Anouilh, Jean (Vol. 21)
Jean Anouilh 1910-1987
(Full name Jean Marie Lucien Pierre Anouilh) French playwright.
The following entry provides an overview of Anouilh's works from 1954 through 1999. For additional information on his career, see DC, Volume 8.
One of France's foremost dramatists, Anouilh wrote more than forty plays in a wide variety of modes, including tragedy, farce, and romance. Central to his work is a skeptical, often bitter view of the human condition. Discovering and remaining true to one's self in a world of compromise is a theme that continually resurfaces in Anouilh's work. His protagonists typically strive to maintain their integrity in the face of pervasive corruption; however, success in this endeavor often requires existing in a fantasy world or dying for one's convictions.
Anouilh was born in Bordeaux on June 23, 1910. By the age of nine he was already writing plays in imitation of Edmond Rostand; at sixteen he completed his first long play. He briefly studied law at the Sorbonne in Paris, then became a copywriter in an advertising firm. During 1931 and 1932 Anouilh worked as the secretary to the Comédie des Champs-Élysées theatre company. Le voyageur sans bagage (1937; Traveller without Luggage) firmly established Anouilh in the theater, and for the next several decades his works were staged in Paris with great regularity, even during the German occupation of France during World War II. After the war many of his plays were produced in London and New York. During his career Anouilh won many awards, in both France and America. Several of his plays have been adapted for film and television. Anouilh died of a heart attack on October 3, 1987.
Anouilh rejected traditional classifications of his works as tragedies, farces, or romances; instead he categorized his plays as pièces noires (black plays), nouvelles pièces noires (new black plays), pièces roses (rosy plays), pièces brillantes (brilliant plays), pièces grinçantes (grating plays), pièces costumées (costume plays), and pièces baroques (baroque plays). Anouilh's earliest plays were produced during the 1930s and generally fall in the categories of pièces noires and pièces roses. As the labels suggest, the former plays are dark in tone and explore evil and deception, while the latter include fantastical elements and convey a light-hearted mood. Among the major conflicts Anouilh addresses in both groups are those between wealth and poverty and the burden of the past as it relates to the present. Beginning in the 1940s Anouilh composed a number of plays, classified as pièces noires, that adapt Greek myth to modern settings. These include Eurydice (1941; Point of Departure), Antigone (1944), and Médée (1953; Medea). Antigone was the most popular of the three and remains one of Anouilh's most highly respected works.
Following World War II Anouilh's output was dominated by pièces grinçantes and pièces brillantes. The pièces grinçantes are marked by black humor, while the pièces brillantes convey a less bitter tone and employ witty dialogue. In these plays the conflict between good and evil is not as sharply defined as in Anouilh's early work. Among his later plays are pièces costumées, which are based on historical personages, and pièces baroques. When using history as a background for his drama, Anouilh drew upon figures of heroic dimension. For example, L'alouette (1953; The Lark) dramatizes the life of Joan of Arc, and Becket; ou, l'honneur de Dieu (1959; Becket; or, The Honor of God) concerns Thomas à Becket. The theatrical elements of Anouilh's work come to the forefront in his pièces baroques. For example, Cher Antoine; ou, l'amour raté (1969; Dear Antoine; or, The Love that Failed) the central character is a prominent playwright and the story unfolds as a play within a play. By stressing the artificiality of the theater, Anouilh probes the relationship between reality and illusion and works to create a dramatization of ideas rather than a representation of reality.
Although Anouilh was among the most successful “boulevard” playwrights, having enjoyed many well-attended productions of his works in the Paris theater district, critics have debated his importance in contemporary drama. Some have faulted Anouilh for repetition of theme, for a lack of intellectualism, and for his reliance on theatricality. Others note, however, that Anouilh's strength as a playwright lay in his mastery of stagecraft, which makes his works entertaining, while they at the same time investigate serious themes. Commentators contend that Anouilh's work reflects the classical theater of Molière in its comic portrayal of human folly and misery and the experimental theater of Luigi Pirandello in its overt use of theatrical devices to explore the nature of reality and illusion.
