Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Beggar on Horseback is similar to the other plays on which Connelly and Kaufman collaborated in this period in that it makes caustic comments on the popularity of the cheap in art over the valuable. In Dulcy (pr., pb. 1921), for example, Leach’s superficiality is revealed through his patronizing statements about William Shakespeare. Like Beggar on Horseback, plays such as Helen of Troy, N.Y. (pr. 1923) and Be Yourself (pr. 1924) do not attack the popular art forms as such, but lampoon the pretensions that argue the superiority of popular taste only because it sells. In one respect, Beggar on Horseback is less compromising than earlier works such as Merton of the Movies (pr. 1922), which suggests that one must come to terms with the vulgar, as Merton does in his cynical contempt for the movies that made him rich.

The yearning for the simple life, which emerges in Neil’s desire to live in a plain little cottage, is another strain that runs through the Connelly and Kaufman plays. In The Deep Tangled Wildwood (pr. 1923), a small town presents a haven for a New York playwright who is tired of the fads and trends of the big city. Connelly developed this longing for an uncluttered existence in more depth in The Farmer Takes a Wife (pr., pb. 1934), which portrays the Erie Canal as a kind of Eden of happy eccentricity.

Beggar on Horseback also contains the...

(The entire section is 513 words.)