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Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.



Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.


Sl.No. Unit Name Chapter Name

 History of Drama
1. Introduction  Origin of Drama
 Evaluation of English Drama
 Features
 University Wits
2. The Elizabethan Drama  Christopher Marlowe
 William Shakespeare
 Important points to remember
Early Dramatists of the Age
 Ben Johnson
 George Chapman
 Thomas Dekker
 Thomas Middleton
3. The Jacobean Drama
 Thomas Heywood
 Cyril Tourneur
 John Webster
 Beaumont & Fletcher
 James Shirley
 Features
 Sir George Etherege
 William Wycherley
 Sir John Vanbrugh
4. The Restoration Drama
 William Congreve
 George Farquhar
 John Dryden
 Sir Charles Sadley
 Introduction
 Features
 Irish Theatre Movement
 Verse Drama
5. Modern British Drama  Working class Drama and The Angry
Young Man
 Alienation and the Epic Theatre
 Absurdist Drama
 Literary Trends
 John Galsworthy
 George Bernard Shaw
 Sean O' Casey
6. Dramatist
 J.M. Synge
 T.S. Eliot
 Oscar Wilde

[3] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

 Terence Rattigan
 Arnold Wesker
 Caryl Churchill
 Joe Orton
7. Post Modern Dramatist  Alan Bennett
 Christopher Fry
 Samuel Beckett
 Noel Coward
 Harold Pinter
 Introduction
 Arthur Miller
 Edward Albee
8. American Dramatist
 Tennessee Williams
 Eugene O‟Neil
 August Wilson
 Introduction
 Mahesh Dattani
9. Indian Drama & Theatre  Vijay Tendulkar
 Girish Karnad
 Badal Sarkar
10. African Dramatist  Wole Soyinka

[4] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.


Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes
from a Greek word meaning "action" (Classical Greek: drama), which is derived from the
verb meaning "to do" or "to act”.
The origin of the Drama is deep rooted in the religious predisposition of mankind.
The ancient Greek and Roman Dramas were mostly concerned with religious ceremonials of
people. It was the religious element that resulted in the development of Drama.

What is Drama?
Drama is a type of literature telling a story, which is intended to be
performed to an audience on the stage. It is an imitation of life. It is different
from other forms of literature because of its unique characteristics. It‟s a
medium of communication.
Generally, while Drama is the printed text of a play, the word Theatre often refers to
the actual production of the text on the stage. Theatre involves action taking place on the
scenery, the accompanying music, the costumes, the atmosphere and soon.

Definition of Drama
“A play is a just and lively image of human nature, representing its passions and hum-
ours and the changes of fortune to which it is subject for the delight and instruction of
mankind”. - John Dryden
“Drama is a composition in verse or prose intended to portray life or character or tell a
story usually involving conflicts and emotions through action and dialogue and typically
designed for theatrical performance”. - Webster’s English Dictionary.

It is often believed that the art of drama is western form of literature and it has been
originated from the Greeks. It is also assumed that it traces its origin in Egypt as far back as
3200 B.C. Scholars are divided on the origin of drama. Many scholars trace the origin of
drama to wordless actions like ritual dances and mimes performed by dancers, masked
players or priests during traditional festivals or ceremonies.

[5] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.


The English drama at its initial stage developed
from religious rituals, commemorating the birth and
resurrection of Jesus Christ. The English drama was born
in Churches. In order to make people familiar with the
Bible, the incidents from the life of Christ, the Bishops in
the Church began to dramatize. In the 13th and 14th
centuries, some plays, describing the life of Christ and
other saints, were called Morality and Miracle plays. At
the end of 15th century, the play called „The Morality
Play’ took birth. The morality play mark the next stage in the growth of the drama in
England. These plays were didactic and religious in nature. The characters were no longer
Biblical figures but personified virtues and vices. Everyman (1490) is the finest of this type
of play. Sackville and Norton‟s, “Gorboduc” (1561) was the first regular English Tragedy.
Udall‟s, “Ralph Roister Doister” (1566) was the first English regular comedy. The
Elizabethan Drama reached its highest point in the works of William Shakespeare and
Christopher Marlowe. After the Restoration period drama restored and in modern age various
types of drama are developed. In modern age G. B. Shaw and John Galsworthy were the great


After the establishment of The Theatre in 1576 there came a huge competition in
the production of drama. Novelty in drama is always needed for success. The managers
were finding such men who could patch up old plays with new matters. A bunch of bohemian
writers associated with either Oxford or Cambridge University came forward in the literary
canvas with their handful of contribution in the field of drama. They are called “University
Wits”. They absorbed the new renaissance spirit and synthesizing the vigour of the native
tradition with more refined classicism. The group consisted of seven- John Lyly, Thomas
Kyd, Thomas Nash, Thomas Lodge, George Peele, Robert Greene and Christopher
Marlowe. So they are known as “The seven Stars of the Cosmos.”
The constellation of University wits made the Elizabethan drama more popular with
Renaissance humanism and pride of patriotism. English drama for the first time in their hands
recognized its potentialities and exuberance. They wrote classical plays, courtly comedies,
farces, chronicle plays, melodramas etc. They gave thrill, action, sensation, hum our and
music. Undeniably the University Wits paved the way for Shakespeare and other playwrights
of the coming of ages.

[6] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

1. George Peele (c.1558-98) who was born in London was educated at Broadgate Hall,
Oxford, where he completed his degree in arts in 1579. Peele was an actor as well as a
writer of plays, and for some time, he was a member of Lord Admiral‟s Company. Peele
has left behind some half dozen plays, rich in poetic beauty paralleled by none except
Marlowe‟s. The Arraignment of Paris (c.1584) is supposed to be his earlier work. A
kind of romantic comedy, it contains an elaborate tribute to the Queen and shows great
skill in the variation of metre. Less musical than David and Bathsheba (1599), it has some
striking passages of melodious beauty. Edward I (1593), an incoherent chronicle play;
The Old Wives’ Tale, a clever satire on the popular drama of the day; The Hunting of
Cupid, an earlier play now lost. Peele‟s poetical works include Polyhymnia (1590), a
poem in blank verse, The Honour of the Garter (1593), The Fall of Troy.

2. Robert Greene (1558-92) too was a student of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and
later of Clare Hall, Oxford wherefrom he took his M.A. degree in 1583. He lived a
lecherous life, and his life, which had much promise, came to an end nearly in the bud.
Greene was, first of all, a storyteller and a pamphleteer who turned to drama for the
lucre it offered. His plays are four in number: Alphonsus, King of Aragon, (1587); Friar
Bacon and Friar Bungay (1589), Orlando Furioso (c.1591) and The Scottish
Historie of James the Fourth (1592). Alphonsus is modelled on Marlowe‟s
Tamburlaine; Orlando Furioso (c.1591) has its source in an English translation of
Ariosto; and The Scottish Historie of James, the Fourth, staged in 1592, is not a
historical play, but has for it theme an imaginary incident of King‟s life. Friar Bacon
and Friar Bungay, the finest of Greene’s works is a tale of love of a maid with two
men. It can, to a great extent, be called a document of Elizabethan life. Greene wrote
thirty-five prose pieces. They are also important works in that they reveal the author‟s
erratic energy, his quick, malicious wit, and his powerful imagination.

3. Thomas Kyd (1558-94), one of the important university wits, was the son of a London
Notary and was educated at Merchant Taylor‟s School. A dramatist and translator, he

[7] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

achieved great popularity with his first work, The Spanish Tragedy, which was
translated into German and Dutch. The horrific plot of the play, stuffed with murder,
frenzy and sudden death, has gained the play lasting importance and popularity.
While the play bears resemblances of Marlovian lines, „there are touches of style that
dimly foreshadow the great tragical lines of Shakespeare.‟ The only other play of Kyd
that still survives is Cornelia (1593), a translated version of a work of the French
(a) He glorified the matter of the drama by his sweep of imagination as reflected in the
(b) He vitalized the manner and matter of the drama, as reflected in characterization.
(c) He clarified and gave coherence to the drama, as reflected in his blank verse.

