History of Modern Drama - Vol. 1

History of Modern Drama - Vol. 1

History of Modern Drama - Vol. 1

History of Modern Drama - Vol. 1


Covering the period 1879 to 1959, and taking in everything from Ibsen to Beckett, this book is volume one of a two-part comprehensive examination of the plays, dramatists, and movements that comprise modern world drama.
  • Contains detailed analysis of plays and playwrights, connecting themes and offering original interpretations
  • Includes coverage of non-English works and traditions to create a global view of modern drama
  • Considers the influence of modernism in art, music, literature, architecture, society, and politics on the formation of modern dramatic literature
  • Takes an interpretative and analytical approach to modern dramatic texts rather than focusing on production history
  • Includes coverage of the ways in which staging practices, design concepts, and acting styles informed the construction of the dramas


LADY: What are you waiting for?

STRANGER: If I only knew.

– August Strindberg, To Damascus (Part I)

ESTRAGON: Let’s go.

VLADIMIR: We can’t.

ESTRAGON: Why not?

VLADIMIR: We’re waiting for Godot.

– Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Modern drama signifies the struggle for self-realization and freedom; the turn from declamatory speech in classical drama to the intimacies of interpersonal exchange (called the fourth wall) which include silence, pauses, and inarticulateness; and the exploration of anxiety and alienation, a feeling of waiting for something inscrutable expressed in the Strindberg and Beckett epigrams above. Yet these themes, however accurate, merely begin a complicated task of defining “modern drama.” Martin Puchner reminds us that while it is “relatively easy to come to an agreement about the beginning and end of modern drama, it is much more difficult to specify what exactly modern drama was,” and “what was specifically modern about modern drama.” The difficulty is partly owing to the fact that “modernists were giants,” Lawrence Rainey contends, “ monsters of nature who loomed so large that contemporaries could only gape at them in awe”; partly owing to modern drama’s insistence on up-to-dateness, what Terry Eagleton calls the “rebellious adolescence” of modernism, “defined by a definitive rupture with its parentage” and implying that “renewal” must always . . .

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