Edna St. Vincent Millay was known during her early career for her verse plays, the most successful being Aria da Capo, first produced in 1919 and published in 1921, followed by The Lamp and the Bell (pr., pb. 1921) and Two Slatterns and a King (pr. 1917), and The Princess Marries the Page (pr. 1917). Her reputation as a writer of verse for the stage was such that she was invited to write the libretto for a Deems Taylor opera commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York. The result of her collaboration with Taylor was a successful presentation of The King’s Henchman (pr., pb. 1927), a variation of the Tristan story. Millay tried to rework the material of the opera libretto into a drama but finally condemned the result as hopelessly contaminated; she was never able to rid it of the influence of the libretto.
Conversation at Midnight and The Murder of Lidice are sometimes classified as plays, the former receiving performance after Millay’s death and the latter being written for wartime radio broadcast after the Nazis destroyed the Czechoslovakian town of Lidice and slaughtered its male inhabitants. The Murder of Lidice cannot be considered as more than hastily written propaganda at best, and Conversation at Midnight suffers if one looks for the conflict and engagement of drama in it. Millay conceded after its completion that it was not really a play but a series of poems with a fixed setting.
In addition to working with dramatic forms, Millay, in the beginning years of her career, wrote topical commentaries for the New York weekly Vanity Fair under the pseudonym Nancy Boyd; they were collected in a 1924 volume as Distressing Dialogues, the title used by the magazine as the pieces appeared. Although these early essays helped to support the young poet, Millay was never willing to have them published under her name. She was, however, proud of her collaboration with George Dillon on The Flowers of Evil (1936), a translation of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal (1857, 1861, 1868; Flowers of Evil, 1909), although scholars find more of Millay in the translations than the original may warrant. Millay’s letters have been collected and published.