W. H. Auden Drama Analysis
W. H. Auden’s dramatic works—both the political plays and the librettos—are concerned at base with the exposition of ideas. In his plays, as in his poetry, he pursues a range of philosophical positions with relish and zest, and his writing for the stage is remarkable, finally, for its managing to bring dramatic vitality to political and theological concepts. His inventiveness, his willingness to experiment, and his masterful use of conventional forms (popular theater as well as opera) guarantee Auden and his collaborators a significant place in the history of modern drama.
Auden’s writing for the stage falls into two distinct categories: the plays of the 1930’s, written mostly in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood, and the opera librettos, all but one written with Chester Kallman after Auden’s move to the United States in 1939.
The plays of the 1930’s are essentially political and didactic; Auden saw them as a means of reaching a wider audience than he could with his poetry, a way to reunite, as Mendelson puts it, “the private world of the poet with the public world of the theatre.” Hence, the plays set forth various psychological and political positions he adopted during the 1930’s, offering audiences lessons in the history of their time and awakening them to the possibility of personal and social renewal. Written in a mixture of poetry and prose, Auden’s plays borrow theatrical devices from a variety of unlikely...
(The entire section is 2313 words.)
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