The Play

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The Elephant Man depicts the difficult life of Joseph “John” Carey Merrick, a real person who lived from 1862 to 1890. Because of his extreme bodily and facial deformities, he was nicknamed the Elephant Man. Until rescued by the physician Frederick Treves and given a home at the London Hospital in Whitechapel, Merrick earned his living as a freak attraction in a traveling sideshow. The play’s twenty-one scenes depict selected episodes from the last six years of Merrick’s life and emphasize Merrick’s strength of spirit and the hypocrisy of Victorian English society.

The action begins not with Merrick, but with Treves, who considers himself a man blessed with a career, a home, a family, and financial success. The audience can contrast Treves’s life with that of Merrick, who is shown trapped at the opposite end of the social scale: Merrick’s tumor-ridden face, contorted body, and distorted speech doom him to a life of abuse and ridicule.

Merrick’s manager, Ross, who claims to have taken Merrick from the workhouse where he was abandoned at the age of three, robs and beats Merrick and confines him like an animal in darkness. He advertises Merrick to paying customers as a creature whose “physical agony is exceeded only by his mental anguish.” Merrick is no less an object of morbid fascination at a medical meeting, where Treves exhibits him while lecturing on Merrick’s multiple handicaps.

Ross abandons Merrick, complaining of too little profit from his display. Treves, performing what Bishop Walsham How calls his “Christian duty,” persuades the London Hospital’s director, Carr Gomm, to give Merrick permanent sanctuary. Charitable contributions from newspaper readers will pay for Merrick’s lodging, but living arrangements prove difficult. Although Nurse Sandwich has cared for lepers in the Far East, she is so repulsed by Merrick’s countenance that she bolts from his room.

In his new life, Merrick is as much on display as in his old life. The royalty and aristocrats who visit him in the London Hospital offer pleasantries and gifts that inflate their own egos as much as they do that of Merrick. Merrick, ever the innocent, receives their attentions with pleasure and views their noblesse oblige as helping him attain the normality and acceptance he craves. Ross returns, demanding repossession of Merrick because high society has suddenly embraced Merrick, and his moneymaking potential has been enhanced. Merrick rejects his proposals.

Unique among the play’s characters is the actress, Mrs. Kendal. She alone responds to Merrick as an equal, and in recognizing and appreciating the repressed sexual side of his nature, she undresses for him in scene 14. “It is the most beautiful sight I have seen,” says Merrick, but Treves bans Mrs. Kendal from the hospital and chastises Merrick for unacceptable behavior.

Merrick spends his days reading works by William Shakespeare, conversing with his visitors, and building an intricate model of St. Phillip’s Church. Although Merrick’s quality of life improves, Treves’s quality of life deteriorates, and he finds himself trapped in a crisis of conscience. While teaching Merrick that “the rules” make people happy, Merrick observes that Treves cannot distinguish “between the assertion of authority and the charitable act of giving.” Treves is troubled by the pressure for conformity he sees in himself and his society: “I conclude that we have polished him [Merrick] like a mirror, and shout hallelujah when he reflects us to the inch.”

Despite his social gains, Merrick’s physical limitations continue to plague him. His head is so enlarged and deformed that he must sleep with it on his knees. His health is, in fact, worsening, and Treves predicts Merrick’s heart will...

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not long sustain him.

In scene 20, Merrick dies while attempting to sleep in a normal reclining position, the weight of his enormous head crushing his windpipe. The play ends with Gomm composing a “report to investors,” an obituary for the Times aimed at reconciling the charitable accounts that provided Merrick’s support. “He was highly intelligent,” Treves says. “He had an acute sensibility . . . and a romantic imagination.” However, Treves withdraws his assessment in dismay. “Never mind. I am really not certain of any of it.”

Dramatic Devices

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The Elephant Man is a play with little plot. The story is revealed through snapshots in time. The episodes are brief, stylized, and sometimes complemented by theatrical devices, such as three women “Pinheads.” Ostensibly an act from Merrick’s freak show, the Pinheads act as the chorus in a Greek tragedy. They comment on the characters and action and perform as agents of fate in shifting Merrick from his upright posture into the recumbent sleep position that kills him.

