Christopher Hampton Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Christopher James Hampton is outstanding as one of the modern British playwrights because of his linguistic skills, his ability to write original plays and adaptations from other works as well as translations, and his versatility of theme.

Hampton, the son of Bernard Patrick and Dorothy (Herrington) Hampton, was born in the Azores islands, where his father was an engineer. He spent his childhood in Aden and Alexandria, Egypt, as well as in Zanzibar. When he was ten years old, the Suez crisis erupted, and he and his mother were forced to flee from Egypt to England. Although he has traveled much since then, he makes his home in England. In 1971 he married Laura de Holesch, a social worker, and they had two daughters.

As a child living in Egypt Hampton saw his first stage play and was immediately enraptured by drama. At the age of eight, he wrote a short play as a school exercise. Later, in England, his love of drama increased as he was able to see performances and read plays, including those of Arthur Miller and John Osborne. He became acquainted with David Hare, also a future playwright.

Hampton’s first published play, When Did You Last See My Mother?, was written when he was only eighteen years old and performed at the Royal Court Theatre in 1966, to excellent reviews. As he continued writing for the theater, he pursued his degree at Oxford. However, he took time out for a stint in Hamburg, Germany, where he improved his German. He also spent time in Brussels and Paris, where he worked on his French and studied the French poets, especially Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. During that time he worked as a translator and wrote his second play, Total Eclipse, which was also performed at the Royal Court, in 1968.

Hampton’s original plays have seen a large measure of success, but he is perhaps best known for his translations and adaptations of...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Colby, Douglas. As the Curtain Rises: On Contemporary British Drama, 1966-1976. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1978. Introduction develops the concept of drama as visual metaphor as well as devices used by modern dramatists. Hampton is one of the three dramatists whose work is analyzed in detail.

Free, William J. Christopher Hampton: An Introduction to His Plays. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1994. Overview of Hampton’s works and themes.

Glaap, Albert-Reiner. “Translating, Adapting, Re-writing: Three Facets of Christopher Hampton’s Works as a Playwright.” In Drama on Drama: Dimensions of Theatricality on the Contemporary British Stage, edited by Nicole Boireau. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. Shows, with examples, the skills Hampton portrays in these three facets of his works.

Gross, Robert, ed. Christopher Hampton: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1990. Overview and analysis of a number of Hampton’s major plays up to the time this book was written.

Hollinger, Karen. “Losing the Feminist Drift: Adaptations of Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” Literature/Film Quarterly 27, no. 3, (1996): 293-300. Analysis of Hampton’s adaptation of Laclos’s story into film and the change of emphasis.

Phillips, Gene D. “To Sup on Horrors: Christopher Hampton’s Film Version of Joseph Conrad’s Secret Agent.” Literature/Film Quarterly 27, no. 3 (1999): 173-177. Comparison of Conrad’s book with Hampton’s screenplay, showing how Hampton faithfully put this dark story to film.