4. Thomas Nash (1567-1601). After completing his education at Cambridge, he went in

1586 to London to earn by writing. He took an active part in the political and personal
questions of the day, and his aggressive method took him behind the bars. He finished
Marlowe‟s The Tragedy of Dido, but his only surviving play is Summer’s Last Will
and Testament, a satirical masque. Nash also wrote The Unfortunate Traveller or The
Life of Jacke Wilton (1594), a prose tale that has enough importance in the growth
English fiction.

5. Thomas Lodge (1558-1625) was educated at both Oxford and Cambridge where he
studied law. He, however, gave up his legal studies and took to writing, and while
writing, he acted too. Nash produced very little in quantity, and it is assumed that he
collaborated with Shakespeare in Henry VI. The Woundes of Civile War, a kind of
chronicle play, is considered to be Lodge‟s own work. He also wrote prose romances, the
most famous of which is Rosalynde: Euphues Golden Legacie (1590) which was the
chief source of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

6. John Lyly (1554-1606) was more famous as a writer of prose than a dramatist proper.
The plays of Lyly were written after the publication of Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit
(1579) and were acted by „the children of Paul‟s before her majesty.‟ His best-
known dramas include Alexander and Campaspe, played on New Year‟s Eve in
1581; Sapho and Phao (1584); Endymion (1591) written around the friendship
between the Queen and the Earl of Leicester, and Midas (1592). He also wrote two
other plays – The Woman in the Moon and Love’s Metamorphosis. Lyly‟s plays
might lack stage effectiveness, but they display the dramatist‟s superior culture and a
fine sense of style. His plays have more kinship with masques than the drama, and the
delightful songs that are interpolated in the plays enhance their charm by a great measure.
His dialogues are really admirable at times, happy in clear-cut phrases and allusiveness.

[8] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.


Christopher Marlowe was not yet thirty when he dies.

Quarrelsome and highly unconventional, his short life was a
whirlwind of turbulence and color. While a student at Cambridge
University, he was apparently involved in secret intelligence work
for the government. Because of his hot temper and his taste for
political intrigue, he was, throughout his life, constantly in trouble
even after he had established himself as a poet and playwright of note. We know that
Marlowe was stabbed to death in a tavern brawl, but it is still uncertain as to whether
he was killed in a fight over a bill or because of his involvement in undercover political
A typical Renaissance man, Marlowe combined a life of action with a career as a
scholar and man of letters. Most important to posterity is that he was a poet of genius, his
controlled and magnificent writing carrying the stamp of his powerful personality. His tragic
dramas, which center on man's lust for power, are second only to those of Shakespeare.
Marlowe's heroes will their own destruction and are eventually consumed by their insatiable
desires. The construction of Marlowe's plays, his technique of focusing attention on a
single prominent character, and, above all, the power and variety which he instilled into
dramatic blank verse "the mighty line" so admired by Ben Jonson – greatly influenced
Elizabethan drama and paved the way for the plays of William Shakespeare. Marlowe's
influence on his contemporaries is perhaps most vividly revealed by his idyllic pastoral lyric,
"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love," which inspired a flood of imitations and replies,
among which the best known is that by Sir Walter Raleigh.
His four major plays were written between 1587 and 1593: Tamburlaine the Great,
parts I and II; The Jew of Malta, The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus; Edward II. Dido,
Queen of Carthage (with Nashe, 1594) and The Massacre at Paris (1593) are attributed to
him. His non dramatic poetry is famous for the narrative "Hero and Leander", based on the
Greek of Masaeus (5th Century AD) and completed by Chapman, and the lyric "The
Passionate Shepherd". Little else has survived, apart from his translation of Ovid's Amores
(printed 1596) and of "The First Book of Lucan" (printed 1600). It has been suggested
without evidence that he had a share in the writing of a number of other plays, including
Shakespeare's Henry VI, Titus Andronicus, and Richard III.

1. Tamburlaine the Great (part I and II)
2. Edward II
3. Dr. Faustus

[9] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

4. The Jew of Malta

5. Dido, Queen of Carthage
Marlowe was the greatest dramatic writer of 16th century apart from Shakespeare, and
the most important influence upon Shakespeare. His importance is due to the energy with
which he endowed the blank verse, which in his hands developed an unprecedented
suppleness and power. His plays have great intensity, but they show a genius which is epic
rather than dramatic at east in Tamburlaine and Faustus which are his acknowledged
masterpieces; his best constructed piece of theater, Edward II, is also the least typical of his
poetic genius. On the other hand the final scene of Dr. Faustus is one of the most intensely
dramatic scenes in English literature. In the musical handling and control of the ten –
syllable line, he learned from Spenser, and contributed to Milton as well as to


Birth and Early Years:-

Shakespeare‟s age is the latter part of the
Renaissance, a period in western culture that began
during the fourteenth century in Italy. The name
Renaissance describes both a renewed interest in
ancient Greek and Roman culture and a flourishing of
art , literature, and learning inspired by that interest.
One of the most potent ideas was a growing
secularism and revival of classical humanism focused
interest on this life and held up an ideal that emphasized human possibility. Shakespeare
expressed this new attitude in Hamlet: What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason,
how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how expres and admirable in action, how like
an angel in apprehension, how like a god!
William Shakespeare is most definitely the world's most performed and admired . Born
in April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, about 100 miles northwest of
London, he was baptized on April 26 at Stanford's Holy Trinity church. As such the
actual birth date of Shakespeare is not known but since it was customary to baptize infants
within days of birth, and also Shakespeare died on April 23 and most importantly April
23 being St. George's day (the patron Saint of England), it is believed to be on April 23,
For all his fame and celebration, William Shakespeare has always been a
mysterious figure as far as his personal history is concerned. There are just two primary
sources for information on William Shakespeare i.e. his own works, and various legal and

[10] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

church documents that have survived from Elizabethan times. Naturally, these sources cannot
be taken as perfect and they have many gaps in the information which tells us very little
about Shakespeare.
Shakespeare‟s formal education took place in the King‟s New School, a quarter of a mile
from his home. His schoolhouse experiences recur in his play such as In The Merry Wives of
Windsor and The Taming of the Shrew.
(Christopher Sly in The Taming of the Shrew takes the last name of Stephen Sly of Stratford.
Sly lives at Burton-on-the-Heath, a village about sixteen miles from Shakespeare‟s

Birth Place:-
Henley St. Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, UK
In the sixteenth century, Stratford-upon-Avon was an important agricultural centre
and market town. The building in Henley Street known today as the 'birthplace' of
Shakespeare was actually two adjacent buildings that John Shakespeare purchased at
different times and later joined them into one. There are not renderings of the original
William‟s birth preceded by only a few months the most severe outbreak of the bubonic
plague in England since Black Death of 1348. On July 1564, the Vicar wrote in his burial
register, “Hic incipit pestis” [today the plague begins].
Now days, there is an exhibition that has been set in Henley street with the name of
William Shakespeare; His Life and Background. The exhibition is open to general visitors.

Shakespeare allegedly attended the Strafford Grammar School, which was the
centre of major education for sons of prominent citizens at that time. Shakespeare started
his education with English alphabets probably from the 'horn book' and later he leaned Latin
grammar. Although Shakespeare likely had some lessons in English, Latin composition and
the study of Latin authors like Seneca, Cicero, Ovid, Virgil and Horace would have been
the focus of his literary training.

On November 28, 1582 Shakespeare got married to Ann Hathaway of Stratford,
Daughter of Richard Hathaway of Shottery. Ann was some three months pregnant at the
time of marriage and was eight years older than her husband William. Their first daughter,
Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583. The couple later had twins, Hamnet and Judith, born
February 2, 1585 and christened at Holy Trinity. Hamnet died in childhood at the age of 11,
on August 11, 1526.
Shakespeare's sorrow at the loss of his only son is undeniably reflected in his later
work, and particularly, in a passage from King John.

