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"Another trend I noticed while slowly working my way through the Masters of Bilge canon was that bad writers like to preface their books with a quote from somebody classy.....This made me wonder why great writers didn't start their books with quotations from world-class hacks."
— Joe Queenan in Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon.

An epigraph (from the Greek epi-, "on" or "over", and gráphō, "writing", meaning "writing upon" or, more colloquially, "inscription") is the quotation of a line, excerpt or poetry done at the beginning or (more rarely) at the ending of a work, segment or chapter. Frequent in literature, shows up occasionally otherwise.

In written works, epigraphs are often used to make the reader look in a certain direction while reading, or as instructions on how to receive the work. In Speculative Fiction, it is often used to do an Encyclopedia Exposita. Can also be used for an As the Good Book Says... effect.

Super-Trope to Dictionary Opening. See also Pretentious Latin Motto.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach starts each tankōbon with a small illustration of a character and a short poem that seems to be written in the voice of that character. And Kubo Tite's poetry is surprisingly good.
  • Every episode in Cowboy Bebop ends with the phrase, not quoted from another source, "See you, space cowboy".
  • Instead of the usual intro from Haru and Gatchmon, the final two episodes of Digimon Universe: App Monsters opens with a quote about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence, with Episode 51 starting with a quote from Stephen Hawking and the finale starting with a quote from Clive Sinclair. Both quotes are read out loud by Haru.
  • One of the trailers for End of Evangelion opens with a quote from Milton's Paradise Lost — namely, verses 146-150 from book 2.
  • In Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer, The Stinger ends with the words of Albert Einstein, "Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved through understanding."
  • Each episode of Harukanaru Toki no Naka de - Hachiyou Shou has the ending sequence start with a tanka poem taken from Kokin Wakashuu books.
  • The Stinger in Highschool of the Dead ends with an excerpt from the T. S. Eliot poem The Hollow Men: "This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper."
  • The Love and Creed of Sae Maki begins with Aristotle's famous I Just Want to Have Friends quote; "For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods".
  • Macross Plus ends with the words, "Dedicated to you, our future pioneers..."
  • Monster is epigraphed by a passage from Revelationnote  which coincides with the plot.

    Comic Books 
  • The three issues of Neil Gaiman's Black Orchid had quotes from Omar Khayyam, Lou Reed, and E. E. Cummings on the back covers.
  • Every issue of Immortal Hulk begins with a quote that relates thematically to the events of the issue.
  • The Infinity War: "And when you look into the abyss, the abyss also look into you" - Friedrich Nietzsche. The Magus even became aware of it when it got all powerful.
  • Issue #5 of The Monster of Frankenstein has a quote from Creedence Clearwater Revival song "Bad Moon Rising" in its first page, foreshadowing the werewolf business to come.
  • In the collected editions of The Sandman (1989), each story arc is preceded with two quotes. The first one reads as something deep and profound; the second a pithy, less serious comment on the same topic — from the story itself.
  • Each chapter of Watchmen ends with one of these, which is alluded to in the title of the chapter. The final epigraph to the collected edition was chosen both as a reference to a graffito in the series, and for its being used as another epigraph (to the Tower Commission report on the Iran-Contra Scandal).
  • Wonder Woman:

