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and Voltairine de Cleyre
Inspiration from Our Anarchic World Association
History of Ancient and Modern Drama
by Philippe L. De Coster, B.Th., D.D.
© May 2014, Skull Press Ebook Publications, Ghent, Belgium – Public
Domain and Non Commercial
Inspiration from Our Anarchic World
Philippe L. De Coster, B.Th., D.D.
In the life of every association,
community or group there comes
a time when the Anarchic group
of thinkers and writers together
with all the members cooperate
and synchronize. When this really
occurs, much time is saved and
the opportunity presented for
service to Humanity is immense.
Anarchism is pioneering work.
Anarchism as a great teacher of
ours suggested, humanity is still in
the infancy stage where Anarchic
endeavour is concerned. But this
is the work to which all serving
associates are called. They are
called to group effort of an ancient
forgotten order, therefore it is a new order since our pioneers really began two
centuries ago. Individual effort and activity is to be blended with the Anarchic
objectives of freedom and equality of all human beings, and association
The will of the Anarchists, unitedly dedicated to specific objectives, are of major
importance. While we increase our potential for mutual, say telepathic
impression in unity of thought, unitedly and simultaneously, we observe the six
natural Laws and Principles that are guiding humanity Anarchically in this New
Era, and this we achieve first of all through the spoken and written word to share
our inspirations. In this way, we also request short articles from all our
Anarchists to share in our future editions and publications on Scribd, Facebook,
Skynet blog and Yahoo Group.
We are especially interested in your thoughts on how and where you see the
working out of the Laws and Principles of life as they really are in daily human
endeavours far away from man-made religious dogmas.
These Laws and Principles can mainly be summarized as follows:
1. The law of Right Human Relations coming from the mind and heart of
2. The law of Anarchic association endeavour.
3. The law of the Collective Consciousness Approach.
4. Right Human Relations, works through the principle of goodwill.
5. Association endeavour is achieved through the principle of unanimity.
6. The collective consciousness approach is realised through Anarchic
Group or Association life.
Our Anarchic Propaganda is defined as physical or mental effort directed to our
goal as jobs for everybody, service to necessitates, labourers, while one who
does not want to work should not be paid for his laziness. Many people do not
want to work, because they are financially supported by their government
anyway. Anarchists make plans together. In our Western countries there is work
for everybody if one wants really to work. Mutual Anarchic endeavour indicates
a new thrust and a new creative experience in this corrupted, capitalistic world
Since the dawn of time humanity has evolved today to a point of mental
maturity, which is inspiring more than ever the spirit of right relationship to the
myriad forms of life upon the planet. We are learning as we go along that
intellect alone is not sufficient to resolve the acute suffering in the world. The
moral imperative, today, for all of us are “right human relationships”, the
highest form of love that humanity is able to understand and to work with at the
present time. It is evidence, indeed, of the flowering of the “Collective
Consciousness” of Humanity, which is now at the rapid decrease of religion,
which is beginning to radiate its beneficence upon the diverse beauty of
expression found in nature.
In the book "Modern Science and Anarchism" (1903-13), Peter Kropotkin
declares - and gives the reason why - anarchism is a sociological science broadly
defined, including political economy, etc., and is defined as an updated research
front of libertarian social scientifically research, using the methods of modern
natural sciences, i.e. mathematical relations, statistics etc. Anarchism: "Its
method of investigation is that of the exact natural sciences, by which every
scientific conclusion must be verified... (using) ... the concrete language of
natural sciences, -- so we proceed in dealing with the facts of social life... not by
the dialectic method, but by the natural-scientific method, the method of
induction and deduction... We had better give up using the sonorous words
which only conceal the superficiality of our semi-learning. In their time the use
of these words was, perhaps, unavoidable -- their application could never have
been useful. No struggle can be successful if it is an unconscious one, and if it
does not render itself a clear and concise account of its aim...
Perhaps we are wrong and they are right. But in order to ascertain who is right, it
will not do either to quote this and that authority, to refer to Hegel's trilogy, or to
argue by the "dialectic method." This question can be settled only by taking up
the study of economic relations as facts of natural science. Without entering into
further analysis of the principles of Anarchism as defined above and the
Anarchist programme of action, enough has been said, I think, to show the place
of Anarchism among the modern sociological sciences. Anarchism is an attempt
to apply to the study of the human institutions the generalizations gained by
means of the natural-scientific inductive method; and an attempt to foresee the
future steps of mankind on the road to liberty, equality, and fraternity, with a
view to realizing the greatest sum of happiness for every unit of human society.
In Anarchism there is no room for those pseudo-scientific laws with which the
German metaphysicians of the twenties and thirties had to consent themselves.
Anarchism does not recognize any method other than the natural-scientific.
