In prerevolutionary Russia, a Jewish peasant contends with marrying off three of his daughters while growing antisemitic sentiment threatens his village.

Tevye: As Abraham said, "I am a stranger in a strange land... "
Mendel: Moses said that.
Tevye: Ah. Well, as King David said, "I am slow of speech, and slow of tongue."
Mendel: That was also Moses.
Tevye: For a man who was slow of tongue, he talked a lot.
Perchik: Money is the world's curse.
Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover.
Tevye: Where are you going?
Lazar Wolf: Chicago. In America.
Tevye: Chicago, America? We are going to New York, America. We'll be neighbors.
Tevye: As the good book says, when a poor man eats a chicken, one of them is sick.
Mendel: Where does the book say that?
Tevye: Well, it doesn't say that exactly, but somewhere there is something about a chicken.
Villager: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
Tevye: Very good. That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.
Tevye: As the good book says, if you spit in the air, it lands in your face.
Tevye: [in song] Do you love me?
Golde: [speaking] I'm your wife!
Tevye: [speaking] I know!
[in song]
Tevye: But do you love me?
Golde: [singing] Do I love him? For twenty-five years I've lived with him, fought with him, starved with him. Twenty-five years, my bed is his...
Tevye: Shh!
Golde: [singing] If that's not love, what is?
Tevye: [singing] Then you love me!
Golde: I suppose I do!
Tevye: Oh.
Tevye: And I suppose I love you too.
Tevye, Golde: [singing] It doesn't change a thing, but even so... After twenty-five years, it's nice to know.
Tevye: [to God] Anyway, Motel and Tzeitel have been married for some time now. They work very hard, and they're as poor as squirrels in winter. But, they're so happy, they don't know how miserable they are.
[Hodel and Perchik begin dancing]
Mendel: She's dancing with a man!
Tevye: I can SEE that she's dancing with a man!
Tevye: And I'm going to dance with my wife!
[repeated line]
Tevye: On the other hand...
Perchik: Your daughter has a quick and witty tongue.
Tevye: Yes, the wit she gets from me, as the good book says...
Golde: The good book can wait, it's time for Sabbath.
Tevye: The tongue she gets from her mother.
Tevye: You are just a poor tailor!
Motel: That's true, Reb Tevye, but even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness!
Hodel: [singing] For Papa, make him a scholar!
Chava: [singing] For Mama, make him rich as a king!
Hodel, Chava: For me, well, I wouldn't holler if he were as handsome as anything!
Hodel, Chava: Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match! Find me a find, catch me a catch! Night after night in the dark I'm alone, so find me a match of my own!
[about Yente, the matchmaker]
Tzeitel: But Mama, the men she finds. The last one was so old and he was bald. He had no hair.
Golde: A poor girl without a dowry can't be so particular. You want hair, marry a monkey.
[to God]
Tevye: I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?
Golde: Tevye! Tevye!
Tevye: What is it?
Golde: It's Chava. She left home this morning, with Fyedka.
Tevye: What?
Golde: I've looked everywhere for her. I even went to the priest. He told me they were married.
Tevye: Married?
Golde: Yes.
Tevye: Well... Go home, Golde. We have other children at home. You have work to do, I have work to do, go home.
Golde: [anguished] But Chaveleh!
Tevye: Chava is dead to us! We'll forget her.
Tevye: Go home. Go home, Golde.
[Golde walks away, crying]
Yente: People! I tell you, Tzeitel, if God lived on earth, people would break his windows!
Mordcha: If the rich could hire others to die for them we, the poor, would all make a nice living.
Tevye: [to Golde] Quiet, woman, before I get angry, because when I get angry even flies don't dare to fly!
All: To life, to life, L'Chaim!
Perchik: You'll all chatter yourselves away into the grave.
[last lines]
Tevye: All right children. Let's go.
[the constable enters Anatevka]
Tevye: Welcome, your honour, what's the good news in the world?
Constable: I see you have company.
Tevye: [looks at them nervously] They are my friends.
Constable: It's just as well. What I have to say is for their ears also. How much time do you need to sell your house and household goods?
Tevye: Why should I sell my house? Is it in anybody's way?
Constable: I came to tell you that you have to leave Anatevka.
Tevye: How did I come to deserve such an honour?
Constable: Not just you of course, but all of you!
Tevye: Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!
Lazar Wolf: How is your brother-in-law? In America?
Tevye: Oh, he's doing very well.
Lazar Wolf: Oh, he wrote you?
Tevye: No, not lately.
Lazar Wolf: Then how do you know?
Tevye: If he was doing badly, he would write.
Tzeitel: Chava, I've found him; will you be a lucky bride! He's handsome, he's tall! That is, from side to side, but he's a nice man, a good catch, right?
