Quotations and Literary Allusions spoken by Willy Wonka in the 1971 film,
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
by Thomas M. Brodhead

First things first: Aaron Villa's wonderful transcript of the film (left-click to view, or right-click to download.)

When Quaker Oats (yes, the Quaker Oats company!) decided to adapt Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for film, Roald Dahl was asked to write the screenplay. Dahl produced a fairly literal translation of his book that was deemed unacceptable by the studio executives. The young writer and script doctor David Seltzer was then asked to "improve" Dahl's script. The result was a recalibration of Dahl's story with many significant changes (e.g. rival chocolatier Slugworth became a central character in the film as a tempter of the children, etc.) More importantly, Wonka was cast in a darker light, with an ambiguous stance toward the children (as opposed to the sprightly and somewhat avuncular candyman of Dahl's conception.)

In the finished script, Wonka's dialogue is peppered with literary quotations and allusions not found in Dahl's book. They were all introduced by David Seltzer as part of his rewrite of Dahl's screenplay. (Does anyone have a copy of Dahl's original screenplay? Please contact me...)

Below is a listing of every line from Wonka's dialogue that I have been able to trace to an external source. Most of the quotations are from Shakespeare, two come from Ogden Nash, the others from various sources. If you know of other quotations in Wonka's dialogue, or if you'd simply like to rap about Wonka, the Genius of Gene Wilder, or anything else under the sun, please contact me at HugeWonkaFan@yahoo.com

[While opening the combination lock]
WONKA: 99...44...100 percent pure

Obvious reference: the Ivory Soap ad line
Not-so-obvious reference: Poetry and aphorisms by Ogden Nash are quoted elsewhere by Wonka, suggesting that Seltzer was familiar with Nash's output. It is perhaps not a coincidence that one of Nash's poems is:

Home, 99 44/100% Sweet Home
by Ogden Nash [1902-1971]

Home is heaven and orgies are vile,
But I like an orgy, once in a while.

[In the room behind the combination lock door]
WONKA: Is it my soul that calls upon my name?

from Romeo and Juliet
by William Shakespeare [1564-1616]
Act II, Scene 2 [balcony scene]

It is my soul that calls upon my name:
How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night,
Like softest music to attending ears!

[In the doorway-filled hallway that becomes increasingly smaller]
WONKA: Oh, you should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about.

The Microbe
by Hilaire Belloc [1870-1953]

The Microbe is so very small
You cannot make him out at all,
But many sanguine people hope
To see him through a microscope.
His jointed tongue that lies beneath
A hundred curious rows of teeth;
His seven tufted tails with lots
Of lovely pink and purple spots,
On each of which a pattern stands,
Composed of forty separate bands;
His eyebrows of a tender green;
All these have never yet been seen--
But Scientists, who ought to know,
Assure us that they must be so...
Oh! let us never, never doubt
What nobody is sure about!

[At the chocolate river, watching Augustus Gloop trapped in the pipe]
WONKA: The suspense is terrible. I hope it'll last.

from The Importance of Being Earnest, Act III
by Oscar Wilde [1854-1900]

The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.

[To Mrs. Gloop as she is led off by Oompah Loompahs]
WONKA: Nihil desperandum, dear lady.

Source: not an improbable Latin expression, but compare:

Odes (I, 7, 27)
by Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) [65-8 B.C.]

quo nos cumque feret melior fortuna parente,
ibimus--o socii comitesque,
nil desperandum Teucro duce et auspice Teucro:
certus enim promisit Apollo

Where Fortune bears us, than my sire more kind,
There let us go, my own, my gallant crew.
'Tis Teucer leads, 'tis Teucer breathes the wind;
No more despair; Apollo's word is true."

[My thanks to Nick Lambert for hitting on this.]

[Continuing, to Mrs. Gloop as she is led off by Oompah Loompahs]
WONKA: Across the desert lies the promised land.

Source: Most likely Biblical, a reference to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and across the desert to the "Promised Land", with undertones of World-War II irony given Ms. Gloop's nationality. But also but compare:

The Dance of Life, Chapter 3
by Havelock Ellis [1859-1939]

The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness

[Boarding the Wonkatania]
WONKA: All I ask is a tall ship and a star to sail her by.

from Sea Fever
by John Masefield [1878-1967]

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick, and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call which may not be denied.
And all I ask is a windy day with white clouds flying,
And flung spray and blown spume, and the seagulls crying.
I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way, and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife.
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover,
And a quite sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

[Before the Wonkatania enters the dark tunnel]
WONKA: 'Round the world and home again, that's the sailor's way!

from Homeward Bound
by William Allingham [1828-1889]

Head the ship for England!
Shake out every sail!
Blithe leap the billows,
Merry sings the gale.
Captain, work the reckoning;
How many knots a day? -
Round the world and home again,
That's the sailor's way!

