with him. They are obviously very loving siblings, and they... (full context)
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...sea instead of working as a solicitor. Jim dismisses the issue. His real concern is Sybil. Mrs. Vane assures him that she will look after Sybil and that her suitor is... (full context)
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As Jim and Sybil take their walk, Jim is conscious of the difference in their appearance. Sybil is completely... (full context)
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Jim asks Sybil about her ‘new friend’ and Sybil tells him everything, saying that now she has found... (full context)
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...sit and watch the passers-by and Jim begins to talk of his own plans, but Sybil suddenly thinks she sees ‘Prince Charming’ in the distance and Jim’s fear returns. He threatens... (full context)
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...is out in the open, Mrs. Vane says no. She explains a situation similar to Sybil’s – their father was a gentleman and not free to marry her. With sudden sympathy... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...interrupts them, in jubilant spirits and tells his friends about his engagement. He describes how Sybil, dressed as Rosalind, beautiful in boy clothes as if she was made for the role,... (full context)
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Henry pushes Dorian to explain about his engagement. He says that it was actually Sybil who first mentioned marriage. Henry comments that this is typical of a woman. Basil scolds... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...and Basil see firsthand its crude set up and rough-looking crowd. Dorian promises Henry that Sybil will make it all seem quite different, as she stirs the audience in sympathy with... (full context)
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After the orchestra’s awful introduction, Sybil appears as Juliet. The three men are fascinated by her. Henry realizes that she is... (full context)
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Sybil explains to him that now that she has found real love, she will never be... (full context)
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...horribly true. And why should the face now wear the expression of cruelty? Dorian considers Sybil but struggles to find remorse, and sees the tragedy as her doing. But the painting... (full context)
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...a sinful life. Some remorse begins to come to him and he resolves to win Sybil back and live happily with her. The morning suddenly seems fresh and romantic again. (full context)
Chapter 8
The Mortality of Beauty and Youth Theme Icon
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...he is compelled to act. He has been made aware of how he has injured Sybil Vane. He has for a moment what no man could hope to have, a living... (full context)
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...Henry appears at the door, wishing to see him. He wants to comfort Dorian about Sybil. Dorian suggests that the tragedy has taught him the value of his own conscience. Henry... (full context)
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...grief, but what he seems to be mourning is his own lack of pity for Sybil and his cruel behavior. Henry convinces him that he should not feel too badly, that... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Basil arrives at Dorian’s house, and expresses his sympathy for him, and for Sybil Vane and her family. He had come to visit Dorian as soon as he heard... (full context)
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Basil is sickened at the idea of Sybil killing herself but Dorian explains the beauty of it, saying that Sybil is now a... (full context)
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Dorian requests that Basil do a portrait of Sybil. Basil agrees but really wants Dorian to sit for him again himself. Dorian vehemently refuses.... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...reading materials that Lord Henry has sent over. In the newspaper is an article about Sybil Vane’s inquest. The reminder of the horrible details angers Dorian. He is annoyed that Henry... (full context)
Chapter 16
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The sailor announces himself as the brother of Sybil Vane and accuses Dorian of being the man who ruined her. He tells Dorian to... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...class, and Dorian cut off the romance before it went too far, saving her from Sybil’s fate. Henry responds that the girl is certainly heartbroken and will probably never be satisfied... (full context)