In addition to his full-length plays, Harley Granville-Barker wrote three one-act plays, Rococo, Vote by Ballot, and Farewell to the Theatre. “Agnes Colander” (wr. 1901) and the unfinished “The Wicked Man” (wr. 1910-1914) were never published or produced. Also never published were the four plays Granville-Barker wrote in collaboration with Berte Thomas between 1895 and 1899. Two of his other collaborations, however—Prunella: Or, Love in a Dutch Garden, with Laurence Housman, and The Harlequinade, with Dion Calthrop—were published. The remainder of Granville-Barker’s dramatic writing consists of translations or adaptations, most notably a translation of Arthur Schnitzler’s Anatol (pr. 1911) and an adaptation of Sacha Guitry’s Deburau. He also translated plays by Jules Romains and, with his wife, Helen Huntington Barker-Granville, by Gregorio Martínez Sierra, and by Searfín Álvarez Quintero and Joaquín Álvarez Quinteroro.
Granville-Barker’s reputation as an homme de théâtre began to suffer a decline after he left active theater work and became a “mere professor.” His plays, already looked on with suspicion by his contemporaries, suffered an even greater decline. Although Granville-Barker’s plays were lauded by such fellow dramatists as George Bernard Shaw, John Masefield, and Gilbert Murray, external factors, such as the growing dominance of Shaw and changes in dramatic and theatrical styles, hastened the decline of his plays into obscurity. However, in the late twentieth century, a revival of interest occurred in the plays of Granville-Barker (The Madras House, for example, was produced for television by the British Broadcasting Corporation). This revival of interest betokens Granville-Barker’s significance as a dramatist.
The Granville-Barker play is singular among plays of the Edwardian period in its use of heterosexual relationships to define the worth of human actions and to signify the larger moral concerns that are the prime concern of his plays: the necessity of what he termed “the secret life,” the inner reality that puts into perspective the trivialities of everyday life. Granville-Barker was lauded by his fellow dramatists not only for the superb “actability” and polish of his plays but also for his dramatic portrayal of the real, vital dilemmas of human sensibility and of absolute morality beneath the superficialities of daily existence. Granville-Barker’s greatest achievement as a dramatist, and his significance as a dramatist to our age, lies in his successful deployment of heterosexual relationships as signs of our fragile hold on our essential selves and our humanity.