In most performances, the settings are impressionist, achieved with a minimum of backdrops and props: Pomerance mandates little in the way of stage setting. For example, Ross’s sideshow in scene 2 requires nothing more to set the stage than a storefront poster heralding the Elephant Man attraction.

The lead role of Merrick is demanding. While Pomerance advises that no actor should attempt to simulate Merrick’s near-unintelligible speech, the role requires sustaining a contorted body posture and skewed facial alignment for the entire performance. The actor must skillfully meld Merrick’s outer ugliness and his inner beauty.

Form and Content

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The Elephant Man is a biography drama whose title is the sideshow term that was applied to Joseph Merrick (1863-1890), who was so hideously malformed by an incurable and then-unknown disease (now diagnosed as neurofibromatosis) that he was cruelly exploited as a traveling show oddity. Merrick was rescued from such exhibition by the anatomist Dr. Frederick Treves, who arranged safe shelter for him in London Hospital, Whitechapel, which became Merrick’s home for six years before his death in 1890. He became a curio studied by scientists and visited by members fashionable society, who found him both gracious and intelligent. Treves’s published account of Merrick’s life sparked Bernard Pomerance’s interest in the life of this man, whom he calls “John Merrick” in this drama.

In twenty-two short scenes identified by title placard, The Elephant Man, in order to tell its story effectively, employs a presentational style identified as Epic Theater. This form, largely attributed to German dramatist Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), presents a series of incidents without the restrictions of conventional theatrical construction, permitting a strong appeal to the spectators’ reason. In the play’s early scenes, Treves sees Merrick in a London sideshow and “borrows” him to be the subject of a medical lecture. (In this lecture scene, slides of the actual “Elephant Man” are shown, since the playwright stipulates that the actor portraying Merrick only suggest deformity by his posture and movement.) Later, Treves rescues Merrick from a London mob when the Elephant Man is fired and robbed by his manager, Ross. Treves takes Merrick to London Hospital, whose administrator, Carr Gomm, solicits sufficient public donations to provide lasting maintenance for Merrick. Treves determines with condescending compassion to create for his patient the illusion of normalcy. To this purpose, the physician enlists the actress Mrs. Kendal to befriend Merrick. As the play progresses, the focus shifts from physician to patient as the progress of Treves’s social engineering is witnessed. The Elephant Man fits himself into the role of the correct Victorian gentleman, without fully questioning the rules that he is told to obey. Concomitant with his patient’s social development, Treves comes to question his principles and those of his class, and he painfully begins to perceive Merrick’s subtle exploitation by science and society.

As the metamorphosis of the former Elephant Man progresses, London society lionizes Merrick because he lets them see him not as an individual but as a mirror of the qualities that they like to claim. As their visits continue, Merrick’s condition worsens, while at the same time he steadily builds a model of London’s St. Phillip’s Church. When he remarks to Mrs. Kendal that sexual loneliness continues to isolate him from other men and that he has never seen a naked woman, the actress kindly obliges by baring her breasts but is interrupted by a scandalized Treves, who orders her to leave for her impropriety. Interpreting the experience as defining his own limitations, Merrick realizes that his normality has been an illusion. Later, in a suicidal action, he lets his huge head drop unsupported, causing his suffocation.

The Elephant Man

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John Merrick (1863-1890) was most likely given the label “Elephant Man” by a shrewd carnival pitchman in order to lure the customers, but his actual physical appearance defied such a simple metaphorical description. In the scene that introduces Merrick to the audience, his doctor and benefactor, Frederick Treves, describes him more concretely:The most striking feature about him was his enormous head. Its circumference was about that of a man’s waist. From the brow there projected a huge bony mass like a loaf, while from the back of his head hung a bag of spongy fungous-looking skin, the surface of which was comparable to brown cauliflower Another mass of boneprotruded from the mouth like a pink stump, turning the upper lip inside out, and making the mouth a wide slobbering aperture. The nose was merely a lump of flesh. The back was horrible because from it hung, as far down as the middle of the thigh, huge sack-like masses of flesh covered by the same loathsome cauliflower stain. The right arm was of enormous size and shapeless. The right hand was large and clumsy—a fin or paddle. The other arm was remarkable by contrast. It was not only normal, but was moreover a delicately shaped limb covered with a fine skin and provided with a beautiful hand. From the chest hung a bag of the same repulsive flesh. The lower limbs had the characters of the deformed armunwieldy, dropsical-looking, and grossly misshapen. There arose from the fungous skin growths a very sickening stench which was hard to tolerate.