This method it applies to all the so-called humanitarian sciences, and, availing
itself of this method as well as of all researches which have recently been called
forth by it, Anarchism endeavours to reconstruct all the sciences dealing with
man, and to revise every current idea of right, justice, etc., on the bases which
have served for the revision of all natural sciences. Whether or not Anarchism is
right in its conclusions will be shown by a scientific criticism of its bases and by
the practical life of the future. But in one thing it is absolutely right: in that it has
included the study of social institutions in the sphere of natural-scientific
investigations; has forever parted company with metaphysics; and makes use of
the method by which modern natural science .... were developed. Owing to this,
the very mistakes which Anarchism may have made in its researches can be
detected the more readily. But its conclusions can be verified only by the same
natural-scientific, inductive-deductive method by which every science and every
scientific concept of the universe is created."
The whole Anarchic evolution of humanity can be considered as a series of
graded approaches to more sublime levels of awareness, to higher and more
inclusive morality presented by the various religions and philosophies,
culminating in conscious union or “at-one-ment” with the supreme and universal
reality of the human, men and women. Man is a god, and we are all gods and
goddesses together. What man is able to achieve today is observed around us.
This is the reason why the religions of the world, were and are against every
scientific investigation and discovery.
The phrase “Right Human Relations” as mentioned above is one that is today
being much-discussed; it is being increasingly realized that it is a major human
need promoted by the Anarchists, and the only hope for a peaceful and secure
future. Wrong human relations caused by the religious and governmental
authorities have reached such a state of difficulty that every phase of human life
is in a state of chaotic turmoil; every aspect of daily living is involved–family
life, communal living, business relations, and political contacts, governmental
action and the habitual life of all peoples. Everywhere there is hate, competition,
maladjustment, strife between parties, the vilest kind of muck raking and
scandal making, deep distrust between men and nations, between capital and
labour and among the many sects, churches and religions. Nowhere is there
peace today or understanding; only a minority in relation to the Earth’s
population are struggling for those conditions which will lead to peaceful and
The strength of this fighting minority, struggling for peace and right relations,
consists in the fact that the work they are attempting to do is in line with the
human rights of freedom, intention and purpose. Into this chaos of conflicting,
competitive and fighting interests, through Anarchism a new dawn is appearing.
I would ask you to contemplate the very real horror of what humanity has to
face in many parts of the world, and the necessity for some measure of order to
be brought about on planet Earth in the first place, for certain basic principles to
be enunciated and partially, at least, accepted, before Anarchism can usefully
and completely work amongst men.
The establishing of right human relations is humanitarian, and the next facet of
Anarchic expression to manifest itself in human affairs–individual, communal,
national, and international. Nothing has ever finally impeded this Anarchic
expression, except the time factor, and that time factor is determined by
humanity and is an expression of the free will. The intended free will expression
can move rapidly or slowly into manifestation, according as man decides;
hitherto, man has decided upon a slow–a very slow–manifestation. It is here that
the freedom of the human will shows itself. Because Anarchism is immanent or
present in all forms, and therefore, in all human beings, that will must eventually
be fulfilled because of the tremendously material intention of all forms at
present, that the Will-to-Good has hitherto been retarded in its expression; it
has not been the will of man to establish right human relations, but only thought
about governmental laws and capitalism. Hence the discipline of war, the torture
of forms, and the misery in human living yesterday and to today.
We would all find it helpful to reflect upon what are the factors recognized in
submission and acquiescence. In establishing right human relations as known in
Anarchism, relinquishment, renunciation, submission to existent facts, and
obedient acquiescence to the natural laws of life and freedom, are all involved.
Anarchism as a social movement has regularly endured fluctuations in
popularity. The central tendency of Anarchism as a mass social movement has
been represented by Anarcho-communism and Anarcho-syndicalism, with
individualist anarchism being primarily a literary phenomenon which
nevertheless did have an impact on the bigger currents and individualists also
participated in large anarchist organizations. Most Anarchists oppose all forms
of aggression, supporting self-defence or non-violence (Anarcho-pacifism),
while others have supported the use of militant measures, including revolution
and propaganda of the deed, on the path to an anarchist society.
Anarchism should interest everybody, as everyone loves freedom, equality:
equality of races, of ethnic groups, of sexual orientations, and so on and forth.
The problem is, however, that in the various politics equality usually does not
work very well. For centuries Europe had a rough equality between major states
that is often referred to as the balance-of-power system. And that led to frequent
wars. East Asia, by contrast, from the 14th to the early 19th centuries, had its
relations ordered by a tribute system in which China was roughly dominant. The
result, according to political scientist David C. Kang in the United States of
America was a generally more peaceful climate in Asia than in Europe.
Before Anarchism had begun in time immemorial was its way of life considered
possible in contrast with the religious governments, and desirable by a whole
class of thinkers, so to be taken as the aim of a movement (which has now
become one of the most important factors in modern social warfare), the word
"anarchy" was used universally in the sense of disorder and confusion, and it is
still adopted in that sense by the ignorant and by adversaries interested in
distorting the Anarchic truth.
