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Despair Speech

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Luffy only needs two words.

"Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more."
Macbeth, Macbeth

One of the best ways to show that a character has crossed the Despair Event Horizon is to give them the occasion to perform a Despair Speech to show that their hopes are lost and that there's nothing else left to do. Expect Creepy Monotone if the character is portrayed as scary. Manly Tears are occasionally involved.

The character is winding up their own lack of chances, desperation, and, sometimes, remorse for something they could have done or said before. If said character is a criminal, their confession can become a Despair Speech. Authors ought to be careful when using this: if it's done too much or badly, it becomes Wangst.

Contrast Badass Boast.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • As one might expect, this is Played for Laughs in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. "I'm in despair! [Insert topic here] has left me in despair!" is the catchphrase of the main character.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji is prone to doing this, particularly at the End.
  • Lelouch from Code Geass near the end of Turn 20: "My name is Lelouch vi Britannia, I am the eldest son of Empress Marianne, the prince who was abandoned by his empire. If anyone wishes to stop me, let them try, if there is anyone who can go beyond my despair."
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica
    • Sayaka delivers one just before turning into a witch.
    • Homura delivers one of these when she finally gives up and nearly becomes a Witch herself. A timely Cooldown Hug from Madoka just about averts the transformation.
  • Pictured is Luffy from One Piece having an epic breakdown after losing all his friends and watching his brother die protecting him, when he was supposed to be the one saving him. Like the image caption says, sometimes all a speech two words.
  • In Popotan, Mai's phone call to the younger Mai about how it's her fault that Konami died without getting to see her again and that she's made all her friends suffer the same fate amounts to this.
  • Mekakucity Actors:
    • During Episode 10, Azami delivers one to her daughter about how foolish she was to believe that a marriage between a human and a monster like her could ever work out. She then disappears into her never-ending world forever.
    • Near the end of Episode 12, Marry delivers one of these after the Clearing Eyes Snake possesses Konoha and nearly kills Kido, Kano, and Seto, and she resolves to reset time to prevent their deaths. She doesn't go through with it.
  • Subaru from Re:Zero has an extremely long one. After failing multiple times to stop the Witch Cult from slaughtering everyone in Roswaal's territory, including his closest friends, Subaru gives up on saving them and chooses to run away instead. Rem tries to convince him of not giving up, only to provoke Subaru into invoking this trope. Doubles as an Heroic Self-Deprecation.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Envy gives one after a Humiliation Conga of being reduced to a tiny parasite and called out on their jealousy of humanity by Ed. They break down sobbing when they realize they have been understood by a lower lifeform. Unable to live with the humiliation, Envy smashes their own Philosopher's Stone and ends their life.

    Comic Books 
  • Played for Laughs with Dirk Anger in Nextwave.
    I've reinvented suicide as a group activity. Go me.
  • Batman, of all people, gets a borderline one in Going Sane as he tries to tell his girlfriend that he's finally realized that the world doesn't actually need Batman and he can let that part of his life go (without actually admitting he was Batman). Subverted when she not only reveals she knew he was Batman, but the world absolutely needs him so he better get his ass in gear and go back to Gotham.
  • Hal Jordan got a few of these back during his Parallax days.
  • In the last issue of Runaways, Nico is given a choice of either signing up with Hunter Stein or taking the team to go out and look for Chase, who abandoned them. She chooses the latter, at which point Klara begs her to reconsider, pointing out that they have no money, no home, no allies, and no assurance that they'll ever find Chase (or that he'll agree to rejoin them if they do.)

