Ghosts: A Family Drama in Three Acts and Miss Julia: A Naturalistic Tragedy

Ghosts: A Family Drama in Three Acts and Miss Julia: A Naturalistic Tragedy

Ghosts: A Family Drama in Three Acts and Miss Julia: A Naturalistic Tragedy

Ghosts: A Family Drama in Three Acts and Miss Julia: A Naturalistic Tragedy

Excerpt

The two plays in this small volume hold a prominent and unique position in each of the major countries of Europe where the “independent” or “free” theatre movement developed at the end of the nineteenth century. They thus have contributed to the development of twentieth-century dramatic writing and serve as a major link to contemporary methods of performance. Both works have come to be looked upon as watershed events in the critical response to what we now accept as the Modern Drama.

In most of Europe in the nineteenth century, plays could not be performed for public audiences until they had been approved by a censor and accepted by one of the few national playhouses which held monopolistic licenses. Critical response to Ghosts on its publication in December of 1881 was so universally damning that public performance was unthinkable by any reputable theatre. Indeed, the printed edition was returned to the publisher by most booksellers, and it was regarded as a volume not to be seen in respectable hands or homes. But the widespread following developed by the printed text indicated a waiting, if not universal, audience for this play and the others that were soon being written in the realistic and naturalistic mode. André Antoine, a clerk for the Paris Gas Company with little theatre experience but a great enthusiasm for Ibsen and his French followers, came up with a solution to this dilemma that was to result in a worldwide movement for “independent” or “free” theatre.

Antoine’s concept was to run a theatre by subscription, a private organization open only to members. This permitted presentation of uncensored works which otherwise would have been denied licensing under the strict government standards in France. Performance would be in a small rented space on days when the regular bill was . . .

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