[Upon the completion of the Wonkatania ride]
WONKA: A small step for mankind, but a giant step for us.

Neil Armstrong [b. 1930]
One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

[Mixing a concoction in the Invention Room]
WONKA: Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple.

Thomas Edison [1847-1931]
Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

[On a bicycle in the Inventing Room]
WONKA (singing):

In springtime, the only pretty ring time
Birds sing, hey ding
A-ding, a-ding
Sweet lovers love the spring--

from As You Like It, Act V, Scene 3
by William Shakespeare [1564-1616]

It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o'er the green cornfield did pass,
In the springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

[Here Shakespeare is quoting the popular Celtic ballad, "It was a lover and his lass"]

[In the inventing room, to Mr. Salt]
WONKA: Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.

Reflections on Ice-Breaking
by Ogden Nash [1902-1971]

Is Dandy
But liquor
Is quicker.

[After Violet has been rolled away to the juicing room]
WONKA: Where is fancy bred? In the heart, or in the head? Shall we roll on?

[Note the pun on "bred" (homophone: bread) and roll (homonym, e.g. dinner roll)]

from The Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene 2
by William Shakespeare [1564-1616]

Tell me where is Fancy bred,
Or in the heart or in the head?

How begot, how nourished?
Reply, reply.
It is engender'd in the eyes,
With gazing fed; and Fancy dies
In the cradle where it lies.
Let us all ring Fancy's knell:
I'll begin it,
Ding, dong, bell.
Ding, dong, bell.

[In the hallway with lickable wallpaper]
WONKA: We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

from Ode
by Arthur O'Shaughnessy [1844-1881]

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

[Introducing fizzy lifting drinks]
WONKA: Bubbles, bubbles everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge [1772-1834]

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

[Note that this line is commonly misquoted as "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink"; Wonka's line is a transformation of the common misquotation.]

[Explaining the Eggdicator]
WONKA: A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.

Bartlett's Quotations lists this as Anonymous, but suggests a possible source in:

Letter to Sir Horace Mann, 1774
by Horace Walpole [1717-1797]

A careless song, with a little nonsense in it now and then,
does not misbecome a monarch.
Also compare:
Carmina (IV, 12, 27)
by Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) [65-8 B.C.]

Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem: Dulce est desipere in loco.
(Translation: Mingle a little folly with your wisdom; a little nonsense now and then is pleasant.)
This would suggest that Horace Walpole was alluding to the Classical Horace in his letter to Horace Mann.
(What are the odds of that happening?)

[Introducing the Wonkamobile]
WONKA: A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

from Endymion, Book 1
by John Keats [1795-1821]

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

[At the Wonkamobile, explaining to Grandpa Joe the engine's fuel]
WONKA: ...bubble cola, double cola, double bubble burp-a-cola...

[This isn't a quote per se, but seems to echo another line from the bard]

from Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1
by William Shakespeare [1564-1616]

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and caldron, bubble.

[During the Wonkamobile ride]
WONKA: Swifter than eagles...stronger than lions...

from The Bible: 2 Samuel 1:23

Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives,
and in their death they were not divided:
they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions

[During the Wonkamobile ride]
WONKA [singing]:

Martha! Martha! Du entschwandest,
Und mein Glück nahmst du mit dir;
Gib mir wieder, was du fandest,
Oder teile es mit mir

Martha! Martha! You have Vanished
My Happiness you took with you
Give me back what you found,
or share it with me.]

from the opera Martha
by Friedrich von Flotow [1812-1883]
Libretto by Wilhelm Friedrich Riese [1805?-1879]
[Many thanks to Andrew Parker for help with the translation, locating the complete libretto, and the identifying the true surname and dates of the librettist]

[In the Wonkavision room, advising Mike Teavee]
WONKA: You should open your mouth a little wider when you speak.

from Through the Looking-Glass, And What Alice Found There
by Lewis Carroll [1832-1898]

Chapter II: The Garden of Live Flowers
[The Red Queen, advising Alice:]
"It's time for you to answer now," the Queen said, looking at her watch:
"open your mouth a little wider when you speak, and always say 'your Majesty.'"
[My thanks to Nina Choudhary for hitting on this.]

[To Mrs. Teavee as she is dragged away by Oompah Loompahs]
WONKA: Parting is such sweet sorrow

from Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2
by William Shakespeare [1564-1616]

Good Night, Good night!
Parting is such sweet sorrow,
that I shall say good night till it be morrow.

[Angrily to Grandpa Joe, reading the contract signed by the children]
WONKA: ...fax mentis incendium gloriae...

Variously translated:
"The incitement to Glory is the Torch of the Mind"
"The torch of glory kindles the mind"
"The flame of glory is the torch of the mind"

This Latin motto belongs to the family of Hastings-Forbes, Earls of Granard. The Earldom was created in 1675, so presumably the motto was adopted around that time. It has been used many times since, and now is used as a motto by many secondary schools and colleges around the world.

