David Hare Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

While continuing to work in the theater, David Hare turned to television in 1973 to write and produce Man Above Men for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), followed by Licking Hitler, which Hare authored and directed for the BBC in 1978, Dreams of Leaving (1980), and Saigon: Year of the Cat (1983). In 1985, Hare adapted his play Plenty for the motion-picture screen and also wrote and directed Wetherby, which some critics regarded as a better film than Plenty. Wetherby demonstrated that Hare could work effectively in the medium of film as a total artist. Other Hare films are Paris by Night (1988) and Strapless (1989). He directed the film of Wallace Shawn’s The Designated Mourner in 1997.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

David Hare has been identified as a socialist playwright, a committed artist whose concerns are predominantly moral and often satiric. His work reflects the stance of the “angry” writers of the 1950’s carried forward into a second generation of “furious” playwrights , as Jack Kroll has aptly described them. Hare’s English characters are shaped by the postwar realities of British life; some of them (such as Susan, the central character of Plenty) have not properly adjusted to a changing world, while others (such as Curly, the central character of Knuckle) have adjusted at the expense of becoming hardened and cynical or morally complacent. Hare has a genius for drawing strong, distinctive characters who often behave outrageously.

Although many of the plays are set in his native England, his concerns are global, as reflected by increasingly international and exotic settings for the later plays: New York, Leningrad, Saigon, India, and the People’s Republic of China, for example. He has also extended his work from the stage to film and television. Hare has a unique talent for dramatizing people under pressure and confronted with crises—social, commercial, moral, revolutionary, and political. His scope is impressively broad, and his concerns in general involve issues of truth, honesty, and integrity. Indeed, the title of one of his most successful plays of the 1980’s, Pravda, means “truth.”

Hare has been favorably compared with Bertolt Brecht (for Fanshen, his documentary play about the Chinese Revolution, “the nearest any English contemporary writer has come to emulating Brecht,” in the estimation of Michael Coveney) and Harold Pinter, perhaps the most gifted playwright of the previous generation. Among younger talents, the volume and quality of his work may perhaps be matched by Tom Stoppard, but few others.

After the success of Slag in 1970, Hare won the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright. In 1974, Knuckle won for him the John Llewellyn Rhys Award. In 1979, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts voted Licking Hitler the Best Television Play of the Year. In 1985, the film Wetherby, which Hare both wrote and directed, won the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear Award. The Secret Rapture was named the best play for 1988 by Drama Magazine. Hare’s awards also include the New York Drama Critics Circle Award (1983), the Olivier Award (1990 and 1996), and the London Theatre Critics’ Award (1990).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Brown, John R., ed. Modern British Dramatists: New Perspectives. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984. An attempt to put the dramatist in the historical context of postwar theater.

Chambers, Colin, and Mike Prior. Playwrights’ Progress: Patterns of Postwar British Drama. Oxford, England: Amber Lane Press, 1987. Offers a critical look at David Hare and characterizes his social criticism as somewhat out-of-date.

Dean, Joan Fitzgerald. David Hare. Boston: Twayne, 1990. Survey of Hare’s work up to The Secret Rapture, including films and plays for television. Provides background information about British political and social concerns as the context for Hare’s work for the benefit of American readers, and tracks the expanding scope of Hare’s plays. Includes a chronology and extensive bibliography.

Donesky, Finlay. David Hare: Moral and Historical Perspectives. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Often contentious survey places Hare’s plays in the social context of England and demonstrates how his characters move from identification with a moral consensus developed during World War II to a concern with spiritual issues during the ascendancy of Prime Minister Thatcher. Praises Hare for his sensitivity to the personal dimension and his ability to dramatize simultaneously a specific...

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