Hodel: Right!
Tzeitel: You heard he has a temper.
Hodel: He'll *beat* you every night.
Tzeitel: But only when he's sober...
Tzeitel, Hodel: So you're all right!
Men: [singing] And if our good fortune never comes, here's to whatever comes.
Constable: You're an honest, decent person. Even though you are a Jew.
Tevye: Oh... THANK you, your honor. How often does a man get a compliment like that?
Tevye: They gave each other a pledge? Unheard of. Absurd.
Golde: [about Tevye] You can die from such a man!
[Hodel is leaving on a train for Siberia]
Hodel: Papa, God alone knows when we shall see each other again.
Tevye: Then we will leave it in His hands.
Golde: Oh, you're finally here. Come, let's go home now.
Tevye: I want to see Motel's new machine.
Golde: You can see it some other time. Let's go home now.
Tevye: Quiet, woman, before I get angry! Because when I get angry, even flies don't dare to fly!
Golde: [sarcastically] I'm very frightened of you. After we finish supper I'll faint.
Tevye: [angrily] Golde, I am the head of the house! I am the head of the family! And I want to see Motel's new machine NOW!
[He looks inside then closes the door]
Tevye: Now, lets go home.
Fruma Sarah: How could you allow it, How? How could you let your daughter take my place? Live in my house, carry my keys, and wear my clothes, pearls, how?
Ghosts: [singing] How could you allow your daughter to take her place?
Fruma Sarah: Pearls!
Ghosts: House?
Fruma Sarah: Pearls!
Ghosts: Keys!
Fruma Sarah: Pearls!
Ghosts: Clothes!
Fruma Sarah: Peeeeeearls!
Ghosts: How?
Tevye: [about Perchik] Is he in bad trouble, that hero of yours?
[Hodel nods]
Tevye: Arrested?
[she nods again]
Tevye: Convicted?
Hodel: Yes. But he did nothing wrong. He cares nothing for himself. Everything he does is for other people.
Tevye: Yes, but if he did nothing wrong, he wouldn't be in trouble.
Hodel: Oh Papa, how can you say that? What wrongs did Joseph do? And Abraham, and Moses? And they had troubles.
Tevye: Yes, but... But why won't you tell me where he is now, this Joseph of yours?
Hodel: It is far, Papa. Terribly far. He is in a settlement in Siberia.
Tevye: [shocked] Siberia! And he asks you to leave your father and mother, and join him in that frozen wasteland and marry him there?
Hodel: No, Papa. He did not ask me to go. I *want* to go. I don't want him to be alone. I want to help him in his work.
Tevye: Hodel...
Hodel: Papa.
Hodel: How can I hope to make you understand, why I do what I do? Why I must travel to a distant land, far from the home I love. Once I was happily content to be, as I was, where I was. Close to the people who are close to me, here in the home I love. Who could see that a man would come, who would change the shape of my dreams? Helpless now, I stand with him, watching older dreams grow dim. Oh, what a melancholy choice this is, wanting home, wanting him... Closing my heart to every hope but his, leaving the home I love. There where my heart has settled long ago, I must go, I must go. Who could imagine I'd be wandering so far from the home I love. Yet... there with my love, I'm home.
[the train is heard]
Tevye: [concerned] And, who my child will there be to perform a marriage there in the wilderness?
Hodel: [smiling] Papa, I promise you, we will be married under a canopy.
Tevye: Yes, yes. No doubt, a Rabbi or two were also arrested.
[the train pulls in, Tevye lifts Hodel's luggage aboard]
Hodel: [crying and hugging him] Papa! God alone knows when we shall see each other again.
Tevye: Then, we will leave it in His hands.
[he helps her aboard and watches the train pull out]
Tevye: [looking up] Take care of her. See that she dresses warm.
Tevye: And in the circle of our little village, We've always had our special types. For instance, Yente the matchmaker, Reb Nachum the beggar... And most important of all, our beloved Rabbi.
Leibesh: Rabbi! May I ask you a question?
Rabbi: Certainly, Lebisch!
Leibesh: Is there a proper blessing... for the Tsar?
Rabbi: A blessing for the Tsar? Of course! May God bless and keep the Tsar... far away from us!
Perchik: There's a question... A certain question I want to discuss with you.
Hodel: Yes?
Perchik: It's a political question.
Hodel: What is it?
Perchik: The question of... marriage.
Hodel: Is this a political question?
Perchik: Well, yes. Yes, everything's political. Like everything else, the relationship between a man and a woman has a socioeconomic base. Marriage must be founded on mutual beliefs. A common attitude and philosophy towards society...
Perchik: Well, yes, of course. That is also necessary. Such a relationship can have positive social values. When two people face the world with unity and solidarity...