[Continuing reading the contract to Grandpa Joe]
WONKA: ...memo bis punitor delicatum...

As Latin, this is gibberish. However, if Seltzer was mistaken in his Latin, or if Wilder read the line wrong, then a more probable source text would be:
Memo(r) bis punitur delictum

Simply translated:
"I am mindful (that) the crime is punished twice [or in two ways]."

[Many thanks to Chuck Crane, visitor to this site, for this suggestion.]

But also compare:
Memor non bis punitur peccatum

"Remember, no sin is punished twice."

This is an old theological chestnut pointing out that a sin is either paid for on the cross or in hell but never both.

[Many thanks to Andrew Benjamin, visitor to this site, for this suggestion.]

[To himself, holding the Everlasting Gobstopper that Charlie has left on his desk]
WONKA: So shines a good deed in a weary world.

from The Merchant of Venice, Act V, Scene 1
by William Shakespeare [1564-1616]

That light we see is burning in my hall.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
[Note that David Seltzer changed the crucial word "naughty" to "weary", giving the line more relevance in the context of the story, e.g. Wonka is weary of the horrible character of most people.]

[This is spoken not by Wonka, but by the Tinker whom Charlie encounters outside the gates to the factory on his way home from school.]
TINKER: Up the airy mountain, down the rushing glen, we dare not go a-hunting, for fear of little men.

from The Fairies
William Allingham [1824-1889]

Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting,
For fear of little men;

Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl's feather.
Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain-lake,
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.

[There have been numerous requests for the text to the contract signed by the children at the beginning of the film. Here are the opening paragraphs, to the best of my visual abilities:]

WHEREAS The management cannot be held responsible for any accidents, incidents, loss of property or life or limb.


WHEREAS For damage caused by lightning, earthquakes, floods, fire, frost or frippery of any sort, kind or condition, consequently the undersigned take responsibility.

WHEREAS During the term of this Agreement you will become and remain, at your sole cost and expense and at our request, a member in good standing of any then properly designated labor unions, guilds, or other organizations, as defined and determined under the applicable law, pertaining persons performing services of the type and the character to be performed here and hereunder. Nothing herein contained shall be deemed to require the violation of any written agreement executed between us and any such labor union, guild or other organization which may be in effect at the time of the execution of this agreement, and wherever there is any conflict between the provisions of this agreement and any other, the latter shall prevail, but in such event, the provisions of this agreement so affected shall be curtailed and limited only to the events necessary to permit compliance with such payment of any additional compensation it shall be at the minimum that is permitted thereunder.

[The next paragraph is difficult to make out; anyone out there with the patience and visual acuity to take a stab at it?]

WHEREAS to the extent that...
...payment hereunder exceeds applicable guild minimum...
...excess to the fullest...
...to extent permitted by any applicable...agreement,...
...shall be credited by any against any additional payment that may have to be made...
...to said guild agreement and shall be applied...
...or any additional rights that can be required...
...payment pursuant to said guild...
...should the provision of any labor union or...
...require the execution of any agreement for you...

It's commonly known among Wonka fans that Veruca's name is actually the taxonomic name for a wart. Spelled with a double "r", the three most typical human warts are the Common Wart (verruca vulgaris), the Plantar Wart (verruca plantaris), and the Flat Wart (verruca plana).

But John Edgar, visitor to this site, has hit on another hidden medical joke among the nomenclature of the characters in the film. When Violet Beauregarde is interviewed on T.V. upon discovering a Golden Ticket, she exclaims:

Now this piece of gum here is one I've been chewing for three months solid, and that's a world record. It's beaten the record held by my best friend Miss Cornelia Prinzmetel, and was she mad! Hi, Cornelia, how are you sweetie?
Prinzmetal's Angina, or coronary artery spasm, is an uncommon condition seen in both men and women. Episodes of typical (though severe) angina are triggered when one of the major coronary arteries suddenly goes into spasm, temporarily shutting off blood flow.

Note that as with Veruca's name, one letter has been changed. (The name and dialogue are taken directly from Dahl's book, and were not an addition to the film by Seltzer.)

Eric D. Wolf, another visitor to this site, has pointed out that Mrs. Salt's first name in Dahl's book is Angina, a coronary spasm condition similar to Prinzmetal's Angina. This is more proof that Cornelia's last name was most likely not chosen at random!

For a review of Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, visit What's Wrong with Tim Burton's Wonka?

Feel free to send your thoughts and reactions to HugeWonkaFan@yahoo.com

Wilder's Wonka Lewis Carroll

Is it just a coincidence that Wilder's Wonka looks uncannily like Lewis Carroll?

Danna Schacter, visitor to this site, submitted the photo of Carroll at right, whose resemblance to Wonka is striking.

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For more information, write to Tom Brodhead at HugeWonkaFan@yahoo.com

This page created 3 July 2005
Text last updated 21 May 2012
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