[11] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

THE LOST YEARS 1586-1592

The only documented evidence of Shakespeare‟s first twenty-four years are of his
baptism, marriage, the baptism of his children. No records survive from the Stratford
grammar school for his years there. The period between the birth of the twins and the first
record of Shakespeare‟s success in London is referred to as the “Lost Years”. There is no
documentary record of Shakespeare's activities from the birth of the twins, in 1585 until
Robert Greene's complaint about him as in 'upstart crow' in 1592. Biographers have
therefore called these the 'lost years'. In fact, there is nothing certain known about him from
his birth in 1564 until 1592 except that he was married in 1582, fathered Susanna in 1583 and
the twins Judith and Hamnet in 1585, and probably attended Stratford Grammar School.
In any event, we see that Shakespeare was well established in the London theatre
world by the end of 1593. By this time he had probably already written The Comedy of
Errors, Taming of the Shrew, Perhaps Two Gentlemen of Verona, the three parts of
Henry VI, Titus Andronicus and perhaps even Richard III.
Shakespeare's chief rival among early Elizabethan playwrights was Christopher
Marlowe, who had by this time (he was murdered in 1593) written his Tamburlain plays Dr.
Faustus and The Jew of Malta. Had Shakespeare died in the same year as Marlowe, his
accomplishment would have been thought remarkable, but Marlowe would undoubtedly have
been given the precedence as the better of the playwrights by subsequent critics.
Shakespeare in London
Shakespeare came to London at an auspicious time, the dawn of the golden age of English
(The first theatre name The Red Lion, was built by John Brayne)
In 1576 Brayne and his brother-in-law James Burbage erected another playhouse name The
Theatre. James Burbage, was a carpenter turned actor. In 1587, Philip Henslowe opened
another theatre name The Rose on the south side of River Thames.
The Rose became the home of Christopher Marlowe‟s plays. Here Thomas Kyd staged his
immensely popular revenge drama The Spanish Tragedy. Shakespeare‟s Titus Andronicus
and Henry VI trilogy was played by Lord Strange‟s Men which was staged on the same

The Non-dramatic Poetry:-

Venus and Adonis was probably written in 1592 during the period of the theatre
closings in London. It was registered and printed the following year. It bears a somewhat
stiff and formal dedication to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. Southampton’s
confessor, the poet Robert Southwell was a distant cousin of Shakespeare.

[12] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

Ovid depicted Venus and Adonis as lovers. Shakespeare presents an older, sexually
experienced woman trying to seduce a young, prim lad who prefers hunting to
The Rape of Lucrece was probably written in 1593. It was registered and printed in
1594. It bears a much warmer dedication to the same Lord. It was less successful. Both the
poems were printed by Richard Field.
The Sonnets were written over a number of years, mostly in all likelihood, from 1591-
1594, though some are probably later. The full sequence was first printed by Thomas Thorpe
in 1609, along with a longer poem at the end titled A Lover's Complaint, seems to be a very
early poem (perhaps around 1591), but no date of composition can be assigned.
In 1599, a work title The Passionate Pilgrim was attributed to Shakespeare, and
in it two of the Sonnets (138 and 144) appeared. Other poems certainly not be Shakespeare
appeared in the same volume. Further, Meres made reference to Shakespeare's sugared
sonnets among his private friends in the famous passage from Palladis Tamia in 1598. It
is fairly certain that the sequence was complete by 1597 if not earlier.
In 1601, a very fine poem subsequently titled The Phoenix and the Turtle appeared
untitled as one of the Poetical Essays appeared to Robert Chester's Love's Martyr; Or
Rosalind's Complaint. It was attributed to Shakespeare, and many scholars have accepted it as
genuine. The date of composition is unknown.
Shakespeare's sonnets were parts of a fashion for sonneteering, which peaked in the
mid-90s, provoked by the 1591 publication Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella.

The Globe Theatre

In December 1598, Richard and Cuthbert Burbage along with their friends dismantled
the Theatre and built a new playhouse, The Globe.
On days when a play would be performed, a flag would fly over the theatre, showing
Hercules holding the globe and bearing the motto Totus mundus agit histrionem: All
the world’s stage. Major plays of Shakespeare were performed here.

The Lord Chamberlain's Men:-

Shakespeare established himself once again with the reassembling of the playing
companies after the reopening of the theatres in 1594. We find Shakespeare, in December
1594, listed by the Treasurer of the Queen's Chamber along with Will Kemp and Richard
Burbage, the great clown and tragedian of the company, as receiving payment for two
performances at Greenwich. These three, and four other-John Hemming, eventual co-editor
of the First Folio among them were the charter members of the a new theater company
organized under the patronage of Henry Carey Lord Hunsdon, Chamberlain to Queen
Elizabeth. They were known as the Lord Chamberlain's men. When they preformed publicly,
it was at The Theatre, built by James Burbage (father of Richard) in 1576 north of the
city. Shakespeare became a share, or householder in the company, i.e. he was now a part

[13] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

owner/manager and as such shared in the profits. This provided him the stability necessary
for his most fruitful years, when he, as the company's principal playwright, produced an
average of two plays per year until about 1611-1612, when he seems to have retired to
Shakespeare must have done a great deal of acting. He is listed by Ben Jonson in
Jonson's magnificent 1616 Folio of his Works as having acted as the chief comedian in Every
Man in His Humour in 1598.
He was also listed by Jonson as one of the principal tragedians in the 1603 for

The History Plays

Henry VI, Part 1
The play begins with a state ceremony: the funeral of King Henry V. There was a
heated argument between Humphrey, Duke of Glocester (brother to Henry V and Lord
Protector while King Henry VI was still a legal minor), and Henry Beaufort, Bishop of
Meanwhile, in France, Charles the Bastard introduces Joan La Pucelle, “a holy maid”,
to the court of King Charles. Back in England, the conflict between Gloucester and
Winchester breaks into open fighting between their followers. In France, Lord Talbot returns
to the English camp, having been released in an exchange of prisoners. The Countess of
Auvergne invites Talbot to visit her and attempts to capture him by locking the door of her
King Henry VI, who has come to France, promotes Talbot to the earldom of
Shrewbury. King Henry VI is crowned in Paris, and Talbot disgraces Falstaff publicly for his
cowardice at Rouen.

Henry VI, Part 2

The play begins with a state ceremony: the formal reception into England of Queen
Margaret by her new husband, King Henry VI. The Duchess of Glouchester urges her
husband to “reach at the glorious gold”.

Henry VI, Part 3

The Play begins with the triumphant Yorkists in parliament, having broken in by force
while still bloody from their recent victory. Richard displays the severed head of Somerset,
which York addresses mockingly.

Major Comedies of Shakespeare –

1. All's Wells That Ends Well (1604 - 05) – Some critics today consider this play to be one
of his Problem Plays, because it can‟t be classified as tragedy or comedy. This play was

[14] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

originally published in the First Folio in 1623. Recently it is argued that Middleton
collaborated with Shakespeare on this play.
2. As You Like It – This is also a pastoral comedy first published in the First Folio, 1623.
In this play Rosalind flees along with her cousin Celia and Touchstone to find safety
and consequently love, in the forest of Arden.

This play is known for its most famous speech. "All the World's a Stage".

In this play Duke Frederick has usurped the whole kingdom and exiled his elder
brother, Duke Senior, when he banishes Rosalind from the court, all the three leave the
kingdom where Rosalind disguises as Ganymede and Celia disguises as Aliena.

The source of this play is Thomas Lodge's "Rosalynde", the second source is 'The
Histories of Orlando Furioso' by Robert Greene.

"Sweet are the uses of adversity,

Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head."

"Thou art not for the fashion of these times,
Where none will sweat but for promotion."

"All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts
His acts being seven ages".

"And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks
Sermons in stones, and good in everything".

3. The Comedy Of Errors – (pub. 1623 in first folio). It is a comedy of mistaken identify
and is one of his early plays. It has been adopted for Opera, stage and musical theatre. It
is a story of two identical twins who accidently get separated at the time of birth. The
source of this play is Roman comedies of Plautus. (Menachmi)

4. Measure for Measure – It is a play which deals with the issues of mercy, justice truth
and the relationship of pride and humanity. "Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall".