Hodel: And affection?
Perchik: Yes, that is an important element! At any rate, I... I personally am in favour of such a socioeconomic relationship.
Hodel: I think... you are asking me to marry you.
Perchik: Well... in a theoretical sense... yes. I am.
Hodel: I was hoping you were.
Lazar Wolf: How is it going with you, Reb Tevye?
Tevye: How should it go?
Lazar Wolf: You are right.
Tevye: And you?
Lazar Wolf: The same.
Tevye: I'm sorry to hear that.
Hodel: We only have one Rabbi, and he only has one son. Why shouldn't I want the best?
Tzeitel: Because you're a girl from a poor family. So whatever Yente brings, you'll take. Right? Of course, right!
[sings, mimicking Yente]
Tzeitel: Hodel! Oh Hodel, have I made a match for you! He's handsome, he's young! All right, he's sixty-two. But he's a nice man, a good catch, true? True! I promise you'll be happy, and even if you're not, there's more to life than that... Don't ask me what.
Tevye: [to God] It may sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not. After all, with Your help, I'm starving to death.
[after Chava elopes]
Tevye: [singing] Little bird... Little Chaveleh. I don't understand what's happening today. Everything is all a blur... All I can see is a happy child, the sweet little bird you were, Chaveleh, Chaveleh... Little bird, little Chaveleh, you were always such a pretty little thing, everybody's favorite child... Gentle and kind and affectionate, what a sweet little bird you were, Chaveleh, Chaveleh...
Tevye: Thank you, your honor. You are a good man. If I may say so, it's too bad you're not a Jew.
Constable: [laughs] That's what I like about you, Tevye. You're always joking.
Tevye: [to Lazar Wolf] I always wanted a son, but I wanted one a little younger than myself.
[Perchik and Hodel have announced their engagement]
Tevye: He loves her. Love, it's a new style... On the other hand, our old ways were once new, weren't they?... On the other hand, they decided without parents, without a matchmaker!... On the other hand, did Adam and Eve have a matchmaker?... Well, yes, they did. And it seems these two have the same Matchmaker!
Fyedka: Your father is coming. Chava, let me talk to him. Let me tell him about us.
Chava: No, Fyedka, that would be the worst thing, I'm sure of it.
Fyedka: But let me try!
Chava: No! I'll talk to him. I promise.
Chava: [to Tevye] The world is changing, Papa.
Perchik: I'm a very good teacher.
Hodel: I heard that the Rabbi who must praise himself has a congregation of one.
Tevye: Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything: how to sleep, how to eat... how to work... how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, "How did this tradition get started?" I'll tell you!
Tevye: I don't know. But it's a tradition... and because of our traditions... Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.
Men: [singing] Who day and night must scramble for a living, feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers, and who has the right as master of the house to have the final word at home? The Papa! The Papa! Tradition! The Papa! The Papa! Tradition!
Women: Who must know the way to make a proper home, a quiet home, a kosher home? Who must raise a family and run the home, so Papa's free to read the Holy Book? The Mama! The Mama! Tradition! The Mama! The Mama! Tradition!
Sons: [singing] At three I started Hebrew School, at ten I learned a trade. I hear they've picked a bride for me, I hope she's pretty.
Daughters: [singing] And who does Mama teach to mend and tend and fix, preparing her to marry whoever Papa picks? The daughters! The daughters! Tradition!
Men: [singing] The Papa!
Women: [singing] The Mama!
Sons: [singing] Sons!
Daughters: [singing] The Daughters!
All: [singing] Tradition!
Chava: I'll write to you in America if you like.
Golde: [shouts] We'll be staying with Uncle Avram!
Chava: Yes, Mama!
Tevye: [annoyed] We'll be staying with Uncle Avram! We'll be staying with Uncle Avram! The whole world has to know our business!
Motel: Times are changing, Reb Tevye. The thing is, over a year ago, your daughter, Tzeitel, and I gave each other our pledge that we would marry.
Tevye: You gave each other a... pledge?
Tzeitel: Yes, Papa. We gave each other our pledge.
[Tevye admires the lavishness of a butcher's home]
Tevye: And all this from killing innocent animals.
Perchik: [sings] They look so natural together.
Hodel: [sings] Just like two newlyweds should be.
Perchik, Hodel: [singing] Is there a canopy in store for me?
[first lines]
Tevye: A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask 'Why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous?' Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!
Yente: From such children come other children!
Golde: Motel is nothing! Yente, you said you had news for me...
Yente: Ah, children, they are your blessing in your old age. My poor Aaron, God rest his soul, couldn't give me children. Between you and me, Golde, he hardly tried.
Golde: You'll be late.
Tevye: Golde, I won't be late.
