The Nightingale and the Rose

by

Oscar Wilde

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The Nightingale Character Analysis

Although she dies before the story's conclusion, the Nightingale is the protagonist of "The Nightingale and the Rose." A romantic by nature, she has spent much of her life singing about love, waiting for the day she will encounter it in real life. When she overhears the Student lamenting his lovelorn state, she resolves to bring him the red rose he needs to secure the girl's affection, sacrificing her life to stain its petals red with her blood. The other characters fail to recognize this sacrifice, but the story as a whole vindicates the Nightingale's actions. In particular, her selfless nature and beautiful voice link her to two of the story's themes: the selfless nature of true love, and the intrinsic value of art. The Nightingale, in other words, is not only a character but also a symbol of the ideal lover and the ideal artist, both of whom give without expecting anything in return.

The Nightingale Quotes in The Nightingale and the Rose

The The Nightingale and the Rose quotes below are all either spoken by The Nightingale or refer to The Nightingale. 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:
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of The Nightingale and the Rose published in 2008.
The Nightingale and the Rose Quotes

Here at last is a true lover…Night after night have I sung of him, though I knew him not: night after night have I told his story to the stars, and now I see him. His hair is as dark as the hyacinth-blossom, and his lips are as red as the rose of his desire.

Related Characters: The Nightingale (speaker), The Student
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Surely Love is a wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds, and dearer than fine opals. Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it, nor is it set forth in the market-place. It may not be purchased of the merchants, nor can it be weighed out in the balance for gold.

Related Characters: The Nightingale (speaker), The girl
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

"He is weeping for a red rose," said the Nightingale.

"For a red rose?" they cried; "how very ridiculous!" and the little Lizard, who was something of a cynic, laughed outright.

Related Characters: The Nightingale (speaker), The Lizard (speaker), The Student
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

If you want a red rose…you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart's-blood. You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine.

Related Characters: The Rose-tree (speaker), The Nightingale
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

The Student looked up from the grass and listened, but he could not understand what the Nightingale was saying to him, for he only knew the things that are written down in books.

Related Characters: The Nightingale, The Student
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

She has form…but has she got feeling? I am afraid not. In fact, she is like most artists; she is all style, without any sincerity. She would not sacrifice herself for others. She thinks merely of music, and everybody knows that the arts are selfish. Still, it must be admitted that she has some beautiful notes in her voice. What a pity it is that they do not mean anything, or do any practical good.

Related Characters: The Student (speaker), The Nightingale
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb.

Related Characters: The Nightingale
Related Symbols: The Red Rose
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Nightingale and the Rose LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Nightingale and the Rose PDF

The Nightingale Character Timeline in The Nightingale and the Rose

The timeline below shows where the character The Nightingale appears in The Nightingale and the Rose. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Nightingale and the Rose
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
Materialism, Intellectualism, and Emotion Theme Icon
As a Nightingale sits in her nest in an Oak-tree, she overhears a Student speaking mournfully about his... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
Materialism, Intellectualism, and Emotion Theme Icon
...him by at the Prince's ball unless he finds a rose for her. Meanwhile, the Nightingale reflects on how powerful and priceless a force love is. The other animals and plants... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
The Nightingale decides to help the Student, and flies to the center of the garden to speak... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
When the Nightingale states her case to the Red Rose-tree, he confirms that his roses are red, but... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Materialism, Intellectualism, and Emotion Theme Icon
Her mind made up, the Nightingale flies back to the Student and tells him the good news, asking simply that he... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
Materialism, Intellectualism, and Emotion Theme Icon
After the Nightingale sings, the Student criticizes her performance, saying that it is stylistically impressive but emotionally shallow.... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
When evening falls, the Nightingale flies to the Rose-tree and perches against the thorn. As the Moon listens, she begins... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
Warning that day is fast approaching, the Rose-tree tells the Nightingale to press herself further onto the thorn. The Nightingale continues to sing, this time about... (full context)
Love and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Art and Idealism Theme Icon
The Rose-tree encourages the Nightingale to press closer one last time. Although rapidly weakening, she sings about sacrificial and undying... (full context)