    Fan Works 
The indescribable,
Here, is done:
Woman, eternal,
Beckons us on.
  • Peace Forged in Fire opens part 2 with the final verse and chorus of P!nk's "Try."
  • Peace of Mind, Piece of Heart: Every chapter begins with one of these.
  • Project Freelancer Phase One: Genesis mixes quotes from books, movies, and tv shows with journal entries from the Freelancers. The authors are particularly fond of Dresden Files quotes.
  • "Solaere ssiun Hnaifv'daenn" uses a line from The Qur'an, appropriate considering the primary viewpoint character is Lieutenant Commander Jaleh Khoroushi, an Iranian Muslim:
    “And tell my servants that they should speak in a most kindly manner [unto those who do not share their beliefs]. Verily, Satan is always ready to stir up discord between men; for verily, Satan is man’s foe. Hence, We have not sent you [unto men O Prophet] with power to determine their Faith.”
  • The Son of the Emperor: At the start of each is chapter is a quote, usually from a historical figure.
  • Stray has one for most of its chapters. A variation on "What can change the nature of a man?" from Planescape: Torment is the most common, but the story also uses quotes from The Waste Land, Evangelion, and other works.
  • A Thing of Vikings has each chapter open with an epigraph sourced from a fictional work from the future of the alternate history, which give painless exposition on some element of foreshadowing or worldbuilding, with the framing for each being as varied as textbooks, to a Norse-flavored Wiki, to military dossiers on the dragon breeds.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Abyss opens with a title card with a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche's "...when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."
  • An Adventure in Space and Time, which dramatizes the making of Doctor Who from its inception to the departure of William Hartnell in 1966, opens with a recreation of one of The BBC's channel idents from the 1960s, with the continuity announcer reciting Hartnell's line from "The Aztecs" stating that "you can't rewrite history, not one line."
  • All Too Well: The Short Film opens with a quote from Pablo Neruda, since it accompanies a Love Nostalgia Song.
    Love is so short, but forgetting is so long.
  • Anon opens with lines from a 19th century poem expressing how the poet wants to be invisible even to God, reflecting on everybody's memories in the film being recorded by law.
  • Played for Laughs in The Big Short. "Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry." - Overheard at a Washington D.C. Bar.
  • The opening credits sequence of The Breakfast Club includes a four-line quotation of the song "Changes" by David Bowie.
  • The beginning of Conan the Barbarian (1982) has Nietzsche's Stock Quote "That which does not kill us makes us stronger."
  • Cyberjack, the cheesy Michael Dudikoff sci-fi action movie about a bunch of terrorists storming a building to steal a computer super-virus, opens with a quote by, of all people, Stephen Hawking.
  • Do the Right Thing ends with two quotes to underline the conflict of the movie: one by Martin Luther King Jr., arguing that violence is never justified, and one by Malcolm X arguing that violence in self-defense is justified.
  • The Equalizer opens with a quote incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain: "The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why."
  • Evil Easter 3 opens with a quote from religious historian Mattias Gardell that "national socialism could be defeated with garlic". The quote is (purposely) taken out of context, as the text the quote is taken from is critical to the idea of Ghostapo occult nazi conspiracies.
  • The Hagakure is quoted throughout the gangster flick Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai starring Forrest Whitaker as a gangster hitman, using title cards.
  • The Great Beauty starts with a quote from Journey to the End of the Night.
  • The House by the Cemetery ends with a quote "No one will ever know whether the children are monsters or the monsters are children", which is falsely attributed to the writer Henry James (film's director Lucio Fulci actually came up with it).
  • Jojo Rabbit has a poem from Rainer Maria Rilke before the credits roll: "Let everything happen to you / Beauty and terror / Just keep going / No feeling is final."
  • Played for Laughs in Kill Bill which quotes "Revenge is a dish best served cold" which is falsely attributed as being an old Klingon proverb.
  • Lady Bird opens with a Joan Didion quote: "Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento."
  • Mad Max: Fury Road ends with a (fictional) quote from The First History Man: "Where must we go... we who wander this Wasteland in search of our better selves?"
  • Three A Nightmare on Elm Street films open with a quote:
  • To bring context to the brutality that is about to be shown, The Passion of the Christ brings us this abbreviated quote from Isaiah 53:5: "He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; by His wounds we are healed."
  • The Phantom of the Opera (1989) opens with a quote from St. Jean Vitius of Rouen about making a Deal with the Devil. The guy in question actually never existed.
  • Spectre has "The dead are alive", before opening on a parade during Día de Muertos in Mexico, where James Bond follows the trail of a villain.
  • Steps Trodden Black opens with an excerpt from The Road Not Taken, from which it takes its title.
  • The ending of Tears of the Sun, a movie centering around Navy SEALs helping a group of refugees escape genocide-ridden Nigeria, has a quote attributed to (but probably not written by) Edmund Burke before the ending credits start: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
  • The Tree of Life opens with a quotation from Job 38:4-7: "Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation ... while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
  • The 2010 remake of True Grit begins with Proverbs 28:1, "The wicked flee when none pursueth."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Each Andromeda episode begins with a (fictional) quote.
  • Criminal Minds usually begins and ends with an epigraph read by whichever character the episode focuses on.
  • Frontier (2016): Every episode is preceded by a quote that sounds like it could have been made by an 18th-century writer commenting on the nature of power, perseverence, or man's soul, but invariably turns out to be someone rather unexpected for a historical drama, like Beyoncé.
  • The first episode of Garth Marenghis Darkplace cuts to a King Lear quote about 5 minutes in. In the middle of a scene. For no reason.
  • Every episode of Grimm begins with a quote. Usually from a fairy tale, but as the series went on they started having to widen their sources a bit.
  • Iron Chef always begins with a quote from French epicurean Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin: "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are."
  • All first season episodes of Millennium (1996) save for the pilot have a literary quote intertitle between The Teaser and act one. The practice was mostly dropped after that, but with the occasional return.
  • Every episode of Wilfred begins with a quote, with one word highlighted to reveal the episode's title and theme.
  • The Wire has an epigraph to each episode, always a quote from later in that episode, usually with an ironic subtext in hindsight.
  • One episode of The X-Files opens with a quote from William Shakespeare's Henry IV: "For nothing can seem foul to those that win."