  • Our Miss Brooks: After overhearing a conversation at the realtor's, Miss Brooks discovers that Mr. Boynton has bought the cottage across the street from Mrs. Davis' house (where Miss Brooks is a boarder). The conversation suggests that he finally intends to propose. Alas, he bought the house so his widowed mother could move in with him. This comes as a shock to Connie, who had even brought wallpaper over to the cottage to decorate. She's lost in daydreams when Mr. Boynton comes in relates his plans to live with his mother.
    Connie (sobbing): Fine schnook I've been!
    (she hands the wallpaper to Mr. Boynton)
    Wear it in good health!
    (she leaves the cottage, slamming the door behind her)
    • Miss Brooks goes into a deep depression, offers her resignation and prepares to leave Madison. Fortunately, the matter is fixed by the good offices of Mrs. Davis and Mr. Boynton's mother. Mrs. Davis tells Mrs. Boynton the situation and invites her to be her new boarder. Mr. Boynton proposes to Miss Brooks, and everybody lives Happily Ever After.
  • Casablanca: Not a speech per se, but Rick's dialogue in his famous "All the Gin Joints" scene once Ilsa shows up smacks of this.
  • In The Grizzlies, after the suicide of another Inuit student, Russ tearfully gives one to his student Miranda when she sees him packing to leave Kugluktuk. She gives him an epic speech in return, making him reconsider.
  • In the Steve Martin movie remake of Sgt. Bilko.
    Bilko: Well, of course I have a plan! [spelling out PALN on the chalkboard behind him] a P-L-A-N plan!... but maybe, a plan is not what I really need [gets down on his knees], what I really need is just a little puppy. A little puppy with big brown eyes, who would just come to me and lick my face, and just love me so much no matter what kind of person I am.
  • Adam Sandler's character in The Wedding Singer has a Despair Song that's pretty great.
  • Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
  • Walter from Sterne. Leningrad has that effect on people.
  • Cabin Fever: When everything goes to hell, sultry college coed Marcy tells her friend Paul that she's all but given up hope of surviving, and just wants to go Out with a Bang. He obliges.
  • In The World's End, the main character Gary King gives one of these when he reaches the final pub of his pub crawl. It details all his lost hopes and explains that he is so obsessed with finishing the crawl as it's the only time he was truly happy and he has tried to commit suicide out of disillusionment of how his life wasn't as awesome as he was hoping it to be.
    Andrew Knightley: You need help, Gary.
    Gary King: I got help. You know what "help" was? Help was a lot of people sitting in a circle talking about how fuckin' awful things had got. That is not my idea of a good time.
    Andrew Knightly: And this is?!
    Gary King: They told me when to go to bed! ME!
    Andrew Knightly: Gary, mate... How can you tell when you're drunk if you're never sober?
    Gary King: [Angry and upset] I don't want to be sober! It never got better than that night! That was supposed to be the beginning of my life! All that promise and fucking optimism... That feeling like we could take on the whole universe! It was a big lie. Nothing happened.
  • Suzanna in Girl, Interrupted gives a real Tear Jerker of a speech when she returns to the mental hospital after Daisy's suicide.
    "But I know how it feels to want to die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in, but you can't. You hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside..."
  • In The Sunset Limited, White gives an utterly damning speech about the futility of life.
    White: I don't believe in God. Can you understand that? Look around you man. Can't you see? The clamor and din of those in torment has to be the sound most pleasing to his ear. And I loathe these discussions. The argument of the village atheist whose single passion is to revile endlessly that which he denies the existence of in the first place. Your fellowship is a fellowship of pain and nothing more. And if that pain were actually collective instead of merely reiterative then the sheer weight of it would drag the world from the walls of the universe and send it crashing and burning through whatever night it might yet be capable of engendering until it was not even ash. And justice? Brotherhood? Eternal life? Good god, man. Show me a religion that prepares one for death. For nothingness. There's a church I might enter. Yours prepares one only for more life. For dreams and illusions and lies. If you could banish the fear of death from men's hearts, they wouldn't live a day. Who would want this nightmare if not for fear of the next? The shadow of the axe hangs over every joy. Every road ends in death. Every friendship. Every love. Torment, betrayal, loss, suffering, pain, age, indignity, hideous lingering illness. All with a single conclusion. For you and for every one and everything that you have chosen to care for. There's the true brotherhood. The true fellowship. And everyone is a member for life. You tell me that my brother is my salvation? My salvation? Well then damn him! Damn him in every shape and guise and form. Do I see myself in him? Yes, I do, and what I see sickens me. Do you understand me? Can you understand me?
  • The cop protagonist gives one for society at the end of The Stone Killer (1973), about how the police are fighting an unstoppable tide of crime and violence. It doesn't quite work as the cop is played by Charles Bronson, and even an unstoppable tide would find it difficult to erode his stoic features.
  • The World of Kanako: The narrator gives one at the very beginning of the film, in which he dreams about being not human anymore so he can finally escape the bullies.
  • Azrael gets one in a cut scene from Dogma, half Despair speech and half Motive Rant, explaining his Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum, how he would destroy the universe to escape Hell.
  • Kingdom of Heaven:
    • Sibylla gives one after discovering that her son contracted leprosy:
      Sibylla: How long before he wears a mask? Will you have one made for him? How did my boy deserve it? Jerusalem is dead, Tiberias. No kingdom is worth my son alive in hell. I will go to hell instead.
    • Tiberias gives a small one to Balian just before the Final Battle:
      Tiberias: May God be with you, he's no longer with me.