Man, like all living beings, adapts himself to the conditions in which he lives
sometimes freely but most of the time by force, and transmits by inheritance his
acquired habits. So, being born and having lived in bondage, being the
descendant of a long line of slaves, man, when he began to think, believed that
slavery was an essential condition of life, and liberty seemed to him impossible
for the majority among us. In like manner, the workman, forced for centuries to
depend upon the goodwill of his employer for work, that is, for bread, and
accustomed to see his own life at the disposal of those who possess the land and
capital, has ended in believing that it is his master who gives him food, and asks
ingenuously how it would be possible to live, if there were no master over him?
This was an imposed way of thinking through the aristocracy and capitalism.
When this opinion is changed, and the public are convinced that government is
not necessary even less religion, but extremely harmful, the word "anarchy,"
precisely because it signifies "without government," will become equal to saying
"natural order, harmony of needs and interests of all, complete liberty with
In the Middle Ages of history and earlier, it was the churches and the schools of
philosophy which provided the major avenues for subjective (mental) activity.
This is a point which the churches and organised religions and its governments
would do well to remember. There is now a shift of emphasis and attention into
two Anarchic fields of endeavour: first, into the field of world-wide education,
and secondly, into the sphere of implementing intelligently those activities
which come under the department Anarchism in its three aspects of Anarchism,
of freedom politics and of legislation as such. The common people are today
awakening to the importance and responsibility as understood by Anarchism; it
is, therefore, realised by the Anarchy itself that before the cycle of true
democracy (as it essentially exists and will eventually demonstrate) can come
into being, the education of the masses in cooperative statesmanship, in
economic stabilisation through right sharing, and in clean, political interplay is
imperatively necessary. The long divorce between religion and politics must
become reality and this is now possible because of the high level of the human
mass intelligence and the fact that science has made all men so close that what
happens in some remote area of the earth's surface is a matter of general interest
within a few minutes. This makes it uniquely possible for Anarchism to work
today and in the future.
Anarchism is already gathering momentum. In many lands this way of life for
the formation of this group of people who are trained in goodwill and who
possess clear insight into the principles which should govern human relations in
world affairs is already past the blueprint stage. The nucleus for this work is
present today. Their functions might be summarized as follows:
1. To restore world confidence by letting it be known how much goodwill—
organized and unorganized—there is in the world today.
2. To educate the masses in the principles and the practice of goodwill. The
word "goodwill" is largely used at this time by all Anarchic associations and
groups, national and international.
3. To synthesize and coordinate into one functioning whole all the men and
women of goodwill in the world who will recognize these principles as their
personal directing ideal in Anarchism (repeating myself again), and who will
endeavour to apply our philosophy to current world or national events.
4. To create emails and Internet links in every country of the men and women of
goodwill in Anarchism who can be counted upon to stand for world unity and
freedom, right human relations and who will try—in their own lands—to reach
others with our idea, through the medium of the press, the lecture platform and
the radio, Internet. Eventually this Anarchism should have more of its own
newspaper or magazine, through means of which the educational process can be
intensified and goodwill be found to be a universal principle and technique.
5. To provide in every country and eventually in every large city, a central
bureau where information will be available concerning the activities of the men
and women in Anarchism all over the world; of those organizations, groups and
parties who are also working along similar lines of international understanding
and right human relations. Thus many will find those who will cooperate with
them in their particular endeavour to promote world unity and security.
6. To work, as men and women in Anarchism, with all associations,
communities and groups who have a world programme which tends to heal
world differences and national quarrels and to end racial distinctions. When such
groups are found to work constructively and are free from scurrilous attack or
aggressive modes of action, and actuated by goodwill to all men and are free
from an aggressive nationalism and partisanship, then the cooperation of the
men and women in Anarchism can be offered and freely given.
It takes no great effort of the imagination to see that, if this work of spreading
Anarchism and goodwill, educating public opinion in its potency is pursued, and
if the Anarchists can be discovered in all lands and organized, that (even in five
years' time for instance) much good can be accomplished. Thousands can be
gathered into the ranks of active Anarchism. This is the initial task. The power
of Anarchism as a community, backed by public opinion, will be tremendous.
They can accomplish phenomenal results.
How to use the weight of the Anarchic goodwill and how to employ the will to
establish right human relations will grow gradually out of the work
accomplished and meet the need of the world situation. The trained use of power
on the side of Anarchism and goodwill on behalf of right human relations is
demonstrated as possible, and the present unhappy state of world affairs can be
changed. This will be done, not through the usual war like measures of the past
or the enforced will of some aggressive or wealthy group, but through the
weight of a trained public opinion—an opinion which will be based on Anarchic
principles and goodwill, on an intelligent understanding of the needs of
humanity, on a determination to bring about right human relations and on the
recognition that the problems with which humanity is today confronted can be
solved through our philosophy.
In the dark days of 1939, when it seemed that so much was crumbling and that
the heroic efforts of many people to do everything that they could do, that might
help to avert war, were useless, it was hard to see how the work could be picked
up again and reorganised and refinanced and again be effectively set into
motion. This, at the time, many found hard to believe, for they were too deeply
aware of the appalling consequences of the second war, but the statement then
made has been proved abundantly true and we today are in a stronger position
and are actually more efficiently working and serving than the ordinary finite
mind could at that time have possibly reasonably expected.