The facts are these: Treves discovered Merrick in 1880 in a freak show, studied him briefly, and then sent him and his manager off with a business card. Two years later, when Merrick was found abandoned and destitute in London, Treves’s card was the only identification on his person. This led authorities to the doctor, who agreed to take responsibility for the apparently imbecilic freak. Once permanently housed at the London Hospital, however, Merrick proved to be a sensitive, intelligent, artistic individual who, under Treves’s tutelage, emerged as a social being, even a minor celebrity. Always in precarious health, however, Merrick died unexpectedly in his sleep. Perhaps it was the result of an attempt to sleep “normally,” a posture which, by forcing the full weight of the oversized head onto the weak neck and spine, caused a fatal dislocation.

Treves chronicled Merrick’s story in his moving, beautifully written memoirs, The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences (1923). In 1971, Ashley Montagu reprinted Treves’s essay along with an extended medical, psychological, and philosophical analysis of the elephant man phenomenon. Dramatist Bernard Pomerance, in turn, became fascinated by the story of Merrick’s plight and wrote a play that has been an outstanding commercial and critical success both in London and on Broadway; during its opening season in New York, it won all of the major theater awards, including three Tonys, three Obies, the Drama Desk Award, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.

However, for all of its power and poignancy, the story of the Elephant Man would seem to hold little promise as a subject for any creative interpretation, let alone a hit play. How could an audience be expected to identify and sympathize with a character so physically repulsive that public viewing of him was banned and the mere sight of him provoked riots? How could the feelings, ideas, and experiences of such a man be communicated when the nature of his disfigurement rendered him “utterly incapable of the expression of any emotion whatsoever” as well as slurred his speech to the point where he could be understood only by those who learned his personal language? Pomerance’s answer is not to try to tell Merrick’s story, but to write a play about it. The Elephant Man works in the theater because of the adroit, sensitive ways in which the dramatist theatricalizes his material.

The play is structured in twenty-one brief, well-paced scenes. In Brechtian fashion, a projected title prefaces each scene (“Police side with Imbecile Against the Crowd,” “Even on the Niger and Ceylon, Not This,” “Mercy and Justice Elude Our Minds and Actions”). The atmosphere is fortified by a cellist, dressed in tails, who sits at the side of the stage playing Bach and Elgar. Most importantly, the actor playing Merrick does the role without makeup and with only minimal gestures and slightly stylized speech to suggest the Elephant Man’s impairments of movement and voice. “Any attempt to reproduce his appearance and his speech naturalistically—if it were possible—” the playwright states, “would seem to me not only counterproductive, but, the more remarkably successful, the more distracting from the play.”

The Treves lecture that introduces Merrick is illustrated by a series of slides depicting the original. These grotesque images must satisfy the audience’s view of Merrick’s deformity. A tension is created in the viewer’s mind between the humanity of the freak, as seen in the “normal” actor, and the awfulness of his real physical appearance, as projected in the slides. The audience’s focus is turned away from Merrick’s deformity toward his relationship to society in general, to other individuals, and to himself. He thus emerges from the play less as a freak than as an outsider and a kind of noble savage.

The aspect of Merrick’s personality that most impressed Ashley Montagu was his sweet, affirmative disposition. Despite his horrendous appearance and the harrowing experiences Merrick had been subjected to prior to being rescued by Treves, he expressed no bitterness over his plight toward the society that had ostracized and brutalized him, toward the particular individuals who had taken advantage of him, or toward the God/Fate that had given him such a grotesque body in the first place. He craved, appreciated, and responded to all human contact; he worshiped God piously. The major act of his life was to construct an elaborate paper model of St. Phillips Church. The model, pictured in Montagu’s book, becomes the play’s dominant metaphor.