L'hermine [The Ermine] 1932
Y avait un prisonnier 1935
Le voyageur sans bagage [Traveller without Luggage] 1937
Le rendezvous de Senlis [Dinner with the Family] 1938
La sauvage [Restless Heart] 1938
Léocadia [Time Remembered] 1939
Eurydice [Point of Departure; also translated as Legend of Lovers] 1941
Roméo et Jeannette 1946
L'invitation au château [Ring around the Moon: A Charade with Music] 1947
Ardèle; ou, la Marguerite [Cry of the Peacock] 1948
La répétition; ou, l'amour puni [The Rehearsal] 1950
Colombe [Mademoiselle Colombe] 1951
La valse des toréadors [The Waltz of the Toreadors] 1952
L'alouette [The Lark] 1953
Médée [Medea] 1953
Ornifle; ou, le courant d'air [Ornifle; also translated as It's Later Than You Think] 1955
Pauvre Bitos; ou, le dîner des têtes [Poor Bitos] 1956
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Criticism: General Commentary
SOURCE: Fazia, Alba Della. “Pirandello and His French Echo Anouilh.” Modern Drama 6, no. 3 (December 1963): 346-67.
[In the following essay, Fazia finds parallels between the plays of Anouilh and those of the Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello.]
“I can just hear a critic whispering into his neighbor's ear that he has already seen this in Pirandello,”1 anticipates The Author in the opening scene of Jean Anouilh's recent play La grotte—a plotless play which has yet to be written and which depends largely on audience cooperation, according to Anouilh.
La grotte's point of departure is a fait accompli: the apparent murder of the cook. An investigation of the real cause of death ensues. The Author, a combination of Pirandello's Director in Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore and Hinkfuss of Questa sera si recita a soggetto, poses, before his audience, the problems of staging an “improvised” play. He wrangles with unruly characters and capricious stage technicians. He dramatizes the conflict between an author's illusory creation and his characters' living reality.
The Pirandello plays which may be considered as having no plot are those plays which present the problems of multiple personality (Trovarsi, Quando si è qualcuno, etc.) and those which present the relationships among life, art, and interpretation...
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SOURCE: Amoia, Alba. “The Heroic World of Jean Anouilh.” In Twentieth-Century European Drama, edited by Brian Docherty, pp. 109-23. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.
[In the following essay, Amoia provides an overview of Anouilh's heroic heroines and contrasts these female characters with their unimpressive male counterparts.]
Women are the dominant figures in the theatre of Jean Anouilh, around women rotates the axis of his world of heroism, and to women does the author ascribe the epithet, ‘flowers in the midst of garbage’.
The cast of Anouilh's preeminent female characters ranges from the uncouth and sublime ‘lark’ (Joan of Arc) to the pure and untamed ‘sauvage’; from the uncompromising Antigone to the adamant, hunchbacked ‘daisy’ (Ardèle, ou la Marguerite). Anouilh's intransigent heroines are willing to die in defence of a cherished principle; they refuse all happiness, love or romance that is not ‘pure’; and they take an ethereal view of existence in their struggle against all forms of compromise and deceit. Often guided by compassion for the victimised and downtrodden, they fit into Joan of Arc's ‘ordered world’ of the poor, the ill, the aged, and the wounded. (Becket is perhaps the one male heroic exception in Anouilh's theatre, for he inspires the love of the downtrodden masses of Canterbury by championing them against the power of the...
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Criticism: Le Voyageur Sans Bagage (Traveller Without Luggage)
SOURCE: Clurman, Harold. “Traveller without Luggage, The Committee.” Nation, New York, N.Y., (5 October 1964): 202.
[In the following unfavorable review of the 1964 New York production of Traveller without Luggage, Clurman argues that the play “shows some of the salient features of Anouilh's personality and an attitude which were to place him in the front rank of French playwrights between the late thirties and the fifties.”]