Freedom and Equality, in anarchist theory, does not mean denying individual
diversity or uniqueness. As Bakunin observes:
"Once equality has triumphed and is well established, will various
individuals' abilities and their levels of energy cease to differ? Some will
exist, perhaps not so many as now, but certainly some will always exist. It
is proverbial that the same tree never bears two identical leaves, and this
will probably be always be true. And it is even truer with regard to human
beings, who are much more complex than leaves. But this diversity is
hardly an evil. On the contrary. . . it is a resource of the human race.
Thanks to this diversity, humanity is a collective whole in which the one
individual complements all the others and needs them. As a result, this
infinite diversity of human individuals is the fundamental cause and the
very basis of their solidarity. It is all-powerful argument for equality."
("All-Round Education", The Basic Bakunin, pp. 117-8)
Equality for anarchists means social equality, or, to use Murray Bookchin's
term, the "equality of unequals" (some like Malatesta used the term "equality
of conditions" to express the same idea). By this he means that an anarchist
society recognises the differences in ability and need of individuals but does not
allow these differences to be turned into power. Individual differences, in other
"Would be of no consequence, because inequality in fact is lost in the
collectivity when it cannot cling to some legal fiction or institution."
(Michael Bakunin, God and the State, p. 53)
My last words, “Our true place as Anarchists in the scheme of things can only be
understood in terms of our participating in this larger association, community
and group life.
© May 2014 – Philippe L. De Coster, B.Th., D.D., Ghent, Belgium.
History of Ancient and Modern Drama
Philippe L. De Coster, B.Th., D.D.
Writings a Drama in Short
Plays have many different elements or aspects, which means that you should
have lots of different options for focusing your analysis. Playwrights—writers of
plays—are called “wrights” because this word means “builder.” Just as
shipwrights build ships, playwrights build plays. A playwright’s raw materials
are words, but to create a successful play, he or she must also think about the
performance—about what will be happening on stage with sets, sounds, actors,
etc. To put it another way: the words of a play have their meanings within a
larger context—the context of the production. When you watch or read a play,
think about how all of the parts work (or could work) together.
For the play itself, some important contexts to consider are
The time period in which the play was written
The playwright’s biography and his/her other writing
Contemporaneous works of theater (plays written or produced by other
artists at roughly the same time)
The language of the play
Depending on your assignment, you may want to focus on one of these elements
exclusively or compare and contrast two or more of them. Keep in mind that any
one of these elements may be more than enough for a dissertation, let alone a
short reaction paper. Also remember that in most cases, your assignment will
ask you to provide some kind of analysis, not simply a plot summary—so don’t
think that you can write a paper about A Doll’s House that simply describes the
events leading up to Nora’s fateful decision.
Since a number of academic assignments ask you to pay attention to the
language of the play and since it might be the most complicated thing to work
with, it’s worth looking at a few of the ways you might be asked to deal with it
in more detail.
The origins of Western drama can be traced to the celebratory music of sixth
century BC Attica, the Greek region centered on Athens. Although accounts of
this period are inadequate, it appears that the poet Thespis developed a new
musical form in which he impersonated a single character and engaged a chorus
of singer-dancers in dialogue. As the first composer and soloist in this new form,
which came to be known as tragedy, Thespis can be considered both the first
dramatist and the first actor. Of the hundreds of works produced by Greek tragic
playwrights, only thirty-two plays by the three major innovators in this new art
form survive. Aeschylus created the possibility of developing conflict between
characters by introducing a second actor into the format. His seven surviving
plays, three of which constitute the only extant trilogy are richly ambiguous
inquiries into the paradoxical relationship between humans and the cosmos, in
which people are made answerable for their acts, yet recognize that these acts
are determined by the gods.
Medieval drama, when it emerged hundreds of years later, was a new creation
rather than a rebirth, the drama of earlier times having had almost no influence
on it. The reason for this creation came from a quarter that had traditionally
opposed any form of theatre: the Christian church. In the Easter service, and
later in the Christmas service, bits of chanted dialogue, called tropes, were
interpolated into the liturgy. Priests, impersonating biblical figures, acted out
minuscule scenes from the holiday stories. Eventually, these playlets grew more
elaborate and abandoned the inside of the church for the church steps and the
adjacent marketplace. Secular elements crept in as the artisan guilds took
responsibility for these performances; although the glorification of God and the
redemption of humanity remained prime concerns, the celebration of local
industry was not neglected.
Restoration and Eighteenth Century Drama
The theatres established in the wake of Charles II's return from exile in France
and the Restoration of the monarchy in England (1660) were intended primarily
to serve the needs of a socially, politically, and aesthetically homogeneous class.