Pomerance convincingly carries that view of Merrick into the play. As presented, Merrick’s innocence and simplicity are not the products of ignorance, but are innate character traits. He knows perfectly well what he is, and he is extremely sensitive to the attitudes and motives of those around him—sometimes even more so than they are. It is this self-awareness that makes Merrick’s plight so poignant. He is more than simply a victim; he takes on aspects of the tragic hero.

Similar to that of many such heroes, his situation veers close to the comic. The ludicrous contrast between his existence and his longings (the inappropriate props he surrounds himself with, such as clothing which he is physically incapable of wearing and the artifacts of a dandy, and his romantic imagination, fed on popular novels and Romeo and Juliet) can be seen as comic and, from another angle, as mawkishly sentimental. However, Pomerance carefully balances his material between the emotional and the cerebral. The distancing devices, rapid pacing, and carefully controlled language keep us from a too-close involvement; the emotional potency of the material and our admiration for the principals keep our emotions sensitized. Consequently, when Pomerance wants to stimulate a strong visceral reaction, he can do so with great theatrical intensity. The two scenes that demonstrate this most forcefully deal with Merrick’s contact with a beautiful woman, the actress Madge Kendal.

It is not surprising that Merrick’s dream of being normal centered on women. One of the many small, cruel ironies of his life was that, besides his left arm, the only other part of his body unaffected by his disfigurement was his genitals; in every way, physically and emotionally, he was a sexually mature adult male. He read romantic novels voraciously, worshiped women as a species, and probably adored every individual female he met. Pomerance focuses all of this desire and frustration into Merrick’s relationship with one woman, the aforementioned Mrs. Kendal. Scene Ten concludes with Merrick shaking hands with the vivacious actress. “Do you know,” Treves tells her, “he’s never shook a woman’s hand before?” as Merrick sobs soundlessly, uncontrollably. In the second, even more potent scene, Mrs. Kendal strips for the Elephant Man. He is awestruck; Treves, who enters suddenly, is shocked; the audience is profoundly moved.

However, it is with such scenes that purists might cavil with Pomerance’s use of historical material. Neither episode in fact ever happened as dramatized. The handshake was given Merrick by a young widow of Treves’s acquaintance; the stripping scene is pure fiction. There is no way of knowing, of course, how close Pomerance’s stage creation is to the real John Merrick, but sufficient data exists about the other historical figures to establish a distance between the playwright’s conceptions and the persons upon which they were based. In Pomerance’s version, they are not so much real figures as representative Victorian types—or perhaps contemporary types in Victorian garb. Thus, Pomerance is able to use the Elephant Man as a metaphor and a mirror—a metaphor for the outsider and his relationship to society, and a mirror in which the characters and the audience members see themselves reflected.

This latter thematic device is explicitly presented in Scene Twelve, titled “Who Does He Remind You Of?” Each of Merrick’s visitors verbalize their identification with him: to Mrs. Kendal, he is an actor who uses props to make himself, but who remains sensitive and vulnerable—“like me,” she adds; to Carr Gomm, he is a practical man who willingly accepts being exploited; the Bishop sees him as a devout believer who “struggles with doubt”; and to Treves, the most complicated figure in the play, he is a divided, paradoxical soul. As the physician states to himself:That, as he rises higher in the consolations of society, he gets visibly more grotesque is proof definitive he is like me. Like his condition, which I make no sense of, I make no sense of mine.

It is in the complex, ambiguous relationship between Merrick and Treves that the real center of the play can be found. The urbane, articulate Treves, revealed in his memoirs and discussed by Montagu, projects little of the neurosis and self-doubt that characterizes the Treves of the play. However, a completely stable, sensible Treves would have turned the work into, at best, a moving case history. Pomerance’s Treves gives the play its dramatic tension and thematic implication. The doctor is as important a character as Merrick, and only by understanding them both, and their relationship, can one fully appreciate the power and meaning of the play.

