Maxwell Anderson was a prolific and versatile playwright, the author of poetic drama and historical drama, realistic plays and thesis plays, radio drama, screenplays, and musical drama (including two collaborations with composer Kurt Weill). At the peak of his success, during one season in the 1930’s, he had three plays running on Broadway at the same time. In 1933, he received a Pulitzer Prize for Both Your Houses. He received New York Drama Critics Circle Awards in the 1935-1936 Broadway season for Winterset and in the following season for High Tor.
Of the twelve Anderson plays produced on Broadway in his lifetime, nine are verse dramas—a remarkable feat in itself in the twentieth century, with verse drama long an endangered species. Indeed, it is as a rare modern practitioner of that form that Anderson is likely to be remembered.
Even Anderson’s lesser achievements attest the enormous vitality of the American theater in his time: The sheer range of his work, including both failed experiments and commercial successes, the stretch of his ambition (even when one concedes that his theory of tragedy, for example, is an intellectual embarrassment)—all of this makes him one of the representative figures of a key period in the history of American drama.