At first they relied on the pre-Civil War repertoire; before long, however, they
felt called upon to bring these plays into line with their more "refined," French-
influenced sensibilities. The themes, language, and dramaturgy of Shakespeare's
plays were now considered out of date, so that during the next two centuries the
works of England's greatest dramatist were never produced intact. Owing much
to Moliere, the English comedy of manners was typically a witty, brittle satire of
current mores, especially of relations between the sexes. Among its leading
examples were She Would if She Could (1668) and The Man of Mode (1676) by
Sir George Etherege; The Country Wife (1675) by William Wycherley; The
Way of the World (1700) by William Congreve; and The Recruiting Officer
(1706) and The Beaux' Stratagem (1707) by George Farquhar.
The resurgence of Puritanism, especially after the Glorious Revolution of 1688,
had a profound effect on 18th-century drama. Playwrights, retreating from the
free-spirited licentiousness of the Restoration, turned towards ofter, sentimental
comedy and moralizing domestic tragedy. The London Merchant (1731) by
George Lillo consolidated this trend.A prose tragedy of the lower middle class,
and thus an important step on the road to realism, it illustrated the moral that a
woman of easy virtue can lead an industrious young man to the gates of hell.
Satire enjoyed a brief revival with Henry Fielding and with John Gay, whose
The Beggar's Opera (1728) met with phenomenal success. Their wit, however,
was too sharp for the government, which retaliated by imposing strict censorship
laws in 1737. For the next 150 years, few substantial English authors bothered
with the drama.
19th Century Drama and The Romantic Rebellion
In its purest form, Romanticism concentrated on the spiritual, which would
allow humankind to transcend the limitations of the physical world and body
and find an ideal truth. Subject matter was drawn from nature and "natural man"
(such as the supposedly untouched Native American). Perhaps one of the best
examples of Romantic drama is Faust (Part I, 1808; Part II, 1832) by the
German playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Based on the classic legend
of the man who sells his soul to the devil, this play of epic proportions depicts
humankind's attempt to master all knowledge and power in its constant struggle
with the universe. The Romantics focused on emotion rather than rationality,
drew their examples from a study of the real world rather than the ideal, and
glorified the idea of the artist as a mad genius unfettered by rules. Romanticism
thus gave rise to a vast array of dramatic literature and production that was often
undisciplined and that often substituted emotional manipulation for substantial
Romanticism first appeared in Germany, a country with little native theatre other
than rustic farces before the 18th century. By the 1820s Romanticism dominated
the theatre of most of Europe. Many of the ideas and practices of Romanticism
were evident in the late 18th-century Sturm und Drang movement of Germany
led by Goethe and the dramatist Friedrich Schiller. These plays had no single
style but were generally strongly emotional, and, in their experimentation with
form, laid the groundwork for the rejection of Neo-Classicism. The plays of the
French playwright René Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt paved the way for
French Romanticism, which had previously been known only in the acting of
François Joseph Talma in the first decades of the 19th century. Victor Hugo's
Hernani (1830) is considered the first French Romantic drama.
The Modern Drama
From the time of the Renaissance on, theatre seemed to be striving for total
realism, or at least for the illusion of reality. As it reached that goal in the late
19th century, a multifaceted, antirealistic reaction erupted. Avant-garde
Precursors of Modern Theatre Many movements generally lumped together as
the avant-garde, attempted to suggest alternatives to the realistic drama and
production. The various theoreticians felt that Naturalism presented only
superficial and thus limited or surface reality-that a greater truth or reality could
be found in the spiritual or the unconscious. Others felt that theatre had lost
touch with its origins and had no meaning for modern society other than as a
form of entertainment. Paralleling modern art movements, they turned to
symbol, abstraction, and ritual in an attempt to revitalize the theatre. Although
realism continues to be dominant in contemporary theatre, television and film
now better serve its earlier functions.
The originator of many antirealist ideas was the German opera composer
Richard Wagner. He believed that the job of the playwright/composer was to
create myths. In so doing, Wagner felt, the creator of drama was portraying an
ideal world in which the audience shared a communal experience, perhaps as the
ancients had done. He sought to depict the "soul state", or inner being, of
characters rather than their superficial, realistic aspects. Furthermore, Wagner
was unhappy with the lack of unity among the individual arts that constituted the
drama. He proposed the Gesamtkunstwerk, the "total art work", in which all
dramatic elements are unified, preferably under the control of a single artistic
Wagner was also responsible for reforming theatre architecture and dramatic
presentation with his Festival Theatre at Bayreuth, Germany, completed in 1876.
The stage of this theatre was similar to other 19th-century stages even if better
equipped, but in the auditorium Wagner removed the boxes and balconies and
put in a fan-shaped seating area on a sloped floor, giving an equal view of the
stage to all spectators. Just before a performance the auditorium lights dimmed
to total darkness-then a radical innovation.
The Symbolist movement in France in the 1880s first adopted Wagner's ideas.
The Symbolists called for "detheatricalizing" the theatre, meaning stripping
away all the technological and scenic encumbrances of the 19th century and
replacing them with a spirituality that was to come from the text and the acting.
