Christopher Fry’s work was virtually unknown to playgoers or readers until the success of The Lady’s Not for Burning in 1948, although he seemed to have been on his way to the creation of this play throughout most of his life. Born Christopher Fry Harris, the son of an architect, Charles Harris, Fry was reared in an intensely religious home. His father had been a lay missionary in the Bristol slums, and his mother was a devout Quaker. Fry was still young at the time of his father’s death, and his mother took in boarders in order to send her only son to the Bedford Modern School. She also did much to encourage his natural musical talents, translated, in his later writing career, into an appreciation for the music of language. His early performances as a solo musician may also have given him a taste for the more multifaceted world of the professional stage, toward which he aimed his life. Fry did not pursue a university education but left school at age eighteen to become a teacher. Around this time, he began to use his mother’s maiden name, Fry—the name by which he was thereafter known.
Between periods of teaching, Fry joined the Bath Repertory Company. His next experience with the theater was eight difficult years during which he stubbornly tried to make a living with repertory troupes, performing in plays by William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Sir James Barrie, and Noël Coward. When he moved to London in search of a career at the center of England’s dramatic activities, he found that economic necessity once again forced him to try other work—as an editor, cartoonist, secretary, writer of children’s plays, and even songwriter. He was director of the Wells Repertory Players at Tunbridge Wells from 1934 until its demise. According to Fry, through all this time his desire to write plays in verse never faltered.
Two years after his 1936 marriage, Fry received a small legacy from a cousin, which enabled him to begin sustained work on his plays. Shortly thereafter, his first published play, The Boy with a Cart, was conceived and first performed as a pageant play for the...
(The entire section is 875 words.)