  • Claude Debussy's suite En blanc et noir for two pianos has epigraphs for its otherwise untitled movements.
  • Several of Doctor Steel's songs have epigraphs, some sampled from old Public Service Announcements such as "Duck and Cover", others deliberately done as a parody of such announcements.
  • Most of the tracks on Sabaton's The Art of War album have relevant quotes from the book of the same name either at the start or the end of the song.
  • In keeping with Kanye West having an ego the size of Jupiter, rather then having a epigraph at the start of the music video for his song "Diamonds From Sierra Leone," he instead quotes himself from the song about to play.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams's Sinfonia Antartica has quotations preceding each of its five movements. These are sometimes recited. (Which is wrong, because the composer explicitly instructed that they should be printed in the programme to be read silently by the listeners, and because recitation destroys the attacca transition into the fourth movement.)

  • Dimension X's "Universe": At the start of this episode, which was based on Robert A. Heinlein's Universe, an in-universe holy book is quoted. The scripture is also cited about four minutes later in the story, a Creation Myth that describes how everyone has a place in the world.
    "In the beginning, there was Jordan, thinking his lonely thoughts. Out of the lone-ness came a longing. Out of the longing came a vision. Out of the dream came a planning, and out of the planning came a decision. Jordan's hand was lifted and the ship was born!"

  • Tony Kushner's Angels in America:
    • The published script of Millenium Approaches begins with this one:
      In a murderous time
      the heart breaks and breaks
      and lives by breaking.

      Stanley Kunitz, "The Testing Tree"
    • And part two, Perestroika, begins with this one:
      Because the soul is progressive, it never quite repeats itself, but in every act attempts the production of a new and fairer whole.
      Ralph Waldo Emerson, "On Art"
  • Dead End is prefaced with this Thomas Paine quotation:
    "The contrast of affluence and wretchedness is like dead and living bodies chained together."