  • Brace gives one to Fortune in Dragoncharm, all the sadder because Brace has resented Fortune up until this point and desperately wanted to prove himself to... well, everyone, by keeping his sister safe. He believes he failed.
  • Denethor gives several of these in The Lord of the Rings; the most notable is the one he gives when he burns himself to death on his pyre.
    • Eomer gets a subverted one during the Battle of Pelanor Fields. "These staves he spoke, but he laughed as he said them..."
    • Frodo too, when the burden of the Ring in Mordor wears away at him: "I can't recall the taste of food, nor the sound of water, nor the touch of grass. I'm naked in the dark. There's nothing—no veil between me and the wheel of fire."
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Horace Slughorn gives one of these when he agrees to give Harry his memory about the time he told Tom Riddle about the Horcruxes.
  • John Carter's last words at the very end in Gods of Mars qualified as this, after seeing his wife being locked up inside an inescapable temple with an angry enemy ready to lunge at her with a knife in hand.
    "Go," I urged them. "Let me die here beside my Princess — there is no hope or happiness elsewhere for me. When they carry her dear body from that terrible place a year hence let them find the body of her lord awaiting her."

    Live-Action TV 
  • A very short one from Blackadder II (which is A Shout-Out to Shakespeare's Richard II):
    Percy: Then you are doomed. Alas. For God's sake, let us sit upon the carpet and tell sad stories.
  • In Criminal Minds, some UnSubs do this while confessing.
    • Hotch also gets one to no one in particular in the form of narration at the end of "To Hell... And Back". His soliloquy about how much everything sucks is interrupted by the Reaper breaking into his apartment and trying to kill him. Yeah.
  • The "Life is like a box of chocolates..." monologue delivered by the Cigarette-Smoking Man in an episode of The X-Files is very cynical and nihilistic, even for him.
  • Dean from Supernatural delivers one of these every three weeks. The most notable one is when he admits that he wishes he'd never been brought back to life and concludes "I should've stayed dead." Sam just mopes.
    • Castiel gives lots of despair speeches, but he usually combines them with threats or acts of violence, so they end up being badass or funny rather than wangsty. Except in season six, where he gives a drawn out despair speech to God. Lucifer was also especially fond of the Despair speech, although he seemed to use it more as a tool to gain sympathy, manipulate unwitting humans, and justify his callous behaviour than as a genuine expression of despair. Luci's continual despair speeches are part of the reason that most of the other characters think of him as a bratty child.
  • True Detective: Detective Rustin Cohle is full of these, constantly going on about the meaninglessness of life. If it weren't for Matthew McConaughty's good acting, then it would almost get annoying.
  • Captain Holt gives an infamous one in the third season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
    Holt: And now for a message of hope.
    Jake: Ah, a message of hope, right on time.
    Jake: Oh no.
    Holt: You find something you care about, and it's taken from you... your colleagues, your dream job, your mango yogurt. Never. Love. Anything. That’s the lesson.


    Religion and Mythology 
  • The Bible:
    • The Book of Job is full of these, mainly delivered by Job himself, making this trope Older Than Feudalism.
    • The titular character of the Book of Jeremiah wished that he was never born to see the fall of Judah and Jerusalem.
    • Jesus had a short one as He was crucified, asking why had he been forsaken.

  • After the queen's death, Macbeth pronounces his famous monologue.
    To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.
  • Shakespeare's Richard II
    For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
    And tell sad stories of the death of Kings.
    How some have been deposed, some slain in war,
    Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed,
    Some poison'd by their wives, some sleeping kill'd,...
  • Every other speech in Hamlet.
  • The Merchant of Venice opens with a scene which may be intended as a parody of this trope, in which Antonio speaks repeatedly about his own sadness and frustration without any obvious cause, much to the bemusement of his friends.
    In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:
    It wearies me; you say it wearies you;
    But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
    What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,
    I am to learn;
    And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
    That I have much ado to know myself.