[15] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

It is also a part of the First Folio of 1623, it is taken to be a comedy but the over – all
impact of the plot defies our expectations as a comedy.
"Is this her fault or mine?
The tempter or the tempted, who sins most"?

5. The Merchant of Venice – It is one of the most important and remembered play for its
dramatic scenes and for its immortal character, Shylock along with Portia. Due to his
extreme cruelty, Shylock became more prominent and famous but the title character is the
merchant Antonio.

In this play Bassanio wishes to marry Portia and approaches Antonio, for 3000 ducats
who has always helped him. Unfortunately Antonio didn‟t have so much money so he
tells him to take it from Shylock which will be repaid by him. Shylock is reluctant in the
beginning but agrees upon one condition that if Antonio will not repay in time he may
take a pound of Antonio's flesh.

Antonio's ships are lost at sea and so now Shylock is happy to take revenge. In the court,
Shylock even refuses to take 6000 ducats and demands Antonio's flesh. In the mean time
Portia arrives disguised as a lawyer and asks Shylock to show mercy in a famous speech
advoicing him about mercy. "tis twice blesst: It blesseth him that gives and him that
takes" (act IV, scene I). However Shylock is admen and refuses to take any
compensation apart from a pound of flesh.

While Shylock was preparing his knife, Portia told him that the contract allows him only
to remove the flesh and not the "blood", otherwise his lands and goods would be forfeited
under the Venetian's laws. To every one's surprise Shylock is now ready to accept any
offer and the law takes its part and forfeit his property half to the government and half to
Antonio, leaving his life at the mercy of the Duke because Shylock attempted to take the
life of a citizen. The Duke, immediately pardons Shylock's life. In the end Bassanio
comes to know that Balthazar was Portia and Antonio learns from Portia that three of
his ships have returned safely.

"The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose"

"I am not bound to please thee with my answer"

"How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world-"

[16] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

6. The Merry Wives of Windsor (1602) – This is a comedy by Shakespeare which features
the character Sir John Falstaff, who had previously been featured in Henry IV (Part I
and II). Its title is a reference to Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England.

7. A Mid Summer Night's Dream – It is a play which portrays the events surrounding the
marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus and Hippolyta. This play is categorized as a
comedy and is known to be widely performed across the world.

"The course of true love never did run smooth"

"I ll met by moonlight, proud Titania"
"I' ll put a girdle round about the earth
In forty minutes"
"And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name".

8. Much Ado About Nothing – It is considered to be one of the best comedies by

Shakespeare which ends with multiple marriages. The story line has two pair of lovers –
Benedick and Beatrice and Claudio and Hero. This play was included in the First Folio
published in 1623.
"Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever".

"Is it not strange, that sheeps'
guts should hale souls out of men's bodies"?

"Comparisons are odorous"

9. Tempest – The Tempest is regarded as Shakespeare's last complete play Critics had
enough evidence for the view that Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest and
Pericles were written towards the end of Shakespeare's career and The Tempest is
probably the last and the finest of the four. These four plays have been grouped together
under the heading of 'romance' because these plays possess the typical features of the
romance mode like exile, journey, storms, shipwreck, exotic location, countryside, magic
realism and supernatural etc.
Prospero who use to be the Duke of Milan was ousted from power by his own
brother Antonio, because he was rather more interested in the study of the books of magic.
Antonio after obtaining this power took help from the King of Naples and got success in

[17] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

driving out Prospro from Milan. Antonio along with Miranda were placed on a boat, left to
the mercy of the wind and the waves. By doing this Antonio had calculated that they would
perish in the ocean but luck favoured them and the boat drifted to an island where Prospero
and Mirinda landed safely. Prospero continued his study of magic and through this he could
control the force of nature. He became so powerful that large number of spirits of air, water,
fire and earth began to pay homage to him. And a spirit called Ariel was the chief whom
Prospero began to employ in his service. After twelve years Prospero got an opportunity to
take revenge upon his enemies. Prospero uses his supernatural powers to cause a storm in the
sea when king Alonso, Ferdinand, Sebestian and Antonio were returning after marriage of
Alonso's daughter and as a result of this storm they were cast ashore on Prospero's Island and
now all these men were completely on Prospero's mercy. He could have tortured all of them
to the cruelest treatment but forgives all the three men and promises to arrange for their safe
voyage. He claims his dukedom of which he has been deprived.

"Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows".

"You taught me language; and my profit on't
For learning me your language!"

10. King Lear – It is a tragedy in which the title character distributes, his whole estate
between two of his three daughters which was based on their flattery and the
consequent result was tragic. G.B. Shaw wrote, "No man will ever write a better
tragedy then Lear".
King Lear wishes to distribute his realm among his three daughters but the
distribution depends on who loves him best. So in the process of the proclamation of love,
Cordelia is honest but blunt which makes King Lear angry and so he disinherits her.
Kent objects to this unfair treatment and so he was banished from the country. As
Cordelia was disinherited, the Duke of Burgundy refused to marry her but the King of
France marries her just because of her honesty. Finally the aged king divides his whole
kingdom between two daughters Regan and Goneril and outcasts Cordelia for her
disloyalty but after some time he came to know that Regan and Goneril prove to be most
disloyal, to had whom he had already given the kingdom. He wanders near the
countryside as a poor man until Cordelia comes with her husband, the King of France to
reclaim her father's land. Regan and Gorneil are defeated, but only after Cordelia has
been captured and murdered, King Lear then dies of grief.

"I grow, I prosper;

Now, gods, stand up for bastards!"

"I want that glib and only art

[18] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

To speak and purpose not".

"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!"

"O! let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven;
Keep me in temper; I would not be mad"

11. Twelfth Night – (sub title – What You Will) It is a comedy written around 1601 – 02. It
is based on a story by Matteo Bandello. In this play the ship in which Violla was moving
got ship wrecked on the coast of Illyria and come ashore with the help of a captain. Her
twin brother Sebastian is believed to be dead. Now Voilla disguised herself and renamed
as Cesario and with the help of the captain enters in the service of Duke of Orsino. The
Duke took help of Cesario (Violla) as an intermediate to profess his love before Olivia.
Olivia took Violla to be a man and falls in love with Cesario while Violla fallen in love
with the Duke.

Eventually Voilla's brother Sebestain who was unharmed in the shipwreck reappears
and Violla's true identity comes out when members of the court notice the similarities
between her and Sebestian. Olivia quickly falls in love with Sebestian and Violla
confess her love for the Duke.
"But be not afraid of greatness: some men are born great,
Some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them"

"If music be the food of love, play on".

"Not to be a bed after midnight is to be up bedtime"

"In delay there lies no plenty;

Thjen come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure"

12. Romeo and Juliet – The two families, the Montagues and the Capulets live in Verona,
Italy amidst a bloody feud. Romeo a Montague, and Juliet a Capulet, fall in love and
struggle to maintain their relationship. After Romeo kills Juliet's cousin Iybalt in a fit of
passion, things fall apart. Both lovers eventually commit suicide with minutes and both
the families had no other option rather to make peace over their grief.
"Night's candles are burnt out, and Jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops".

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose

[19] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

By any other name would smell as sweet."

"Good – night, good – night! Parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow".

"He jests at scars, that never felt a wound"

13. Hamlet – This play has been described as "the world's most fined story after
Cinderella". It is a tragedy which is set in the kingdom of Denmark, where Prince
Hamlet takes revenge on his uncle Claudius for murdering King Hamlet. The whole
play portrays and explores the theme of revenge, insests, madness, grief and moral
In this play Hamlet seems to delay and delay to achieve his goal which he is
not able to achieve due to his brooding nature. Hamlet adopts a device to verify the
ghost's story, though even after the confirmation of that story, Hamlet goes on
delaying his revenge. Ultimately the revenge is taken and revenge cost the avenger his
own life besides the lives of others.