    Video Games 
  • The Ancient Art of War opens each match with a quote from Sun Tzu.
  • A variation of sorts exists in some Call of Duty games. Upon most player deaths, the game usually displays a quote about the more sobering realities of warfare (or the cost of a modern piece of military equipment).
  • The original version of A Change in the Weather contained quotations from Eric Bogle songs — "A Change in the Weather" at the beginning, and "Katie and the Dreamtime Land" at the end.
  • In Civilization IV, every technology has a quote with it from The Bible to Oscar Wilde to Sputnik 1. Narrated (mostly) by Leonard Nimoy.
  • At the beginning of "Episode 2: Memory" of Code 7, S.O.L.I. recites the first stanza of Queen Mab by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
  • Death Stranding opens on an excerpt from Kobo Abe's Nawa which explains the concept of the stick and rope being tools to ward off bad things and bring good things closer, respectively.
  • Deus Ex has one for each ending. For example, becoming a Deus Est Machina results in the Voltaire quote "If there were no God, it would be necessary to invent Him.".
  • Devil May Cry 5: The prologue cutscene starts with an excerpt of William Blake's "A Poison Tree":
    "And it grew both day and night, till it bore an apple bright."
  • Disco Elysium: The first lines of the game are taken from R.S. Thomas's poem "Reflections", which was also the source of the game's Working Title, No Truce With The Furies.
    The furies are at home in the mirror; it is their address.
    Even the clearest water, if deep enough can drown.
    R.S. Thomas, "Reflections"
  • Doom:
    • DOOM (2016) opens with an excerpt from a fictional, quasi-biblical text describing the Doom Slayer's previous bloody exploits throughout Hell:
      So you walk eternally through the shadow realms, standing against evil where all others falter. May your thirst for retribution never quench, may the blood on your sword never dry, and may we never need you again.
      —Corrax Entry 7:17
    • At the beginning of the final level of DOOM Eternal's main campaign as the Slayer jets off to defeat the Icon of Sin, the following passage, apparently from the same fictional text, is displayed over the loading screen. This is in contrast to all of the previous pre-level blurbs, which contained information to the player about what was to come in the level:
      'For he will walk among us, and he will smite the evil from this earth. For he who comes in our time of need is not of mortal breed, he is the Destroyer, the right hand of our Creator and the one who brings fear where there is no hope.' Corrax tablet 3:13
  • Dragon's Dogma starts with a quote from Henri de Régnier. The delightful and ever-novel pleasure of a useless occupation. It plays with the idea of the New Game Plus option. It's also a reference to the ever repeating cycle of the Arisen becoming the Seneschall and existing to provide life to the world only to be replaced by the next Arisen.
  • Occurs several times in The Elder Scrolls. The first (The best techniques are passed on by the survivors) and the third (Each event is preceded by prophesy; but without the Hero there is no event).
  • Eversion was originally created for a contest for games inspired by passages from H. P. Lovecraft's notebook. Accordingly, the game opens with the chosen passage (which alludes to the character's eponymous power):
    sounds - possibly musical - heard in the night from other worlds or realms of being.
  • Before the title screen, Eternal Darkness has the first stanza from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.
  • At several points in Final Fantasy XII, there will be a quote from a book written by the character Ondore, who also functions as a narrator upon the larger plot of the game. This also extends to its setting prequel, Final Fantasy Tactics, which feature quotes from a Saint Ajora Glabados, the inspiration for the game's Corrupt Church.
  • The Fountain opens with a quote from Ode to Aphrodite by Sappho:
    "I beg you, do not break my spirit, with pain or sorrow, but come — if ever before from far away you heard my voice and listened."
  • God of War III: The game opens with a quote by Greek philosopher Plato: "The measure of a man is what he does with power".
  • Higurashi: When They Cry contains one or several poems signed Frederica Bernkastel in the beginning, the middle or the end of the arc. They are cryptic but often contains clues or show the emotions that Rika, the true protagonist goes through. Sadly, they were not present in the anime version but the ones found in the novels and the manga can be found here.
  • Hollow Knight begins with a quote from an in-universe poem, Monomon the Teacher's Elegy for Hallownest:
    In wilds beyond they speak your name with reverence and regret,
    For none could tame our savage souls yet you the challenge met,
    Under palest watch, you taught, we changed, base instincts were redeemed,
    A world you gave to bug and beast as they had never dreamed.
  • inFAMOUS has these on loading screens that come up, usually when the day changes. The themes are on the (potentially destructive) nature of power. For example:
    "If you want to test a man's character, give him power."
  • Beating The King of Fighters XIII with Ash Crimson ends with the Pippa Passes poem by Robert Browning, which was also used as Arc Words in Neon Genesis Evangelion: "God's in His Heaven, All's right with the world!"
  • Layers of Fear starts with an excerpt from The Picture of Dorian Gray,
    Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a painting of the artist, not of the sitter.
  • Medal of Honor: Vanguard, a game about the US Paratroopers in World War Two, opens with this quote from General Dwight D. Eisenhower: 'I do not believe in the Airborne Division.'
  • Mega Man X8 ends with a quote from Dr. Light: "Humans and robots living together in harmony and equality. That was my ultimate wish."
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain follows up its audio-only introduction of the Third Boy at the start of the game with a quote from Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran:
    It is no nation we inhabit, but a language. Make no mistake; our native tongue is our true fatherland.
  • The Stinger in Metal Slug 3D ends with the words, "In history, there is no end."
  • Some of Graham Nelson's works start with a quote from another work.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri:
    • It uses Genesis 3:24 over the opening movie to great effect:
      Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden. He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
      — Conclave Bible, Datalinks
    • There's a video here.
    • Alpha Centauri also has quotes for each tech and facility. Most of them are fictional quotes from the faction leaders, while there are literary or other references sprinkled in.
  • SOMA opens with a quote from Philip K. Dick.
    Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
  • Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion opens with this cryptic poem:
    Pale summer moonlight shimmers on the seafloor.
    An octopus, unaware that dawn will bring capture,
    Rests within a trap, dreaming fleeting dreams...
  • Every run in Suzerain starts with quote by Nazım Hikmet Ran from his short poem titled "You":
    You are my enslavement and my freedom.
    You are my flesh burning like a raw summer night.
    You are my country.
  • Tales Series:

    Web Animation 
  • Broken Saints has an apropos quote at the beginning and end of each of the 24 chapters. The exception is in Chapter 24, which also has one at the beginning of each act.

    Web Comics 
  • Every chapter of Star Impact ends with a fictional in-universe quote, each of which Title Drops the chapter's name:
    Chapter 1: If it makes impact, then it's a meteorite.
    Chapter 2: It can exist without either, but without the moon and stars, the night sky is incomplete.
    Chapter 3: A dragon is not evil. No, to devour heroes and kings its but its nature. A reality.
  • The Ten Tailors Of Weston Court opens with a quote from George "Beau" Brummell regarding the tailor John Weston:
    "That fellow Weston is an inimitable fellow - a little defective perhaps in his linings, but irreproachable for principle and button-holes. He came to London, sir, without a shilling; and he counts more realized thousands than our fat friend does frogs on his Brandenburg. He is not only rich, but brave; not only brave, but courteous; and not alone courteous, but candid."

    Web Original 

    Western Animation