Golde: You'll be late.
Tevye: I won't be late! I won't be late! If you ever stop talking, I won't be late!
Fyedka: [introducing himself to Chava] I'm a pleasant fellow, charming, honest, ambitious, quite bright, and very modest.
Tevye: In the middle of the dream, in walks your grandmother Tzeitel, may she rest in peace.
Golde: Grandmother Tzeitel? How did she look?
Tevye: Well, for a woman who's dead 30 years, she looked very good.
Tevye: Then there are the others in our village. They make a much bigger circle. We don't bother them, and so far, they don't bother us. And among ourselves, we always get along perfectly well.
[pointing to Itchak and Avram]
Tevye: Of course, there was the time when he sold him a horse and told him it was only six years old, when it was really 12. But now, it's all over, and we live in simple peace and harmony.
[In Avram's ear]
Tevye: It was twelve years old.
[Avram nods]
Itchak: It was six!
Avram: Tevye knows!
[they begin arguing]
Lazar Wolf: Have a drink?
Tevye: I won't insult you by saying no.
Motel: [on being evicted] Rabbi, we've been waiting all our lives for the Messiah. Wouldn't now be a good time for Him to come?
Rabbi: We'll have to wait for him someplace else. Meanwhile, let's start packing.
All: [singing] Sunrise, sunset; sunrise, sunset; swiftly fly the years... one season following another, laden with happiness and tears.
Perchik: In this world it is the rich who are the criminals. Someday their wealth will be ours.
Tevye: That would be nice. If they would agree, I would agree.
Mordcha: Why should I break my head about the outside world? Let the outside world break it's own head! Well put, no?
Fyedka: Some are driven away by edicts... others, by silence.
Tevye: [singing] Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?
Golde: [singing] I don't remember growing older. When did they?
Tevye: [after seeing Chava and Fyedka talking] What were you and he talking about?
Chava: Nothing. We were just talking.
Tevye: Good.
[walks away]
Chava: [chasing after Teyve] Papa! Fyedka and I... We've known each other for a long time...
Tevye: Chaveleh, I would be much happier if you remained friends from a distance. You must not forget who you are and who that man is.
Chava: He has a name, Papa.
Tevye: Of course. All creatures on Earth have a name.
Chava: Fyedka is not a creature, Papa. Fyedka is a man!
Tevye: Who says he isn't? It's just that he's a different kind of man. As the Good Book says, "Each shall seek his own kind." In other words, a bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together?
Chava: The world is changing, Papa!
Tevye: [rounding on her] No!
Tevye: No. Some things do not change for us. Some things will never change.
Chava: We don't feel that way.
Tevye: We?
Chava: Fyedka and I... We want to be married.
Tevye: What? Are you out of your mind? Don't you understand what that means, marrying outside of the faith?
Chava: But, Papa...
Tevye: I said no! Never talk about it again. Never mention his name again. Never see him again. Do you understand me?
Chava: [quietly] Yes, Papa. I understand you.
Lazar Wolf: We can fight to keep our home.
Constable: Against our militia, our army? I wouldn't advise that!
Tevye: I have some advice for you. Get off my land. This is still my home, my land. Get off my land.
[to God]
Tevye: Sometimes I think, when it gets too quiet up there, You say to Yourself, "What kind of mischief can I play on My friend Tevye?"
[Yente has returned from the post office]
Yente: The postman told me there was a letter for your sister, Hodel.
Tzeitel: Thank you, I'll go and get it.
Yente: I got it. It's, ah, from her intended, Perchik.
Tzeitel: Oh, she'll be so happy, she's been waiting to hear from... but it's open!
Yente: [shrugs] So, it happened to be open...
Tzeitel: Since when are you interested in a match, Chava? I thought you just had your eyes on your books.
Chava: [storms away with basket]
Hodel: [giggles]
Tzeitel: [to Hodel] And you have your eye on the Rabbi's son.
Hodel: Well, why not? We only have one rabbi, and he only has one son. Why shouldn't I want the best?
Tzeitel: Because you're a girl from a poor family. So, whatever yente brings, you'll take, right?
[puts black blanket on head]
Tzeitel: Of COURSE right!
Tevye: [to God] As the Good Book says, ev...
Tevye: Why should I tell You what the Good Book says?
Tevye: And until your golden day comes, Rev. Perchik, How will you live?
Perchik: By giving lessons to children, Do you have any children?
Tevye: I have five daughters.
Perchik: [Looking to Tevye in disbelief] Five?
Tevye: Daughters...
Perchik: Girls can learn too, girls are .
Mendel: A radical!
Tevye: Oh, go away!
Mordcha: May the authorities be like onions with their heads in the ground!
Mordcha: May the Czar have his own personal plague!