The texts were laden with symbolic imagery not easily construed-rather they
were suggestive. The general mood of the plays was slow and dream-like. The
intention was to evoke an unconscious response rather than an intellectual one
and to depict the nonrational aspects of characters and events. The Symbolist
plays of Maurice Maeterlinck of Belgium and Paul Claudel of France, popular in
the 1890s and early 20th century, are seldom performed today. Strong Symbolist
elements can be found, however, in the plays of Chekhov and the late works of
Ibsen and Strindberg. Symbolist influences are also evident in the works of such
later playwrights as the Americans Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams and
the Englishman Harold Pinter, propounder of "theatre of silence". Also
influenced by Wagner and the Symbolists were the Swiss scenic theorist
Adolphe Appia and theEnglish designer Edward Henry Gordon Craig, whose
turn-of-the-century innovations shaped much of 20th-century scenic and lighting
design. They both reacted against the realistic painted settings of the day,
proposing instead suggestive or abstract settings that would create, through light
and scenic elements, more of a mood or feeling than an illusion of a real place.
In 1896 a Symbolist theatre in Paris produced Alfred Jarry's Ubu roi, for its time
a shocking, bizarre play. Modelled vaguely on Macbeth, the play depicts puppet-
like characters in a world devoid of decency. The play is filled with scatological
humor and language. It was perhaps most significant for its shock value and its
destruction of virtually all-contemporaneous theatrical norms and taboos. Ubu
roi freed the theatre for exploration in any direction the author wished to go. It
also served as the model and inspiration for future avant-garde dramatic
movements and the absurdist drama of the 1950s.
The Expressionist movement was popular in the 1910s and 1920s, largely in
Germany. It explored the more violent, grotesque aspects of the human psyche,
creating a nightmare world onstage. Scenographically, distortion and
exaggeration and a suggestive use of light and shadow typify Expressionism.
Stock types replaced individualized characters or allegorical figures, much as in
the morality plays, and plots often revolved around the salvation of humankind.
Other movements of the first half of the century, such as Futurism, Dada, and
Surrealism, sought to bring new artistic and scientific ideas into theatre.
Perhaps the most significant development influenced by Artaud was the
ensemble theatre movement of the 1960s. Exemplified by the Polish Laboratory
Theatre of Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook's Theatre of Cruelty Workshop,
Théâtre du Soleil, the French workers' cooperative formed by Ariane
Mnouchkine, and the Open Theatre, led by Joseph Chaikin, ensemble theatres
abandoned the written text in favor of productions created by an ensemble of
actors.The productions, which generally evolved out of months of work, relied
heavily on physical movement, nonspecific language and sound, and often-
unusual arrangements of space .
The most popular and influential nonrealistic genre of the 20th century was
absurdism. Absurdist dramatists saw, in the words of the Romanian-French
playwright Eugène Ionesco, "man as lost in the world, all his actions become
senseless, absurd, useless. Absurdist drama tends to eliminate much of the
cause-and-effect relationship among incidents, reduce language to a game and
minimize its communicative power, reduce characters to archetypes, make place
nonspecific, and view the world as alienating and incomprehensible. Absurdism
was at its peak in the 1950s, but continued to influence drama through the
1970s. The American playwright Edward Albee's early dramas were classified
as absurd because of the seemingly illogical or irrational elements that defined
his characters' world of actions. Pinter was also classed with the absurdists. His
plays, such as The Homecoming (1964), seem dark, impenetrable, and absurd.
Pinter explained, however, that they are realistic because they resemble the
everyday world in which only fragments of unexplained activity and dialogue
are seen and heard.
Although pure Naturalism was never very popular after World War I, drama in a
realist style continued to dominate the commercial theatre, especially in the
United States. Even there, however, psychological realism seemed to be the
goal, and nonrealistic scenic and dramatic devices were employed to achieve
this end. The plays of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, for instance, use
memory scenes, dream sequences, purely symbolic characters, projections, and
the like. Even O'Neill's later works-ostensibly realistic plays such as Long Day's
Journey into Night (produced 1956)-incorporate poetic dialogue and a carefully
orchestrated background of sounds to soften the hard-edged realism. Scenery
was almost always suggestive rather than realistic. European drama was not
much influenced by psychological realism but was more concerned with plays
of ideas, as evidenced in the works of the Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello, the
French playwrights Jean Anouilh and Jean Giraudoux, and the Belgian
playwright Michel de Ghelderode. In England in the 1950s John Osborne's Look
Back in Anger (1956) became a rallying point for the postwar "angry young
men"; a Vietnam trilogy of the early 1970s, by the American playwright David
Rabe, expressed the anger and frustration of many towards the war in Vietnam.
Under he influence of Brecht, many postwar German playwrights wrote
documentary dramas that, based on historical incidents, explored the moral
obligations of individuals to themselves and to society. An example is The
Deputy (1963), by Rolf Hochhuth, which deals with Pope Pius XII's silence
during World War II.
Many playwrights of the 1960s and 1970s-Sam Shepard in the United States,
Peter Handke in Austria, Tom Stoppard in England-built plays around language:
language as a game, language as sound, language as a barrier, language as a
reflection of society. In their plays, dialogue frequently cannot be read simply as
a rational exchange of information. Many playwrights also mirrored society's
frustration with a seemingly uncontrollable, self-destructive world.
