Flies to Wanton Boys

Hi, everyone.

I sent this to Cecil too, but as I’m more likely to get a response this way, I’ll ask the board.

I saw King Lear tonight, and I recognised the line, “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport”, from another work of literature. It was quoted in the opening pages. I just can’t remember the book or author. I can’t even remember if it was a play or novel, although I think it was a novel.

Can you please reply if you’ve seen this elsewhere.

I’m aware of the connection to Lord of the Flies, but this was a direct quotation.


Are you asking whether King Lear was quoting from Lord of the Flies? :confused:

No, I think the OP is recognising that King Lear has been quoted in some subsequent literary work, but can’t remember where.

Me too, BTW.

No. As has already been clarified, King Lear is quoted in the later, modern publication which I have forgotten.

The title of William Golding’s Book Lord of the Flies alludes to King Lear, according to Wikipedia, but I remember a book which directly quotes the full saying “As flies… for their sport” in its opening pages.

And I’m cursing my memory.

Thanks anyway.

Karl Popper: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers?

List of Quotes from Shakespeare in Brave New World.

Not in the opening pages though.

Since this concerns literature, I’m moving it to Cafe Society.

General Questions Moderator

There is a fairy tale about a nasty little rich girl who pulls the wings off of flies. It is from a Grimm’s/Anderson’s fairy tale set I had as a kid. Here it is–The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf.


It postdates Shakespeare but proably comes from an oral tradition.

Shakespeare has on occasion been quoted by many authors over the past few years.

Searching on Amazon (which does full-text searches for participating books) for that phrase brings up 125 books (though many of them are various Shakespeare editions or commentaries); among them are Tess of the d’Urbervilles (and the previously mentioned Brave New World). You could look through those for a start.

I know that’s not all of them, because it’s also in Contact (Sagan), in one of the chapter headings, but not near the beginning. I don’t know why the Amazon search doesn’t find that one.

There was the variant from Blackadder II: “As private parts to the gods are we: they play with us for their sport!”

Cite, please? An exhaustive list would most helpful.


Asimov originally wanted to title one of his sf short stories “King Lear, IV, i, line xx-xx” (the location of your quote), but his editor said “No way!” and just titled it “Flies”.