"To be, or not to be: that is the question"

"The time is out of joint; O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!"

"Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy; rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man"

"Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all"
"I must be cruel only to be kind"

"To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause"

"O god! I could be bounded in a nut – shell,
And count myself a king of infinite space,
Were it not that I have bad dreams".

"The rest is silence"

[20] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

"There is nothing either good or bad,
But thinking makes it so".

"There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough – hew them how we will"
"How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world".

"Lord! we know what we are,
but know not what we may be"

"Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
Thou shalt not escape calumny"

"What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason!

How infinite in faculty! In form, in moving,
How express and admirable! In action how like an angel!
In apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world!
The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of

14. Macbeth – "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly”

"Drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things…
Nose – painting, sleep, and urine.
Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes;
It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance".

"Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it".

"Now good digestion wait on appetite,
And health on both".

"There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face".

"Macbeth : if we should fail,-

[21] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

Lady Macbeth: We fail!

But screw your courage to the sticking – place,
And we'll not fail."

"Present fears
Are less than horrible imaginings"

15. Othello - "But yet the pity of it Iago!,

The pity of it, Iago!"

"Trifles light as air
Are to the jealous confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ"

"He that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed"

16. Cymbline – "Boldness be my friend !

Arm me, audacity."

17. Julius Caesar – "Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once".

"If I could pray to move, prayers would move me;
But I am constant as the northern star"

"But when I tell him he hates flatters,
He says he does being then most flattered"

"If you have tears, prepare to shed them now".


1- As You Like It (1599), a sparkling comedy by Shakespeare. Its heroine is sweet and
charming Rosalind. The other important well-drawn characters are Jacques and
Touchstone. There is no tragic interest in it in the Merchant of Venice and in Much
Ado About Nothing or in Twelfth Night. It is the sweetest and happiest of all
Shakespeare's comedies.
2- Cymbeline (1610), one of the last plays by Shakespeare. It is combined with an
Italian love-story. We have a husband roused to causeless jealousy of a spotless wife.
The well known woman character is Imogen.

[22] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

3- Hamlet (1603), one of the four great tragedies of Shakespeare. The plot centre round
Hamlet's inability to take action against his uncle who has killed his father and
married his mother. It has been variously described as a domestic tragedy, a revenge
play, a tragedy of intellectualism, and a tragedy of man caught in the grip of evil. It
has been called the 'Mona Lisa' of literature. The character of Hamlet has provoked so
much criticism that it is difficult to go into details here. T.S. Eliot says that 'probably
more people have thought Hamlet a work of are because they found it interesting,
than have found it interesting because it is a work of art. As a work of art, in the
opinion of T.S. Eliot Hamlet is an artistic failure.
4- Henry IV, Part I and Part II (1598); Henry V; Henry VI (1592- 99), historical
plays by Shakespeare, based on Holinshed's Chronicle. The most important character
is that of Falstaff who has become immortal in English literature by his rollicking
5- Julius Caesar (1599), a famous historical play by Shakespeare, and one of the most
vital political plays of the world. It provides in Brutus one of the noblest character in
drama. The play gives us one of the great mob scenes of the theatre.
6- King Lear (1606), one of the four great tragedies by Shakespeare. The story of Lear
and his daughter is given by Geoffrey of Monmouth and by Holinshed. According to
A. Nicoll, "Lear is one of the greatest of all works of genius; as a dramatic poem it has
never been surpassed, even it as a drama it has many weaknesses and blemishes.
7- Love's Labour Lost (1595), one of the early comedies by Shakespeare. It is a clever
play; but it is not great. It has very little action or intrigue. "Its structure is artificial
and mechanical, much of its humour decidedly superficial."
8- Macbeth (1606), one of the four great tragedies by Shakespeare. It is a tragedy of
ambition and retribution. It shows the corrupting force of evil, but at the same time it
affirms that good may be reborn out of the evil. The structure of Macbeth is not so
fine as that of Othello, yet remains one of the greatest tragedies of all time.
9- Marchant of Venice, The (1596), the first great romantic comedy of Shakespeare. It
is a monument of Portia's loving wit, Antonio's friendship and Shylock's cruel and
perfectly natural hatred. The plot of the play centres round three episodes- the bond
tale, the casket tale, and the Jessica tale.
10- Midsummer Night's Dream The (1595 or 1596), the crowing comedy of
Shakespeare' youthful period. It has the famous character of Puck. The whole play is
surcharged with supernatural and ethereal atmosphere. With its songs and dances and
spectacular effects, it is almost more of a masque or opera than a comedy in the strict
sense of the word.
11- Much Ado About Nothing (1598-8),a popular comedy by Shakespeare, based on an
Italian tale. For the main story Shakespeare is indebted to Bandello, but he has added
the fascinating figures of Benedick and Beatrice. The comedy is full of brilliant and
sparkling wit.
12- Othello (1604), a powerful tragedy by Shakespeare. It ranks with Hamlet, Macbeth,
and King Lear. It is a remarkable study in suspicion and Jealousy, which lead Othello
to murder his innocent wife Desdemona. The villain of the play is Iago. Othello is
Shakespeare's nearest approach to domestic tragedy. It is ''the most painfully exciting
and the most terrible'' of Shakespeare's plays.

[23] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

13- Richard II (1595), Richard III (1594), two historical plays by Shakespeare. The
chief interest of the first play lies in the contrast between King Richard II and
Bolingbroke. King Richard's character has been presented both in its weakness and in
its merits. In Richard III, Shakespeare finds himself with a tragic hero who has all the
traits of the conventional Senecanism. Richard II is more lyrical than Richard III, and
it contains many poetical passages.
14- Romeo and Juliet (1595), a romantic love tragedy by Shakespeare. "Its lyrical
passion at times rises to the heights of ecstasy. This tragedy is obviously a young
man's effort and shows the fullness of Renascence thought and passion.
15- Tempest The (1611), the last pay of Shakespeare. It is a dramatic romance mingled
with fairy lore, magic and supernaturalism. The chief character is Prospero who acts
as Providence in the play. The romantic young pair consists of Ferdinand and
Miranda. The theme of the play is forgiveness and Liberty. The wrongs are redressed
and losses restored. The play contains two unusual characters Ariel and Caliban.
16- Twelfth Night or That You Will (1601), a famous romantic comedy by Shakespeare
based on the eternal triangle of love. The main characters are the Duke, Olivia, and
Viola. The Duke loves Olivia, Olivia loves Viola (disguised as Cesario), and Viola
17- loves the Duke. Another important character is Malvolia who is the main source of
humour in the play, as he is made the butt of all the fun. Feste, the Clown, is the soul
of this musical comedy.
18- Winter's Tale, The (1609-10), one of the last dramatic romances of Shakespeare. It is
based on Robert Greene's Pandosto.


After the turn of 16th century and the passing away of

Elizabeth, the theatre continued to command
popularity, although the Puritan opposition was
stiffening. But the taste was changing: the audiences
for a stronger fare. The playwrights attempted to
fulfill the desire of audience, but it lacked organic
unity which a supreme art must possess. In the
Jacobean period, there was a steep decline
of drama. In the Elizabethan Age, the drama was
patronized by the feudal lords but now the dramatists seek royal favor. Theatre was no more
for the common people now. After Shakespeare there was no other dramatist who could fill
his space which naturally marked the decline of Drama. The characters such as cheats,
bullies, gullies were repeated. The dramatists could not maintain the mighty line of
Marlowe and their blank verse was weak.

[24] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.



Ben Johnson (1573-1637) was Shakespeare's greatest rival after

Christopher Marlowe. He received education at famou s westministers.
He didn't attend any university yet he was honoured by both the
Universities. He began his adventurous career as a bricklayer, then to
stage and finally emerged as a playwright. He was also involved in a bitter
rivalry among the other dialogists, notably Dekker and Marston.