Since Jean Anouilh's Traveller without Luggage has suffered, as have many other French plays in the past, in being transferred from the boulevards to Broadway, I shall not dwell on its production at the Anta Theatre. The cast includes several talented actors—Ben Gazzara, Mildred Dunnock, Rae Allen, to name only three—and there are some well-played passages, notably in the second scene, but the right tone is never found. This is largely due to the very real difficulty that confronts American actors and directors who try to realize the exact nature of French behavior. They are removed from the cultural environment of such plays, and even their earnest efforts to suggest it therefore seem like affectation in moments of comedy, and the ungainly “emotionalism” in more dramatic exchanges.
The text itself is interesting in several respects. Written in 1937 when its author was 27, it was his first success. Though by no means his best play,...
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SOURCE: Vlasopolos, Anca. “The Perils of Authorship in Le voyageur sans bagage.” Modern Drama 29, no. 4 (December 1986): 601-12.
[In the following essay, Vlasopolos explores the reasons for the relative obscurity of Traveler without Luggage.]
Despite its respectable history in performance, Anouilh's Le voyageur sans bagage has received little critical attention.1 Regarded as Anouilh's first mature play, Le voyageur sans bagage is seen as heralding the existential themes of Anouilh's greater theater.2 Perhaps critical neglect of the play has had to do with the historical position of this between-wars drama. Focused on the restless specter of the First World War, the 1937 Voyageur sans bagage appeared too late, too close to the outbreak of the Second World War, to be relevant in an immediate political sense. Anouilh's later productions, particularly Antigone, were a more satisfactory response to the overwhelming turmoil of Europe. Yet in a film like Renoir's La grande illusion, which was released at the same time as the first performance of Le voyageur sans bagage, World War I becomes an enduring and timely reflection on a past that presages, especially in the irony of the title, the greater horrors to come. Thus, it might seem odd that this play has not attracted more critical notice, even after a brief revival of performances and...
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Criticism: Eurydice(Point Of Departure)
SOURCE: Carrington, Ildikó de Papp. “Recasting the Orpheus Myth: Alice Munro's ‘The Children Stay’ and Jean Anouilh's Eurydice.” In The Rest of the Story: Critical Essays on Alice Munro, edited by Robert Thacker, pp. 191-203. Toronto: ECW Press, 1999.
[In the following essay, Carrington considers the role of Anouilh's play Eurydice in Alice Munro's short story “The Children Stay.”]
The classical myth of Orpheus and Eurydice tells the story of the young lovers' marriage, Eurydice's accidental death, and Orpheus's grief-stricken descent into the underworld to bring his beloved wife back into the world of the living. A poet and a musician, Orpheus sings so beautifully that he charms Hades into allowing him to take her back. But the Lord of the Dead imposes one condition: Orpheus must not look at her until they have completed their ascent to the upper world. Just as they reach it, however, he turns to see whether she is following him, and she is lost to him again and forever (Graves 111-12).
Alice Munro's first reference to this myth is a brief but climactic musical allusion to Orfeo ed Euridice, Christoph Gluck's eighteenth-century opera, in the title story of Dance of the Happy Shades (211-24), her first collection. When a handicapped girl, an unexpected performer in a children's piano recital, plays “The Dance of the Happy Shades,”...
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SOURCE: Spingler, Michael. “Anouilh's Little Antigone: Tragedy, Theatricalism, and the Romantic Self.” Comparative Drama 8, no. 3 (fall 1974): 228-38.
[In the following essay, Spingler asserts that Anouilh's use of the chorus in Antigone functions to “establish the play's essential theatricality” and reinforce his perception of romantic theatrical techniques.]
The loss of a tragic sense in the theatre is a major concern of many modern dramatists and critics. In his Antigone, Jean Anouilh suggests that the reasons for this decline may be located within one of the fundamental developments of modern tragedy, that is, the replacement of action by character as the dramatic mainspring.1 He sees the predominance of character as a fundamentally romantic development which leads to the emergence of a protagonist whose self-consciousness diminishes the tragic event. Anouilh's disenchantment with romantic posturing is expressed primarily in terms of a theatricalism which implies that tragedy based solely on character is really role-playing and self-dramatization. He does not see the role as a solution to the problem of writing a modern tragedy but as a reflection of the dilemma. In Antigone, the self-conscious role is inimical to the tragic spirit.2
There are three elements in the play which comprise the design Anouilh uses to dramatize his theme. At...