    Video Games 
  • Hope at the beginning of Chapter 11 of Final Fantasy XIII. In fact, most of the l'Cie just before their Eidolon battles.
  • Dragon Age II: If you side with the Mages in the endgame, Orsino delivers one after seeing so many of his fellow mages dead.
    Orsino: Look at it all. Why don't they just drown us as infants? Why give us the illusion of hope?
  • Solid Snake gets one in the original Metal Gear Solid if you fail to save Meryl. "I'm not the hero you thought I was! I'm nothing!"
  • In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, Alexander comes up with a Despair Speech while acting like a Drama Prince in front of Shamir Shamazel and the Pawn Shop Owner. It is the finisher in the speech, "I am... no... more..." after downing the whole "Drink Me" potion bottle that could tug at our heartstrings a bit... if we didn't know it was Faux Death.
  • Most of the people still alive in Bastion's Keep at the beginning of Act IV of Diablo III have these to give following Leah's death and the unleashing of Diablo as the Prime Evil upon the High Heavens, but the most poignant of all is Haedrig's.
    Haedrig: I thought I could make my wife's death mean something. It doesn't matter now, does it?
    Player: It does matter. You are here now, and we might still turn the tide of this battle.
    Haedrig: Right. I'm sure that's a comfort for Leah now that she's gone too. I've been a fool. You don't get to make things right. This world isn't made for redemption.
  • Oersted gets a great one near the end of the Medieval Chapter in Live A Live.
  • Happens a few times in Dawn of War, mostly in Retribution.
  • In Dishonored, Daud gives this when you defeat him in a duel, stating that after assassinating the Empress, he felt that "something broke" inside of him and how he is filled with intense self-hatred at how rather than making something with his life he's simply chosen to use his powers as an assassin, a life he's grown tired of. In the end, he leaves his fate to Corvo's hands, seemingly not caring whether or not he lives or dies (despite his pleading for his life).
  • In Red Dead Redemption, Dutch Van Der Linde gives one when confronted by John Marston, about how everything he's been fighting for in his life has been for nothing, lamenting the changes coming, while also being unable to stop fighting as it is in his nature. This followed by him dropping himself off a cliff.
    Dutch: When I'm gone, they'll just find another monster. They have to because they have to justify their wages. Our time has passed, John.
  • There are so many examples in the Danganronpa series that it isn't worth the time to list them. In fact, driving people to make these is somewhat of a hobby for the despair-obsessed Monokuma.
  • Parodied in the "Rally the Troops" Destiny 2, contrasted by a true Rousing Speech. (He does mention to turn it into a rousing speech by mentioning loot.)
    "Uh, look, you're a bunch of dirty misfits, so you'll have to do!"
    "So, everything is gone. Your stuff. My stuff. Most importantly, my stuff!"
    "... If I don't see you out there, I'll kill you myself!"
    "Worst case scenario: we die. Maybe we won't!"
  • Delivered during the final battle of Ending D in NieR: Automata by 9S, well over the Despair Event Horizon and suffering from an intense degree of Sanity Slippage as he vents his frustration at the meaninglessness of his existence and the fact that despite knowing that humans have been extinct long before the alien invasion he still yearns for their approval as it's been hardcoded into his system.


    Web Original 
  • Ganondorf gets a pretty epic one near the end of There Will Be Brawl.
  • The Nostalgia Critic has a good one in his first commercials special, made even sadder by some really aching violin music playing over it.
    • He got another one in the Scooby-Doo review, wishing that just once he had friends to hang out with.
  • The Entity gives one of these to Linkara in their second confrontation, revealing that it is still struggling with its own insignificance, outright begging its enemy to give it purpose.

    Western Animation 
  • The Earl of Lemongrab gets a very sad one in the Adventure Time episode "You Made Me!".
    Lemongrab: No one... No one understands. I am alone! And you made me like this! *falls from window* YOU MADE ME! *runs away, ripping off his clothes* YOOOU MAAADE MEEE!!! YOU'RE... MY... GLOB! YOU'RE MY GLOB!
  • In the Moral Orel episode "Sacrifice", Clay gives one of these combined with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech; he rants and raves at his friends about their failures in love and life, but he is quite blatantly talking about himself too. He delivers another one in "Nature" that'tos equal parts tragic and unnerving.
  • Numbuh Five of Codename: Kids Next Door has one when she's about to give up and side with her sister. Thankfully, she snaps out of it.
    "I give up. My sister's a teen, the greatest Kids Next Door operative I ever knew is a teen, and I'm gonna be a teen eventually, too. Look at me! I'm practically a teen now! I just... give up."
  • Eddy of Ed, Edd n Eddy gets one in The Movie:
    "I made it all up, Double-D. Everything about my brother was a lie. I just made things up, so people would like me; think I was cool. But boy, was I wrong- the scam, my brother- this... when am I gonna learn, Double-D?"


Video Example(s):


Choose Life, Veronika

Twenty years after he decided to give up on drugs and "choose life," Mark Renton discusses the origin of the old line with Veronika, providing new ways for it to parody the futility of modern life... only to end up discussing just how miserable he is and how hopeless his life has secretly become.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / DespairSpeech

Media sources:

Main / DespairSpeech