What Do I Read Next?
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1600) features a band of actors who rehearse their tragedy, The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisby, with hilarious results. Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream features the play’s performance.
Like The Critic, Michael Frayn’s farce Noises Off (1982) consists of rehearsals for a play where nothing happens as it should. Like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Noises Off ends with the audience watching the play they just saw being rehearsed.
The Rivals (1775), Sheridan’s first play, is a comedy concerning the thwarted (but eventually reconciled) love between Captain Absolute and Lydia Languish. The play is famous for the character of Mrs. Malaprop, Lydia’s aunt who makes a number of ‘‘malapropisms,’’ humorous linguistic errors (‘‘As headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile’’).
Sheridan’s The School for Scandal (1777), considered by many to be his masterpiece, follows the drawing room adventures of Lady Sneerwell and her group of gossips. Critics routinely praise the play as the perfect ‘‘comedy of manners.’’
The American playwright David Mamet’s A Life in the Theater (1977) concerns two actors—one young, one old—who discuss, in a series of vignettes, their work as actors and their struggles with their craft.
The Renaissance team of Francis Beaumont and John Fetcher’s The Night of the Burning Pestle (1613), like Puff’s The Spanish Armada, features a number of dramatic conventions exploited for their comic potential.
Henry Fielding’s The Tragedy of Tragedies (1731), like The Critic, offers a mock tragedy through which Fielding parodies and satirizes specific authors and writers of his age. The printed edition of the play contains extensive footnotes by Fielding that identify his allusions and satirical targets.
John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1728) broke a number of theatrical conventions, both in its subject matter and political overtones. It was one of the most popular plays of the eighteenth century and inspired Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera in 1928.
Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967) offers its reader a glimpse of Shakespeare’s Hamlet through the eyes of two of its minor characters. Like Sheridan, Stoppard delights in exploring the nature of theater and its conventions.