Drama: From Ibsen to Eliot

By Raymond Williams | Go to book overview

I
W. B. Yeats

The theatre began in ritual and it cannot come to its greatness again without recalling words to their ancient sovereignty.


(i)

YEATS fashioned a theatre, giving it life and direction; he also wrote many plays. Today the theatre which he made is only a memory, although its name lives for different ends, and elements of its practice, in one place and another, persist. The plays live as they always did.

Now Yeats's plays, certainly, are important in their own right; yet it is still only at a second or third remove that we think of him as a dramatist. Meanwhile, although the Abbey Theatre would seem to have lost its distinctive literary purpose, and the Irish dramatic movement to have yielded its birthright to the romance of regional naturalism, the example of a theatre called into being by a literary need is yet so rare, and the practical discoveries of Yeats of such continuing importance, that they seem to claim our primary attention. The plays and the dramatic theories and practices spring, it is true, from the same source; but their events do not altogether correspond. Yeats's magnificent creative impetus formed the general achievement; yet perhaps it will be found in the end that the particular creation of the plays must properly be judged and sustained by the wider effort in the theatre and in criticism.


(ii)

Yeats wrote in 1919

We have been the first to create a true People's Theatre and we have succeeded because it is not an exploitation of local colour, or of a limited form of drama possessing a temporary novelty, but the first doing of something for which the world is ripe, something that will be done all over the world and done more and more

-205-

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Drama: From Ibsen to Eliot
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 11
  • Part I 39
  • I - Henrik Ibsen 41
  • 2 - August Strindberg 98
  • 3 - Anton Chekhov 126
  • 4 - Bernard Shaw 138
  • 5 - J. M. Synge 154
  • 6- Two Social Plays 175
  • 7 - Luigi Pirandello 185
  • 8 - Jean Anouilh: a Comment 196
  • Part II 203
  • I - W. B. Yeats 205
  • 2 - T. S. Eliot 223
  • 3 - Some Verse Dramatists 247
  • 4 - Criticism into Drama 269
  • Index 279
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