Study Guide

Francis Warner

Francis Warner Essay - Critical Essays

Warner, Francis

Warner, Francis 1937–

Warner, a British poet, dramatist, and editor, writes traditional English verse, incorporating into his work standard elements of style as used by Shakespeare, Swinburne, and Spenser. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 53-56.)

[Few] will trouble to work out the symbolism because, in [Lying Figures and Maguettes], Mr Warner shows himself to be without even the most basic dramatic gifts. He has almost invented a new genre—the Theatre of the Unspeakable. Gonad, for example, is not only the male reproductive system, but also, to judge from this sentence, a German refugee: "What age do you think is my wife?" Other unsayable lines include, "Well! I too can play games, and with who better than his boss. Guppy." And this: "Like used soap in an uncleaned out hotel." And this: "Flattery succeeds, not because we are taken in, but while disclaiming it as implausible with our minds, we welcome it with our emotions." Neatly put that…. And, finally, this: "You have left me high and dry when I most needed you, you, despicable coward!" Thunder outside the French windows.

"Clashing Symbols," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1973; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3708, March 30, 1973, p. 354.

[Meeting Ends: a Play] is selfconsciously modern, poetically overweight, heavily and obscurely symbolic, and studded with remote literary allusions; but at the same time it is full of banalities, coarse—as well as recondite—puns, gossipy anecdotes, eroticism, and nudity. The characters seem mostly to declaim to the audience in paradoxes and Wildean inverted aphorisms, now and then reaching a climax in long, ranting monologues….

"Language and Literature: 'Meeting Ends: A Play'," in Choice (copyright © 1975 by American Library Association), Vol. 12, No. 2, April, 1975, p. 225.

JOHN COLEBY

Francis Warner's Killing Time is the final part of his Requiem trilogy. This expensive paperback is covered with quotes which pre-empt critical cliché; this I deplore not just because I am now obliged to describe the work in plain language but also because complex hyperbole is more likely to frighten off potential readers than to attract them. If … they can overcome the shock of the price and the horror of the pseudsy blurb they will find that a clever man with a fertile imagination has created a theatrical and impressionist work about why we fight and what happens when we do. He has set it in the human brain with ingenious parallels and references—including calling characters Squaloid, Phagocyte and Quark. He writes rather fancy dialogue which swings from the poetic via some awful jokes to the pompous. The play is above all written for performance; clever it may be, and difficult it would be to stage, but it should reward the effort. Nevertheless it is not for faint-hearts or the squeamish…. Those who would commit themselves to a serious, absorbing and original piece of theatre could do worse than consider this one. (p. 70)

John Coleby, "Plays in Print: 'Killing Time'," in Drama, No. 123, Winter, 1976, pp. 70-3.