Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Earlier this year I read Wedekind's 'Spring Awakening', and during the past couple days two by Strindberg: 'A Dance of Death' and 'A Dream Play'. I've also read my Shaw (Major Barbara, Pygmalion, and St. Joan), my Chekhov (Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard), my Wilder (Our Town), my Pirandello (Six Characters in Search of an Author), my Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest) and of course my Ibsen (Hedda Gabbler and A Doll's House). Thus, the turn of, and first part of the century.

Moving on, in the 1940s, I've read Brecht (Galileo), Anouilh (Antigone, and later Beckett) and Sartre (The Flies, No Exit, Dirty Hands, The Respectable Prostitute). I suppose that decade also includes Williams (The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire) and O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night. Miller (The Crucible, and later Death of a Salesman) just squeaks in.

Conclusion: I am not fond of plays from the turn of the century to the mid-century. I like about four or five of those listed, tops.

Works subsequently published to those listed I have read eight: Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot', Hanberry's 'A Raisin in the Sun', Fo's 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist', Lawrence and Lee's 'Inherit the Wind', Bolt's 'A Man for All Seasons', Wagner's 'The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe', Soyinka's 'Death and the King's Horseman' and Stoppard's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead'. I like two, maybe three of those.

But perhaps earlier?

Goethe's 'Faust'? No. The works of the foremost of the Spanish Golden Age, Lope de Vega? No. Japanese No Dramas? No.

I do like Moliere's 'The Misanthrope' and Racine's 'Phedre'.

And then you have Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Coriolanus, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, The Tempest, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V. A few of those, less than half.

The play variously translated as something to do with Shakuntala, by Kalidasa, written in India in the 5th century - that's pretty good, if I remember correctly.

Skipping the Romans, whom I've not read, I end at the Greeks.

Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound: Not really Aeschylus, not really one I like. The Oresteia is okay, though.
Euripides: Medea and Hippolytus, no. The Bacchae, yes.
Sophocles: The Theban Plays, Philoctetes, yes. Ajax, no.

Aristophanes: The Frogs, The Birds, no. Lysistrata, The Clouds, yes.

All in all it would seem from such a list that I'm not fond of theater. But this is not the case. For I enjoy watching plays immensely. I have seen countless productions, at one point I took in about ten a year. I love watching plays. Oddly, though, most of the plays I've read, mostly for school, did little for me. Perhaps I know not how to read them properly, and need to see them to appreciate them. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this. I recall debates about Shakespeare 'on stage' vs 'on page'. I'm curious, though, in an idle way, as to why some people prefer one to the other, or if it is certain works broadly appeal that way.

Even as I was typing this I looked and saw I was committed to seeing two plays in the near future. And I just saw one earlier this week.

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