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SOURCE: Howarth, W. D. “Anouilh's Antigone: An Analytical Commentary.” InAnouilh: Antigone, pp. 22-47. London: Edward Arnold, 1983.
[In the following essay, Howarth provides a close reading of Antigone and surveys critical and popular reaction to the play.]
Though longer than Sophocles' original, Anouilh's is not a long play, and structurally the two works are very similar. Like the Greek tragedy, Anouilh's Antigone is not divided into acts, and is written for continuous playing without interval. Moreover, it respects in large measure the Greek convention referred to above, according to which there were seldom more than two principal characters on stage together, and each scene, or episode, was normally a dialogue. Here, the only exceptions are brief linking scenes in which one or more of the Gardes, La Nourrice or Le Choeur, is temporarily present with two of the principal characters, and one isolated occasion on which Créon, Antigone, and Ismène together occupy the stage for no more than a page of dialogue—the counterpart of a similar scène à trois in Sophocles (lines 453-508). For the rest, the play is constructed on the Sophoclean pattern, with a succession of fairly short scenes bringing together either Antigone or Créon and one other character—and as a centrepiece the magnificent long scene between the two main characters themselves, which on its own...
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SOURCE: Howarth, W. D. “Antigone in 1944.” InAnouilh: Antigone, pp. 47-52. London: Edward Arnold, 1983.
[In the following essay, Howarth details the critical reception of Antigone in wartime France.]
The study of the reception of Anouilh's play in 1944, and of its relationship to the political situation which existed, first under the German occupation and then after the liberation of Paris, has become much easier since the publication of an important monograph on the subject by Manfred Flügge1. Quite apart from the unusually broad range of Dr Flügge's enquiry, which sets Antigone in the general context of political attitudes current in France in the 1930s and 40s, he has accumulated an invaluable compendium of critical comment on the play from reviews and other ephemeral sources; moreover, he has had the rare good fortune (not vouchsafed to all who have written on Anouilh and his work, by any means) to elicit from the playwright himself a valuable commentary on the origins of the play.
From Anouilh's own indications—corrected by Flügge's research, where the dramatist's memory proved fallible—it now seems likely that the stimulus for the composition of Antigone (which, it was already known, existed in a complete state as early as 1942) came from the case of a young resistance fighter, Paul Collette, who in August 1942 fired on a group of...
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SOURCE: Schuler, Marilyn V. “‘Goddess’ vs. ‘Gyn/Ecologist’: A Comparative View of Antigone and La folle de Chaillot.” In Myths and Realities of Contemporary French Theater: Comparative Views, edited by Patricia M. Hopkins and Wendell M. Aycock, pp. 141-51. Lubbock: Texas Tech Press, 1985.
[In the following essay, Schuler finds parallels between Anouilh's Antigone and Jean Giraudoux's La Folle de Chaillot.]
Antigone and La Folle de Chaillot, both critical successes in France and the U.S. during the 1940s, are usually viewed as expressions of Resistance against Nazism and the Occupation of France during World War II.1 The present paper proposes, however, a different basis for comparison. Anouilh's Antigone and Giraudoux's Folle de Chaillot will be examined here for their “representations of women” rather than as political protests during the Occupation.
Occupation and protest are present in both texts; but also in both, woman, by an interaction with the earth, is the agent who combats forces destructive to an ongoing society and to the future. Françoise d'Eaubonne and Mary Daly, among others, argue that the classical and traditional concept of woman as a symbolic and inspirational “other” which men follow to meet the challenges of human survival is not only contrary to fact but a manipulative means for...