Treves’s self-doubt is evident in the short first scene, before Merrick even enters the play. The doctor subsequently rescues Merrick as a humanitarian and scientific gesture, but as their relationship develops, it takes on subtle, contradictory implications. The Elephant Man becomes many different things to his benefactor—an unfortunate to be helped, a natural curiosity to be studied, a child to be shaped and educated, a terminal patient to be reconciled to death, a living symbol of an arbitrary universe, a heroic example of courage and optimism in the face of adversity, a foolish self-deceiving romantic, and a catalyst for the doctor’s own guilt and self-recriminations. The rigidly puritanical Treves tells Merrick that rules are for “your own good” and banishes Mrs. Kendal for her indecent exposure; the self-critical modern Treves openly doubts all Victorian certainties and admits that Mrs. Kendal’s banishment was the result of his possessiveness, not his ethics. The “mirror” that Merrick holds up to Treves is a progressively disturbing one.

These paradoxes are crystallized near the play’s conclusion in two climactic dream sequences. Although a number of popular drama critics have dismissed these scenes as intrusive and dramatically unconvincing, they actually define the themes of the play in powerful surrealistic visions. Sensing that he has failed in his handling of the Mrs. Kendal incident, Treves goes into an uneasy sleep. He dreams that he is the freak in his normality, Carr Gomm is his manager, and John Merrick is his physician. Merrick, standing upright and speaking clearly, delivers a highly charged speech about the doctor to the audience of pinheads; the speech is a perfect inversion of the lecture which Treves had previously made about Merrick. The talk is also a stinging denunciation of Treves’s Victorian morality, hypocrisy, and rigidity. The speech concludes with the statement that “the wretched man when a boy developed a disabling spiritual duality, therefore was unable to feel what others feel, nor reach harmony with them.” The pinheads call for an immediate cure. Merrick shakes his head sadly: “the truth is, I am afraid, we are dealing with an epidemic.”

Perhaps Pomerance’s ironical conclusion that Merrick’s hideous appearance covered a pure soul, while the glossy, attractive Victorian surface projected by Treves and his circle concealed hypocrisy, corruption, and deception, is too facile and does not do justice to the rich, ambiguous texture of the play as a whole. Moreover, for all the intellectual potency of the themes, The Elephant Man still communicates its greatest power as a story of particular individuals subjected to intense psychological and emotional pressure. Yet the Elephant Man as a distorting mirror in which we catch a glimpse of ourselves is a memorable theatrical idea. The grotesque reflection forces us not only to look at our own images, but also to see beneath the surface.

Historical Context

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The setting for The Elephant Man is late Victorian England; an understanding of this period is important for understanding the relationship that John Merrick had with his doctors and the public.

In the nineteenth century, England was enjoying a successful industrial revolution. Yet industry brought social problems as well. As more people moved from the country to the cities, overcrowding resulted. In 1832, the Parliament passed a number of new laws to improve people’s lives: the areas of child labor, welfare, and sanitation were all the subject of new laws.

In 1851 the Crystal Palace exposition displayed England’s recent scientific and technological advances. The success of the Crystal Palace led to a smug satisfaction among England’s aristocracy that lasted most of that decade.

In 1859, Darwin’s The Origin of the Species created a dramatic controversy by questioning longstanding assumptions about humanity and man’s role in the world. His next book, The Descent of Man, introduced the theory of evolution. Religious leaders, who felt that Darwin was attacking a literal interpretation of the Bible, were outraged.

The Utilitarian Movement of the mid-nineteenth century also raised questions about the usefulness of religion. If man’s existence was subjected to reason, then religion provided little benefit for humans; people should rely more on technology, economics, and science for survival.

However, religion is based on faith, not reason. In many ways, religion was perceived as a luxury that modern men did not need for survival. In this difficult time, John Merrick’s embrace of religion can be interpreted as an endorsement of its absolute necessity in the world.

The Second Reform Act in 1867 gave voting rights to some members of the working class. Labor became a prominent political and economic issue, with Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (1867) igniting a debate about capitalism.