Eastward HO- This play was written in collaboration with Chapman and Marston, and it
offended King James by its satire on the Scots. For this, he suffered imprisonment as well.
He visited William of Drummond of Hawthorden. He wrote masques for the court and was
declared as the court poet / poet laureate. He was undoubtedly a great scholar, a great learn of
Greek studies, yet he was aggressive and arrogant. He was gathered by his disciples as Sons
or tribes of Ben Johnson.
Ben Johnson conformed himself with the traditions of classical drama. He observed
the 'unities' while Shakespeare rejected them.
He was more successful in comedies. He appeared at a time when the University wits
were focusing on the "romantic drama". He was very critical, of romantic extravagance. He
tried to establish, instead a comic form and a tragic form based on the classical practice and
to bring drama nearer life.
The best known comedies of Ben Johnson are Everyman in his humour, Epicoene
or The Silent Woman, The Alchemist and Bartholomew Fair.

1. Everyman in his humour: Old knowell, whose humour is his exercise anxiety
about his son's morals; Brainworm, the clever servant, Kitely, the jealous husband,
Bobadill, the cowardly braggart and Justice Clement, the merry magistrate forms
the part and characters of the play.
2. Epicoene: One of his most criticized plays, Mouse is a rich old bachelor whose
humour is the hatred of noise. He seeks a silent wife for himself. Cutbeart, his
barber, in league with Eygenie, finds a woman named Epicoene.
Apart from its two prologues, the entire play is in prose. Other plays which are
dominated by satire and self-praise are Everyman out of his humour, Cynthia's
Revels and The Poetaster.

3. Cynthia Revels, or The Fountain of self love: The play was published in 'Quarto'
under the title The Fountain of self love or Cynthia Revels. It was fulfilled by the Drama
song Queens and huntress, Chaste and Fair, one of his beautiful lyrics.
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

1. Everyman in his humour: Old knowell, whose humour is his exercise anxiety
about his son's morals; Brainworm, the clever servant, Kitely, the jealous
husband, Bobadill, the cowardly braggart and Justice Clement, the merry
magistrate forms the part and characters of the play.
2. Epicoene: One of his most criticized plays, Mouse is a rich old bachelor whose
humour is the hatred of noise. He seeks a silent wife for himself. Cutbeart, his
barber, in league with Eygenie, finds a woman named Epicoene.
Apart from its two prologues, the entire play is in prose. Other plays which are
dominated by satire and self-praise are Everyman out of his humour,
Cynthia's Revels and The Poetaster.
3. Cynthia Revels, or The Fountain of self love: The play was published in
'Quarto' under the title The Fountain of self love or Cynthia Revels. It was
fulfilled by the song Queens and huntress, Chaste and Fair, one of his
beautiful lyrics.
This play was one element in the poetomachia or War of the theatres.
(The War of the Theatres (1599-1601) is the name commonly applied to a risen
controversy from the later Elizabethan theatre). Thomas Dekker named it
4. The Poetaster: It is also an element of 'Poetomachia'. The term poetaster,
means an inferior poet. The term had been coined by Erasmus in 1521. The
play deals with the literary quarrels and rivalries of the day, and is a caustic
satire on Marston and Dekker. In the quarto, the title is Poetaster or The

The principal character in the play is Ovid. It is widely accepted that the character
of Horace represents Johnson himself, while Crispinus, is Marston and Demetrius
Fannius is Thomas Dekker.

 Eastward Ho and Bartholemew Fair presents an intense realistic picture of London.

 He wrote a pastoral drama, The sad shepherd or A Tale of Robinhood.

[26] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.


Modern British Drama is a period of

literature that can be difficult to place within a
distinct beginning and end. Because history is
never-ending, it can be hard to classify when
one era starts and finishes; since literature
does not change overnight, there is no
straight lined, apparent transformation of
thematic elements or style. Therefore, people
must look at a wide range of literary elements
to find patterns and gradual changes, in order to categorize a specific time of literature.
During the Victorian era, Britain was constrained by a rigid class system. Many
people, including those related to the arts, dealt with the inability to obtain any sort of
individualism. The elite dominated the British culture. For that reason, Modern British Drama
became an era of British literature focused on finding and receiving its own identity.
Although the beginning of Modern British Drama has no specific start date,
Christopher Isben, the author of Modern British Drama: The Twentieth Century, provides
an untried timeline of events that follows Modern British Drama's history. According to
Isben, 1890 marks the beginning of Modern British Drama with George Bernard
Shaw’s attack on the most previous, Victorian era. Around this time, the arts were
expressing the need for a change in the disposition and role of theatre. Britain no longer
wanted to follow the traditional genres seen on stage; they rejected logical structures and
reasoning. Rather, writers wanted to use an approach that went beyond sheer entertainment;
something that generated a message and spoke about society.
On stage, Modern British Drama began to mirror everyday life. It took on an "anti-
illusionistic" portrayal of the world. The characters tended to embody characteristics that
epitomized humankind as a whole. Clearly, realism appears to be the ultimate driving theme
throughout Modern British Drama. Almost every play in London demonstrated some
elements of social realism.

The Irish Theatre Movement

One of the earliest attempts to rewrite drama came with the Irish Theatre Movement
signaled by the opening of the Abbey Theatre in 1904. The moving spirits of the theatre
Renaissance were George Moore, W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory and the most important
dramatists were J.M. Synge and Sean O’Casey. Synge‟s famous play, Riders to the Sea
evokes our admiration for the simplicity and dignity of the Irish people. The play is one of
the greatest one-act plays of the century. Its heroine Moira, has already lost five sons to the

[27] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

sea and her premonitory fears of losing the sixth as well are all tragically confirmed. The
play leaves a profound impression on the mind by virtue of its use of symbolism.
Sean O’ Casey belongs to the second generation of Abbey dramatists. His first-hand
experience of the Troubles, provides him with the material of his plays into which he pours
his insights into the passions and the sufferings of the men and women who were embroiled
in Ireland‟s troubled national struggle.
Both Synge and O‟ Casey create their plays out of the material of Ireland and the
lilting speech rhythms of the Irish folk. However, their treatment of the subjects transcends to
universal aspect.

Verse Drama
The English contribution to the modern experiment in drama was a new kind of Verse
drama. Verse drama was a movement of writers rather that of individuals closely associated
with the theatres and stage. They argue that characters on stage could not possibly express the
totality of human experience. Therefore, the dramatist should recover his full powers of
expression instead of relying on the expressive powers of the characters to communicate his
Poetic language replaced probable language in the dialogue. The practitioners in the
mode were T.S. Eliot and Christopher Fry, W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood.
Eliot‟s one great success in verse drama is Murder in the Cathedral which draws upon
the conventions of Greek drama and uses ritual and formal poetic language to great theatrical

Working class Drama and The Angry Young Man

The Post-war revolt against pre-war
modes came in the Fifties. It was anti-
intellectual and anti-elitist and provided new
content to the drama and depicted with energy
and vitality the life and style of the new
generation. John Osborne‟s play Look Back in
Anger was one such example. Osborne‟s Jimmy
Porter is the archetypal “angry young man”, a
university graduate who runs a sweet shop and who vents his frustration on self, wife and
system. It created a sensation and soon it was imitated. It appeared new and revolutionary
because of its language – the fluent rhetoric of abuse used by Osborne. They focus on the
frustrations and aimless drifting of the young, and the poor and the unemployed.

[28] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

Alienation and the Epic Theatre

The plays of the late 1940s and the mid
50s were popular, but they did not set new
directions, for the drama. However, there were
many influences of Continental theatrical
practice began to be felt in England. One of the
most important influences was the historical play
which Bertolt considered epic drama. Brecht
already contributed a lot to expressionist drama
which was a prominent and widely influential form of writing in the 1920s.
(Expressionism drama tends to represent anonymous human types instead of
individualized characters and replaces plot with episode. In literature, expressionism is
often considered a revolt against realism and naturalism, seeking to achieve a psychological
or spiritual reality rather than record external events in logical sequence. Their work was
often characterized by a bizarre distortion of reality)
Expressionism dominated the German Theatre in the 20s and had a tremendous
impact on the American Literary seen. Eugene O‟ Neill‟s The Emperor Jones and Elmer
Rice‟s The Adding Machine show the strong influence expressionism.