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Criticism: La RéPéTition; Ou, L'Amour Puni (The Rehearsal)
SOURCE: Gilman, Richard. “Versions of Dishonesty.” Commonweal (8 November 1963): 194.
[In the following negative review of the 1963 New York production of The Rehearsal, Gilman contends that “we are supposed to be left with a troubled but gratified sense of how the world really goes, but what we are actually left with is a sense of how to use the theater exquisitely for the purpose of simulating art.”]
Art, Picasso has remarked, is the lie that leads to truth. All theater “lies,” the way all art does, pretending to be real in order to trap a hitherto unheard-of truth in the space between the pretense and reality itself. But in the commercial theater, where art is most often considered to be the province of stage designers and lighting experts (as in popular culture the interior decorator and the flower arranger are thought of as our most “artistic” types) the lies of the stage, its illusions and necessary deceptions, are practised for their own sakes; sterile reproductions of lies from outside the theater, from conventional fantasy or inherited sentiment, they result in nothing unheard of except an increment of ugliness. The difference is that between being unreal in order to be more than real and being unreal so as to be simply dishonest.
The forms of dishonesty that have exhibited themselves in this new season already constitute a map of deceit, a gazetteer of...
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Criticism: Colombe(Mademoiselle Colombe)
SOURCE: Bentley, Eric. “Good Play, Well Done.” New Republic (25 January 1954): 20-1.
[In the following review, Bentley praises the sets and acting in the 1954 New York production of Colombe.]
Optimistic plays are very depressing. “Too bad reality is different,” you say in the lobby. It takes a pessimistic play to cheer you up. When you say “Life isn't as bad as that” you are half way to declaring that everything in the garden is lovely. The great tonic of the Broadway season is Mademoiselle Colombe by Jean Anouilh, a tale of the futility of boy's meeting girl.
It is a production of many pleasures Boris Aronson's sets alone are worth the trip to the Longacre. This designer, whose reputation is for thoroughness and grandeur, shows himself, here as in My Three Angels, to have as light a touch as anyone in the profession; his joyous wit and controlled fantasy provide a desperately needed alternative to the lush decadence of, say, Oliver Messel or Lemuel Ayres. Aronson's principal exhibit in Colombe is a backstage scene in which Anouilh's peculiar blend of French reality with theatrical unreality is accurately translated into color and shape.
The play is also a showcase for some of our finest acting talent—by which I do not merely mean that some of our best actors are in it, nor yet that it enables them to show themselves off. Edna...
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SOURCE: Hayes, Richard. “The Stage.” Commonweal (12 February 1954): 471-72.
[In the following review, Hayes provides an unfavorable assessment of the 1954 New York production of Colombe.]
Mlle Colombe, the fifth of Jean Anouilh's plays to achieve the condition of an American failure, has provoked a fresh rash of critical speculation on the international dissimilarities of theatrical taste. A small quantity of this analysis has been responsible and illuminating, but too much of it sententious and niggardly, designed to reinforce a heedless public in its indulgent prejudices. Myself, I suspect one need not go so far afield in determining the cause for this failure: the fault, dear Broadway, lies not in the French but in ourselves, and our curious impercipience to the particular weight and quality of M. Anouilh's world. We have had, since the war, productions of Antigone, Legend of Lovers, Ring Round the Moon, and Cry of the Peacock, but each has been either understatement, overstatement or misstatement: closest to the mark was perhaps the rococo fantasy of Christopher Fry's version of Ring Round the Moon. Now, Mlle Colombe, which—even in Louis Kronenberger's fastidious translation—disappoints, but provocatively, so that we are constantly forced to reshape its raw material into an original image which has somehow become deformed and obscure....
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Criticism: La Valse Des ToréAdors (The Waltz Of The Toreadors)
SOURCE: Clurman, Harold. “Theatre.” Nation, New York, N.Y. (8 October 1973): 349.
[In the following review, Clurman gives a mixed assessment of the 1973 New York production of The Waltz of the Toreadors, deeming the drama “the play which reveals most of Anouilh's essential traits in perfect balance.”]
