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The Playwright as Thinker

A Study of Drama in Modern Times, Fourth Edition

2010
Author:

Eric Bentley
Introduction by Richard Gilman

The Playwright as Thinker

A definitive work by one of the greatest drama critics

First published in 1946, The Playwright as Thinker is a classic work of drama criticism that helped create the intellectual environment in which serious American theater would thrive in the second half of the twentieth century. This edition contains both the original, long-suppressed foreword, in which Eric Bentley lambastes the climate of Broadway at the time, and the author’s 1987 afterword.

The Playwright as Thinker has proved itself to be a permanent critical work. I can think of no rival to the way Eric Bentley argues that the greatest dramatists are also original and challenging thinkers. Few works of interpretation hold on forever. This is one of them.

Harold Bloom, Yale University

First published in 1946, The Playwright as Thinker is a classic work of drama criticism that helped create the intellectual environment in which serious American theater would thrive in the second half of the twentieth century. At the time of publishing, most drama critics believed dramatic art deserved no intellectual status; Eric Bentley set out to prove them wrong. Focusing on the canonic playwrights Strindberg, Ibsen, Pirandello, Sartre, and Brecht, Bentley viewed the playwright as thinker, and his survey of more than 150 years of dramatic art provided, in essence, an intellectual history of Europe. This edition not only contains the original, long-suppressed foreword, in which Bentley lambastes the climate of Broadway at the time, but also the author’s 1987 afterword.

The Playwright as Thinker

Critic, scholar, translator, and playwright, Eric Bentley has been Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature at Columbia University and Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University. He served as drama critic of the New Republic and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1997-98. His most widely read books are Thinking about the Playwright, Bentley on Brecht, and The Kleist Variations.

The Playwright as Thinker

The Playwright as Thinker has proved itself to be a permanent critical work. I can think of no rival to the way Eric Bentley argues that the greatest dramatists are also original and challenging thinkers. Few works of interpretation hold on forever. This is one of them.

Harold Bloom, Yale University

I was educated by Playwright.

Richard Gilman

The Playwright as Thinker

Contents

Acknowledgments xv
Introduction by Richard Gilman xvii
Foreword 3
1. The Two Traditions of Modern Drama 21
2. Tragedy in Modern Dress 45
3. Tragedy in Fancy Dress 73
4. Wagner and Ibsen: A Contrast 103
5. Bernard Shaw 137
6. Varieties of Comic Experience 159
7. August Strindberg 193
8. From Strindberg to Jean-Paul Sartre 217
9. From Strindberg to Bertolt Brecht 249
10. Broadway—and the Alternative 275
Notes 303
Afterword (1987) 375
Index 381