Absurdist Drama
The most potent influence on drama was the practice of French playwrights like
Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet and Jean Anouilh. Their plays were generally labelled
Absurdist. It is rooted in the existential philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus
which views a human being as isolated in an alien universe that, in its turn, is devoid of
inherent truth or meaning. The divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is
properly the feeling of absurdity.

The most significant dramatist of Absurdism is Samuel Beckett. His plays Waiting
for Godot, Endgame, happy Days and Play confines the universal human condition with the
realistic settings and a coherently involving plot. Waiting for Godot which was first
produced in Paris as En Attendant Godot in 1953 raised him to fame. The play depicts two
tramps hopelessly waiting for an unidentified person, Godot, who may or may not exist , with
whom they think they remember they might have an appointment.

Absurdist drama is distinguished by an almost total lack of exposition. A breakdown

of casual sequence makes the “plot” discontinuous. The plays of Tom Stoppard Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern are Dead, 1974, the early plays of Harold Pinter and the plays of the
American dramatist, Edward Albee also belong to this group.

[29] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

Harold Pinter is perhaps the most dominant playwright of post-modern Britain.

Pinter‟s early plays The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter, the Caretaker are the Absurd
Pinter‟s play have also been considered as comedies of menace. There is a generalized
sense of threat, of some outside danger infiltrating a secure place like a room for example.
The use of black humour is often an accompaniment to such comedies.
The dramas of the Seventies shows an increasing preoccupation with violence. The
plays of Edward Bond are a striking example of this trend.

The modern writer is intensely conscious of his social millieu and does not fail to
reflect it in his works. Toward the middle of the century, there was a significant development
from romantic and historical themes to more realistic themes.
It was not until the nineties, when the influence of Ibsen was making itself strongly
felt, and Shaw produced his first plays, that the necessary impetus was there to use the serious
drama for a consideration of social, domestic, or personal problems. A period so keenly
aware of social problems was an admirable time for the rise of the drama of ideas.
Another significant development in the 20th century drama is the revival of poetic
drama. Despite the efforts of the major Victorian poets, there was no tradition of poetic
drama at the beginning of the 20th century. By 1920, there were signs of a rebirth, but the
atmosphere in which realistic, prose drama throve was uncongenial to a play in verse.
It was under Ibsen's influence that serious drama from 1890 onward ceased to deal
with themes remote in time or place. Ibsen had taught men that drama, if it was to live a true
life of its own, must deal with human emotions, with things near and dear to ordinary men
and women. Hence melodramatic romanticism and the treatment of remote historic themes
alike disappeared in favour of a treatment of actual English life, first of aristocratic life, then
of middle-class life, and finally of labour conditions.
With the treatment of actual life, the drama became more and more a drama of ideas,
which are sometimes veiled in the main action, and are sometimes didactically set forth.
These ideas were for the most part revolutionary, so that the drama came to form an advanced
battle ground for a rising school of young thinkers. Revolt took the form of reaction to past
literary models, to current social conventions, and to the prevailing morality of Victorian
Romantic love, too, came in for its particular onslaughts. New investigations into the
meaning of sex, which gave to the nineteenth century the philosophy of Schopenhauer and to
the twentieth that of Freud, brought men to believe no more in love as it was expressed by
their forefathers, but in what Mr. Bernard Shaw has styled the Life Force.
Increasingly, the dramatists loved to make life and nature play their great parts on the
stage. The desire for liberty in domestic and in moral circles was paralleled by the desire for

[30] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

liberty in social life. Suddenly, the play-wrights became aware of the depressing
circumstances in which the poor are fated to dwell ; they viewed the squalor and the misery
of the cities; they looked around and saw the terror of modern civilization.
To express these almost inexpressible ideas, emotions, instincts, which the
psychologists have defined for us, the new writers found that ordinary direct words were
insufficient. This accounts for the extensive use of symbolism in modern drama, specially
poetic drama.


Galsworthy was born in Surrey on August 14, 1867, into a

prosperous, upper-middle-class family that had risen from yeoman
stock. His father was a successful attorney. Galsworthy attended one
of the finest English public schools, Harrow, and later went on to
Oxford. He did not particularly distinguish himself. He was later a
barrister without any observable talent or passion for the law.
Between the years 1897 and 1901, Galsworthy himself began
writing stories and novels under the pen name of "John Sinjohn,". He is best known for his
trilogy The Forsyte Saga (1922) which is a series of three novels and two interludes. They
chronicle the vicissitudes of the leading members of a large commercial upper-class English

The Novels are:-

1- The Man of Property
In the novel, he introduces us to the forstyle family, headed by Aunt Ann and then
moves into the main action of the play by detailing Soames Forsyte's desire to own things
including his beautiful wife.
The novel opens in 1899; Soames Forstyle, is self-assured man of the world, secure
in his wealth, and a great "collector" of beauty. Yet his most beautiful possession, Irene, is
drawn to the architect, Bosinnery, because he is a creator of beauty rather than a mere
collector and because he sees her as a living person rather than a museum exhibit. The climax
of the book comes when Soames asserts his property rights to a wife who cannot abide him,
thus destroying her lover and removing any affection or pity she might have had for her

2- In Chancery
In Chancery begins in 1899 and ends two years later with a notable description of the
funeral of Queen Victoria, the great monarch of Forsyteism. Soames Forsyte, hoping for a
son to inherit his property, tries to effect a reconciliation with Irene but only manages to drive
her into the arms of Young Jolyon, whose children are now grown up. Irene and Young

[31] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

Jolyon eventually marry and live in the ill-starred house at Robin Hill. They have a son, Jon.
Meanwhile Soames, after his divorce from Irene, marries a French girl, Annette. Instead of
giving him the longed for son, she has a daughter, Fleur.

To Let
Now we are in the postwar world of the 1920's. Jon, the son of Young Jolyon and
Irene, meets and falls in love with Fleur, not aware of her parentage. Fleur, very much a
Forsyte, strong-willed and grasping, determines that she wants Jon; she ignores the protests
of the two sets of parents, who are aghast at the possibility of a marriage. Jon and Fleur, like
Romeo and Juliet, must love each other against a background of bitter family feuding. Jon,
deeply influenced by his mother, gives Fleur up, and she marries the son of a baronet instead.
After writing a pathetic letter to Jon about why he had to renounce Fleur, Young Jolyon dies.
The famous house at Robin Hill, tied up with so many thwarted lives from the day Soames
first decided to build it, is finally "To Let".
The sequels of Forsyte Saga are A Modern Comedy and End of the Chapter.
Galsworthy's fame rests not first on his novels but also or his very popular plays.
Among these were The Silver Box, produced in 1906, Strife (1909), a play about labor
unions, Justice (1910), and Loyalties (1922), concerned with English snobbery.


"With the single exception of Homer, there is no

eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can
despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare when I measure
my mind against his" G.B. Shaw – Saturday Review 26
September 1896
He was an Irish dramatist, essayist, novelist and short
story writer. He wrote almost sixty plays dealing with social
problems but having a vein of comedy. He is also known as a co
– founder of the London School of Economics. Shaw always include education, marriage,
religion, class privilege in his plays. After a lot of vicissitudes during his childhood, he
became a clerk and cashier in Dublin. Thereafter he left for London along with his mother
who was more devoted to music and this love of music given to him by his mother proved
useful where he took up journalism as music critic on the Star, a London evening newspaper.
Both as a critic of music and, a few years later, as a critic of plays for the Saturday Review,
a weekly periodical, he wrote essays of very high quality.
The love for music helped Shaw to hear the music of the words spoken by the actors
and his long speeches hold our attention which the modern dramatist are devoid of, and the
greatest example of the influence of opera is Act III of Man and Superman.