The Waltz of the Toreadors, produced in Paris in 1952 and a failure then, perhaps because it was not sufficiently cut and also because the author himself directed it, has since been successfully done in London and New York. It is, in my view, the play which reveals most of Anouilh's essential traits in perfect balance.
Anouilh is a romantic idealist whose idealism plagues him. He yearns for purity, nobility, moral courage, glory, but discerns little but pettiness, chicanery, deception and vice. Life riles him because it isn't consistent; he abhors the bulk of humanity because it professes virtues it doesn't practice. There is something comic in this and a great measure of “fun,” but though he is able to laugh at it, it upsets his vitals. He is a sentimentalist become bitter because everything he beholds, everything that has happened to him since he first conceived of the loveliness of experience—especially in matters of love—has proved false and vain.
Oh, if it were only not so, Anouilh's plays seem to wail—beauty not despoiled, grandeur...
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Criticism: L'Alouette (The Lark)
SOURCE: Bentley, Eric. “Theatre.” New Republic (5 December 1955): 21.
[In the following review, Bentley unfavorably compares Anouilh's portrayal of Joan of Arc in The Lark to George Bernard Shaw's conception of the Catholic heroine.]
In 1890 Shaw complained of Bernhardt as Joan of Arc: “she intones her lines and poses like a saint.” At the time, Joan was hovering uncomfortably between heaven and earth. Subsequently she was split in two: one half sent to heaven by the church and called, indeed, a saint, the other half brought rudely down to earth by our playwrights. It is this second Joan—named “natural man” by Miss Hellman's inquisitor—which Julie Harris has been called upon to play. Who is better qualified? She is the very idea of a modern actress. The Times recently published a photo to demonstrate that, on 42nd street, Miss Harris looks just like one of the crowd. Imagine what Sarah would say to that! But she would, at least partly, be wrong. In the first place, being the ordinary person has its advantages. No intoning, no posing like a saint. Julie Harris can convince you that this girl is indeed the daughter of the rustic couple of Domremy. In the second place, the ordinariness is only a mask. When Miss Harris takes it off, you see that she is beautiful, glamorous, and powerfully attractive. And she has learned to make subtle use of a wiry, expressive body and the...
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SOURCE: Hayes, Richard. “The Stage: The Lark.” Commonweal (23 December 1955): 304-05.
[In the following review, Hayes elucidates the differences between the historical accounts of Joan of Arc and the dramatic representations of her in Anouilh's The Lark and George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan.]
“Some nights, when I am feeling depressed,” Jean Anouilh has written of Joan of Arc, “I try to be rational and I say: the situation—social, political and military—was ripe for the phenomenon of Joan; a little shepherdess, one of the countless little shepherdesses who had seen the Virgin or heard voices, and who happened to be called Joan, came to fill a gap in the works, and then everything began turning.” It is this image which dominates the play Miss Lillian Hellman has drawn from Anouilh's L'Alouette, and with which Miss Julie Harris has made so palpable a hit: the image, not of “the cornered animal caught at Rouen, but the lark singing in the open sky,” brought down brokenly and in her flashing splendor by the malice of men. And it is as the lark that Joan takes her place in the company of Anouilh's celebrated heroines—young girls of a fantastic, lyrical purity and bloom—virgins all: doomed to violation by the grossness of the world's body. (Virginity, here as elsewhere in Anouilh, is of the essence: “Being a virgin is a state of grace,” Warwick says to Joan, in an...
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Criticism: Becket; Ou, L'Honneur De Dieu(Becket; Or, The Honor Of God)
SOURCE: Clurman, Harold. “Theatre.” Nation, New York, N.Y., (27 May 1961): 467-68.
[In the following review, Clurman derides the acting in the 1961 New York production of Becket and asserts that the play is “intellectually (as well as historically) skimpy; of true religious sentiment there is barely a trace, and its morality is without real commitment.”]
