Throughout Sweet Bird of Youth, a “lament”—a melancholy strain of music—sometimes issues faintly from the overhead speakers. The occurrence of this music usually marks a shift in whatever emotional atmosphere the characters are navigating. For instance, when the Princess and Chance talk about his unsuccessful acting career, The Lament fades slowly in: “Something always blocks me…,” Chance says, referring to his acting. “What? What?” the Princess asks. “Do you know?” Williams then notes that Chance rises, at which point The Lament “is heard very faintly.” As the strains of music filter down, the Princess says: “Fear?” This exchange shows how Williams uses The Lament to hint at deep insecurities and other veiled emotional disturbances that lurk within his characters. When the Princess asks Chance if fear is what holds him back from greatness, The Lament sounds around him, signaling to the audience that this question has struck something raw and painful at his psychological core. In this way, The Lament comes to represent an undercurrent of self-doubt and unexamined emotion that plagues people like Chance and the Princess.
The Lament Quotes in Sweet Bird of Youth
All day I’ve kept hearing a sort of lament that drifts through the air of this place. It says, “Lost, lost, never to be found again.” Palm gardens by the sea and olives groves on Mediterranean islands all have that lament drifting through them. “Lost, lost”…The isle of Cyprus, Monte Carlo, San Remo, Torremolenas, Tangiers. They’re all places of exile from whatever we loved. Dark glasses, wide-brimmed hats and whispers, “Is that her?” Shocked whispers…Oh, Chance, believe me, after failure comes flight. Nothing ever comes after failure but flight. Face it. Call the car, have them bring down the luggage and let’s go on along the Old Spanish Trail.