In Europe in the 1970s, new playwriting was largely overshadowed by
theatricalist productions, which generally took classical plays and reinterpreted
them, often in bold new scenographic spectacles, expressing ideas more through
action and the use of space than through language.
In the late 1970s a return to Naturalism in drama paralleled the art movement
known as Photorealism. Typified by such plays as American Buffalo (1976) by
David Mamet, little action occurs, the focus is on mundane characters and
events, and language is fragmentary-much like everyday conversation. The
settings are indistinguishable from reality. The intense focus on seemingly
meaningless fragments of reality creates an absurdist, nightmarish quality:
similar traits can be found in writers such as Stephen Poliakoff. A gritty social
realism combined with very dark humour has also been popular; it can be seen
in the very different work of Alan Ayckbourn, Mike Leigh, Michael Frayn, Alan
Bleasdale, and Dennis Potter.
In all lands where the drama flourishes, the only constant factor today is what
has always been constant: change. The most significant writers are still those
who seek to redefine the basic premises of the art of drama.
George Bernard Shaw Author and Anarchist I
In 1920, the anarchist Italian
immigrants Nicola Sacco and
Bartolomeo Vanzetti were
sentenced to death in the USA,
falsely accused of a robbery and
murder. This was a time when the
ruling class had been given a
fright by the Russian revolution,
and they tried to break the
growing socialist, anarchist and
trade union movements.
Sacco and Vanzetti were
convicted of murdering two men
during the armed robbery of a
shoe factory in Massachusetts in
1920. Among the members of the
Defence Committee in Boston was
Mary Donovan, who had been a
Sinn Féin organizer. Among
those in Ireland who took up their case was George Bernard Shaw.
After a controversial trial, a series of appeals, and a large but ultimately
unsuccessful international campaign to free them, the two were executed on
August 23, 1927.
In 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation that
Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried and convicted and that “any disgrace
should be forever removed from their names”.
In 1971 “Sacco & Vanzetti”, an Italian language feature film (with English
subtitles) was made, with much of the filming in Dublin. Among those
appearing were Irish actors Cyril Cusack and Milo O’Shea. The soundtrack was
by Ennio Morricone, who also composed the music for spaghetti westerns like
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and A Fistful of Dollars.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), (nobody called him George, it was his
father’s name) the acclaimed dramatist, critic and social reformer, was born in
Dublin where he grew up in an atmosphere of genteel poverty. He attended four
schools and was tutored by a clerical uncle, but left his formal schooling behind
him at the age of 15. He developed a wide knowledge of music, art and literature
under the influence of his mother, a singer and vocal music teacher, and as a
result of his visits to the National Gallery of Ireland. In 1876 he moved to
London, where he spent his afternoons in the British Museum, and his evenings
pursuing his informal education in the form of lectures and debates. Bernard
Shaw declared himself a socialist in 1882 and joined the Fabian Society in 1884;
soon he distinguished himself as a fluent and effective public speaker and an
incisive and irreverent critic of music, art and drama.
Shaw’s first play, Widowers’ Houses, was produced privately in 1892 for the
members of a progressive theatre club called the Independent Theatre Society. It
was followed by The Philanderer and Mrs Warren’s Profession. Published as
Plays Unpleasant (1898), these Bernard Shaw plays reflect Shaw’s admiration
for the “new drama” of Ibsen. More palatable, though still rich with challenges
to conventional middle-class values, were his Plays Pleasant (1898) which
included Arms and The Man, Candida, The Man of Destiny and You Never Can
Tell. In 1897 Shaw attained his first commercial success with the American
premiere of The Devil’s Disciple, which enabled him to quit his job as a drama
critic and to make his living solely as a playwright. In 1898 he married Charlotte
Payne-Townshend, an Irish heiress whom he had met through his Fabian friends
Beatrice and Sidney Webb.
Bernard Shaw’s plays first attained popularity in London through a famous
repertory experiment at the Royal Court Theatre from 1904 to 1907. Among his
plays presented there were the premieres of John Bull’s Other Island (1904),
Man and Superman (1905), Major Barbara (1905) and The Doctor’s Dilemma
(1906), the latter two of which were performed at The Shaw Festival in Niagara
on the Lake in 2010. Pygmalion, by Bernard Shaw, by far his most popular
work, was first performed in 1913. During World War I, Shaw’s anti-war
pamphlets and speeches made him very unpopular as a public figure. In
Heartbreak House (performed 1920) he exposed the spiritual bankruptcy of the
generation responsible for the carnage. Next came Back to Methuselah (1922)
and Saint Joan (1923), acclaim for which led to his receiving the Nobel Prize for
Literature for 1925. Shaw continued to write plays and essays until his death in
1950 at the age of 94.