Readers may have noticed that I frequently omit discussion or appraisal of actors from my notices. In view of my belief that acting is the crucial ingredient of the theatre as theatre, my failure to comment on the acting of many of the plays I see must seem peculiar.
The reason for this contradiction is that in most productions the acting is reasonably competent rather than creative. The actors—usually chosen because they physically approximate the characters the dramatist may have had in mind and because they have formerly proved some ability—illustrate the play acceptably, lend it body. In these circumstances the play presents the actors instead of the actors making the play.
It is not always the actors' fault that they commonly serve chiefly as attractive mouthpieces and models for the dramatist's text. The conditions of theatrical production on Broadway and in the commercial theatre generally are not conducive to creation. The director—even when he is an artist—also is burdened by limitations...
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SOURCE: Roy, Emil. “The Becket Plays: Eliot, Fry, and Anouilh.” Modern Drama 8, no. 3 (December 1965): 268-76.
[In the following essay, Roy underscores the differences between T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, Christopher Fry's Curtmantle, and Anouilh's Becket.]
Within the last three decades the martyrdom of Thomas Becket has furnished dramatic material for notable plays of T. S. Eliot, Christopher Fry, and Jean Anouilh.1Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and all of Fry's work including Curtmantle (1961) stem directly from Eliot's determination to have a poetic drama. Although Anouilh's play Becket, or the Honor of God (1961) owes little or nothing to Eliot or a theory of poetic drama, all three writers have dissociated themselves from modern realism. As Francis Fergusson has said in another context, they use the stage, the characters, and the story to demonstrate an idea which they take to be the undiscussible truth.2 Eliot takes dramatic root in classical Greek and medieval morality plays, the Elizabethans and metaphysicals. Fry is distinctly Shavian, and Anouilh has singled out a performance of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author for its seminal impact on his work. Just as significant is the fact that although both Murder and Curtmantle are the culminations of a long and publicly debated process of theory...
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SOURCE: Gatlin, Jesse C., Jr. “Becket and Honor: A Trim Reckoning.” Modern Drama 8, no. 3 (December 1965): 277-83.
[In the following essay, Gatlin investigates the role of honor in Becket.]
What is honor? A word. What is in that word honor? What is that honor? Air. A trim reckoning! … Honor is a mere scutcheon.
—Falstaff in Henry IV, Part I
Honor travels in a strait so narrow,
Where one but goes abreast.
—Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida
Jean Anouilh uses the phrase “The Honor of God” as the sub-title of his play Becket. In the English translation of the play by Lucienne Hill,1 the word “honor” appears more than twenty times, spoken by a variety of characters in a variety of situations.2 It is as if Anouilh were determined to explore the meaning of the word by a sort of comprehensive dramatic demonstration of what is really essential to this abstraction which so many characters in the play use so glibly.
The term is first used in the opening scene of the play as King Henry, kneeling before the tomb of Becket to accept the lash as public penance for his part in Becket's murder, evokes in his mind the presence of the murdered...
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Atkinson, Brooks. “Lark in London, Tells Life of the Martyr.” New York Times (13 May 1955): 21-2.
Unfavorably compares The Lark to George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan.
Gill, Brendan. “Enemy Country.” New Yorker (1 October 1973): 59.
Mixed review of the 1973 New York production of The Waltz of the Toreadors.
———. Review of The Waltz of the Toreadors, by Jean Anouilh. New York Times (17 January 1957): 17-18.
Laudatory assessment of the 1957 New York production of The Waltz of the Toreadors.
Nichols, Lewis. Review of Antigone, by Jean Anouilh. New York Times (24 February 1946): 1.
Calls the 1940 New York production of Antigone unfulfilling and disappointing.
Taubman, Howard. “Laurence Olivier Stars in Anouilh Version.” New York Times (5 October 1960): 50-1.
Mixed assessment of Anouilh's Becket.
Additional coverage of Anouilh's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Contemporary Authors, Vols. 17-20R; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 32; Contemporary Authors—Obituary, Vol. 123; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vols. 1, 3, 8, 13, 40, 50; DISCovering...
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