(Drama for Students)

Naturally, The Critic explores the issue of criticism, specifically the different ways that playwrights respond to critiques of their work. Sir Fretful Plagiary is the epitome of one who attempts to seem gracious and able to withstand any critical judgment of his plays; when faced with even the smallest quibble, however, his ‘‘fretful’’ nature becomes apparent. For example, Sir Fretful tells Dangle and Sneer that he is ‘‘never so well pleased as when a judicious critic points out any defect’’ in his work to him and that Sneer ‘‘can’t oblige [him] more’’ than he would by offering his opinions. However, when Sneer tells him that the ‘‘events’’ in his latest play are ‘‘too few,’’ Sir Fretful responds that the events are ‘‘too crowded’’; when told by Dangle that the play’s ‘‘interest rather falls off’’ at the end, Sir Fretful counters with, ‘‘Rises; I believe you mean, Sir.’’ When Dangle’s wife (who only defends Sir Fretful because ‘‘everybody else abuses him’’) states that she ‘‘did not see a fault in any part of the play from beginning to end,’’ Sir Fretful exclaims, ‘‘Upon my soul the women are the best judges after all!’’ Of course, ‘‘best’’ in this context means ‘‘most flattering.’’

Unlike Sir Fretful, Puff does not become upset when faced with complaints about his play, The Spanish Armada. Instead, he offers what he finds to be logical explanations for every incident and line, however contrived or ridiculous. For example, when Sneer asks Puff how Hatton could never before have asked Raleigh about their preparations for war, Puff responds, ‘‘What, before the Play began? how the plague could he?’’ Similarly, when Dangle observes that the Beefeater’s soliloquy of four lines is ‘‘very short,’’ Puff explains, ‘‘Yes—but it would have been a great deal longer if he had not been observed.’’

Convinced of his own skill as a playwright, Puff becomes irritated when he learns of the cuts in the script made by the actors: although he initially calls them...

(The entire section is 873 words.)