[32] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

There was a real dearth of any dramatist before Shaw who took current social,
political and religious problems as subjects for plays. He wrote plays discussing public affairs
which touched lives of very large number of people.
Shaw's plays were brought to notice in 1904 at the Court Theatre in London where
711 performance were done of eleven of his plays. "John Bulls Other Island" (a comedy
about Orish politics) was the first play by Shaw that became popular.
"Man and Superman" was produced at the same theatre on 23rd May 1905 which is
also called by Shaw "A Comedy and a Philosophy" where a new type of working man is
introduced in the character of Henry Straker the chauffeur.
In the "Don Juan in Hell" scene the devil tries to convince the other that human
beings are so stupid and bad that nothing can save them from destruction. Don Juan claims on
the contrary, that there is a spirit in man which inspires him to struggle upwards towards the
evolution of the superman, who will be far wiser and better than man is now. This spirit is
named "The Life Force" in Shaw's plays.
Shaw was deeply interested in the sound of words as well as in their sense and
meaning. As a young man he learned short – hand and always wrote his plays in it for his
secretary to type out in long – hand. He wrote one of his most popular plays Pygmalion on
subject of correct pronunciation.
Shaw stood second only to Shakespeare among all the British playwrights, and his
writings were known and valued in all countries long before he received the Noble Prize for
Literature in 1925.
In majority of his plays, we get glimpses of the religious side of Shaw's nature which
is very clear in Saint Joan, where he took Joan of Arc both as a heroine of history and as a
heroine of faith. She helped to free the land of France from the English army in the 15 th
century, and she would obey only the voice of God. She submitted to the authorities and was
burned as a hermit.
Shaw will certainly be remembered for his 50 plays, long and short and moreover
"The Prefaces" which he added to most of the play are among the best prose essays in
English Literature.
Shaw died in 1950, having produced his last important play, "The Apple Cart" in
1929. "Back to Methuselah" (1922) is considered by Shaw himself as his masterpiece
which is a long work in 5 parts.

Shaw's Important Works

1. Pygmalion (1912) –
"I don’t want to talk grammar, I want to talk like a lady".

"Walk! Not bloody likely I am going in a Taxi"

[33] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

It takes its title from the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses. In the classical poem,
Pygmalion, a sculptor, angered by the loose morals of the women in his day creates a statue
of a woman, so beautiful, that he falls in love with it. He implores the Goddess Venus to
bring his statue to life. Venus hears his prayers, and the statue becomes a living woman,
Galatea, who marries her creator. Shaw in this plays recasts the sculptor as a teacher in the
character of Professor Henry Higgins, and the statue as the uneducated flower girl Eliza

2. Arms And The Man (1894) - "You can always tell an old soldier by the inside of his
holsters and cartridge boxes. The young ones carry pistol and cartridges; the old ones,

A comedy by Shaw whose title comes from the opening words of Virgil's 'Aeneid' in
Latin "Arma Virumque Cano" (Arms and the man I sing). This plays is a part of Shaw's
"Plays Pleasant" volume which also includes his other popular plays like "Candida",
"You Never Can Tell" and "The Man of Destiny". Arms and the Man is a humorous play
which shows the futility of war and deals with the hypocrisies of human nature in a comic
The play takes place during the 1885 Serbo – Bulgarian War. Raina Petkoff is the
heroine, who is a young Bulgarian woman engaged to Sergius Saranoff, one of the heroes of
that war, whom she idolizes. In this play Sergius proposes marriage to Louka (servant)
because she was the one who told Sergius that Bluntschll was protected by Raina and now
she is in love with him.
After knowing about the values of Sergius, Raina preferred her poor "Chocolate
Cream Soldier".

3. Candida (1898) –
"We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume
wealth without producing it"

"I'm only a beer teetotaler, not a Champagne teetotaler".
A comedy by G. B. Shaw with its central characters like the clergyman James Morell,
his wife Candida and a youthful poet Eugene Marchbanks, who tries to win Candida's
affection. Candida is responsible for the success and popularity of Morell. Marchbanks loves
Candida and considers her divine and his love eternal.

4. Man And Superman (1903) –

"The true artist will let his wife starve his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his
living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art".

[34] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

"Beauty is all very well at first sight; but who ever looks at it when it has been in the house
three days?"

"As an old soldier I admit the cowardice its as universal as sea sickness, and matters just
as little".

"Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt

"When democratic servants are treated as human being it is not worth while to keep

"Englishmen never will be slaves: they are free to do whatever the Government and public
opinion allow them to do".

"Youth, which is forgiven everything, forgives itself nothing: age, which forgives itself
everything, is forgiven nothing".

"Home is the girl's prison and the woman workhouse".

Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.

"Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get"

"There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it".

"Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum
of opportunity".

"Everyman over forty is a scoundrel"

"Beware of the man who does not return your blow: he neither forgives you nor allows you
to forgive yourself"

"Revolution have never lightened the burden of tyranny: they have only shifted it to
another shoulder".

"He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches"

[35] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

It is a four act drama based on the Don Juan theme. It was staged in 1905 with the
omission of the 3rd act, a part of this act 3, scene 2 (Don Juan in Hell) war performed later in
The title Man and Superman comes from Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical ideas
about the "Uberensch" (Superman).

5. Major Barabara (1907) - "He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That
points clearly to a political career"

"The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty".
It is a three act play by Shaw published in 1907. The main characters of this play are
Lady Britomart, her son Stephen and daughters Sara and Barbara.

6. Mrs. Warren's Profession (1893) – This play basically centres on the relationship between
Mrs. Warren, a brothel owner and her daughter Vivie, who finally comes to know that her
mother is running a chain of brothels. Initially she was horrified but then she considers her
mother as a champion. Vivie takes a job, vowing never to marry and disowns her mother.

7. Saint Joan (1923) –

"A miracle, my friend, is an event which creates faith. That is the purpose and nature of
miracles… Frauds deceive. An event which creates faith does not deceive: therefore it is
not a fraud, but a miracle".
This play is Shaw's "only tragedy" and Michael Holroyd has characterized this play
as "a tragedy without villain". This play is based on the life and trial of "Joan of Arc". Shaw
himself characterized Saint Joan as "A Chronicle play in six scenes and an epilogue".
Joan, a simple peasant girl, hears voice from Saint Margaret, Saint Catherine and Michael,
sent by God to guide her conduct. The play ends with Joan ultimately despairing that man
will never accept its saints.

"O God that made this beautiful earth,

When will it be ready to accept thy Saints?
How long, O Lord, how long?"
8. The Devil's Disciple (1901) -
"Martyrdom… the only way in which a man can become famous without ability"

"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to
them; that's the essence of inhumanity".

[36] Drama
Dr. Anurag Agrawal
M.A. (English), NET, Ph.D, M.B.A.

This melodrama was Shaw's first financial success and was published in 1901
collection of "Three Plays for Puritans" together with "Captain Brassbound's
Conversion" and "Ceaser and Cleopatra". This play tells the story of Richard Dedguan, a
local outcast and self proclaimed "Devil Disciple".

9. Heartbreak House (1919) – "The natural term of the affection of the human animal for its
offspring is six years".
It is a play of Shaw which argues that "Cultured, leisured Europe" was drifting
towards destruction. Its subject – matter is the ignorance and indifference exhibited by the
upper and upper – middle class to the First World War and its consequences.

10. Back to Methuselah (1912) –"You see things; and you say why? But I dream things that
never were; and I say 'Why not'"?

"Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn"

This play consists of a preface and a series of five plays –
(i) In the Beginning.
(ii) The Gospel of the Brother Barnabas
(iii) The Thing Happens
(iv) Tragedy of an Elderly Gentleman
(v) As Far as Thought Can Reach

11. Fanny's First Play (1911) – This play was written anonymously but later discovered to
be of Shaw. A satire of theatre critics, it features 'A play within a play'.

Other Plays of G.B. Shaw –

(i) Parents and Children (1914) – A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of
(ii) New Statesman (1962) – (Dancing is) a perpendicular expression of a horizontal
(iii) Getting Married (1911)
(iv) Overruled (1916) – As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living, satisfaction
is death.

[37] Drama