The Anarchist Bernard Shaw was, said:
"Liberty is the breath of life to nations; and liberty is the one thing that
parents, schoolmasters, and rulers spend their lives in extirpating for the
sake of an immediately quiet and finally disastrous life."--"Treatise On
Parents And Children" (1910)
Writing a letter to Henry James (17th January, 1909), he says:
“I, as a Socialist, have had to preach, as much as anyone, the enormous
power of the environment. We can change it; we must change it; there is
absolutely no other sense in life than the task of changing it. What is the
use of writing plays, what is the use of writing anything, if there is not a
will which finally moulds chaos itself into a race of gods.”
Like many socialists, George Bernard Shaw opposed Britain's involvement in
the First World War. He created a great deal of controversy with his provocative
pamphlet, Common Sense About the War, which appeared on 14th November
1914 as a supplement to the New Statesman. It sold more than 75,000 copies
before the end of the year and as a result he became a well-known international
figure. However, given the patriotic mood of the country, his pamphlet created a
great deal of hostility. Some of his anti-war speeches were banned from the
newspapers, and he was expelled from the Dramatists' Club.
A play against all forms of religion
Major Barbara was first performed on 28th November 1905. The play completely
divided the critics. Desmond MacCarthy told his readers: "Mr Shaw has written
the first play with religious passion for its theme and has made it real. That is a
triumph no criticism can lessen." The Sunday Times said that Shaw was "the most
original English dramatist of the day". However, The Morning Post described the
play as a work of "deliberate perversity" without any "straightforward
intelligible purpose". Whereas The Clarion claimed it was an "audacious
A rather amusing correspondence between
Bernard Shaw and Frank Harris
In 1928 Frank Harris wrote to George Bernard Shaw asking if he could write his
biography. Shaw replied: "Abstain from such a desperate enterprise... I will not
have you write my life on any terms." Harris was convinced that the royalties of
the proposed book would solve his financial problems. In 1929 he wrote: "You
are honoured and famous and rich - I lie here crippled and condemned and
Eventually, Shaw agreed to cooperate with Harris in order to help him provide
for his wife. Bernard Shaw told a friend that he had to agree because "Frank and
Nellie... were in rather desperate circumstances." Shaw warned Harris: "The
truth is I have a horror of biographers... If there is one expression in this book of
yours that cannot be read at a confirmation class, you are lost forever. "
Bernard Shaw sent Harris contradictory accounts of his life. He told Harris that
he was "a born philanderer". On another occasion he attempted to explain why
he had little experience of sexual relationships. In 1930 he wrote to Harris: "If
you have any doubts as to my normal virility, dismiss them from your mind. I
was not impotent; I was not sterile; I was not homosexual; and I was extremely
susceptible, though not promiscuously."
A saying of George Bernard Shaw
“The ordinary man is an anarchist. He wants to do as he likes. He may
want his neighbour to be governed, but he himself doesn't want to be
governed. He is mortally afraid of government officials and policemen.”
This is the first part of my Ebook just published on my blog. The
second part is omitted here for probable copyright regulations in
the United States of America. The second part of my book has the
following title and author:
The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, by Emma
My complete Ebook (Public Domain) can be read and downloaded on
the following Belgian link:
Emma Goldman, The Social Significance of the Modern Drama
(Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1914; The Gorham Press, Boston, U.S.A.)
Just one-hundred years ago
This is the contents of the complete Ebook
Inspiration from our Anarchic World Association, by Philippe L. De
History of Ancient and Modern Drama, by Philippe L. De Coster 11
George Bernard Shaw Author and Anarchist 18
The Social Significance of the Modern Drama - Foreword 22
THE SCANDINAVIAN DRAMA 25
Henrik Ibsen 25
The Pillars of Society 27
A Doll's House 30
An Enemy of Society 39
August Strindberg 44
The Father 45
Countess Julie 48
THE GERMAN DRAMA 56
Hermann Sudermann 56
The Fires of St. John 62
Gerhart Hauptmann 65
Lonely Lives 65
The Weavers 71
The Sunken Bell 76
Frank Wedekind 84
The Awakening of Spring 84
THE FRENCH DRAMA 90
Maurice Maeterlinck 90
Monna Vanna in the fragment Maurice Maeterlinck
Edmond Rostand 95
Damaged Goods 100
THE ENGLISH DRAMA 115
George Bernard Shaw 115
Mrs. Warren's Profession 116
Major Barbara 121
John Galsworthy 126
The Pigeon 136
Stanley Houghton 142
Hindle Wakes 142
Githa Sowerby 147
Rutherford and Son 147
THE IRISH DRAMA 155
William Butler Yeats 155
Where There Is Nothing 156
Lenox Robinson 161
T. G. Murray 164
Maurice Harte 164
THE RUSSIAN DRAMA 167
Leo Tolstoy 168
The Power of Darkness 168
Anton Tchekhof 173
The Seagull 173
The Cherry Orchard 176
Maxim Gorki 178
A Night's Lodging 178
Leonid Andreyev 182
© May 2014, Skull Press Ebook Publications, Ghent, Belgium – Public
Domain and Non Commercial
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