At the same time, a severe economic depression in the early 1870s led to an alarming rate of emigration, as British people fled their country for a better life elsewhere. By the end of the decade, things had improved; by the 1880s, London had become the center of civilization in the modern world.

As for the royal family, Queen Victoria had her hands full with damage control. Edward, Prince of Wales, indulged in a series of fleeting affairs with actresses and singers. The resulting liaisons created many scandals for the royal family.

Pomerance references this when he has Merrick question Mrs. Kendal about Edward’s most recent mistress. His escapades must have provided a welcome relief from the many social problems that plagued Victorian England.

Literary Style

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Alienation Effect The alienation effect was proposed by Bertolt Brecht who thought that keeping the audience at a distance created a desirable effect. Brecht maintained that personal involvement with the plot or characters would inhibit the audience from understanding the political message of the play. Pomerance admired Brecht and modeled the construction of his play on Brechtian ideas about maintaining aesthetic distance.

MelodramaThe Elephant Man is classified as a melodrama, which are plays in which the plot offers a conflict between two characters who personify extremes of good and evil. These works usually end happily and emphasize sensationalism. Other literary forms that employ many of the same techniques are called melodramatic. The Elephant Man offers both good and evil in the personifications of Merrick and Ross.

Scene Traditionally, a scene is a subdivision of an act and consists of continuous action of a time and place. However, Pomerance does not use acts, and so each scene consists of a short interlude that may be separated from previous scenes by distance of time or location.

Setting The time and place of the play is called the setting. The elements of setting may include geographic location, physical or mental environments, prevailing cultural attitudes, or the historical time in which the action takes place. The primary setting for The Elephant Man is Merrick’s quarters in the hospital. The action spans an undetermined period of time.

Compare and Contrast

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1880s: Queen Victoria has named herself Empress of India and British Imperialism is at its height. Great Britain and France occupy Egypt and within a few years, Africa will be partitioned and divided among European interests.

1979: Margaret Thatcher is the first woman to become Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Today: Great Britain has ceded control of Hong Kong to China and Queen Elizabeth is set to celebrate fifty years as British ruler in 2002.

1880s: Impressionist painters create a new movement in art. They hold a major exhibition in Paris in 1874. Within ten years, the form will dominate the art field.

1979: Philip Johnson exhibits a new painting, Paintsplats (on a wall). Performance art becomes the newest art form.

Today: An exhibition of Jackson Pollack’s art at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art results in long lines as people wait in cold, wet weather to see Pollack’s work.

1880s: Louis Pasteur develops a vaccine to prevent rabies. He also develops pasteurization to keep milk from spoiling from bacteria.

1979: Medicare-funded kidney dialysis costs the government $851 million for 46,000 patients and raises questions about whether such patients should continue to receive such a disproportionate amount of medical funding.

Today: Questions about physician-assisted suicide plague the country and leads to fears that doctors will simply dispose of those people who are physically or mentally unable to protect themselves.

1880s: Edison announces the success of his incandescent light bulb. He is sure it will burn for one hundred hours. Meanwhile in the United States, arc-lights are installed as streetlights in San Francisco and Cleveland.

1979: An accident at Three Mile Island results in the evacuation of 144,00 people. Little radiation is released, but the accident fuels fears about nuclear reactors as an energy source.

Today: Energy is assumed to be an unlimited, available resource—especially in the United States, where energy conservation lags behind that of other countries.

Media Adaptations

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The Elephant Man was made into a successful film in 1980. The film starred Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, and Wendy Hiller. The director was David Lynch. Pomerance had nothing to do with the film, which was written by Lynch, Eric Bergen, and Christopher DeVore. The video is available from Paramount.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources Barnes, Clive. A review in the New York Post, April 20, 1979.

Belli, Angela. ‘‘Medical Technology on Stage,’’ in Ometeca, Vol. 3, No. 4, 1996, pp. 291-303.

Cunningham, Dennis. A review of The Elephant Man on WCBS-TV, April 19, 1979.

Elder, Richard. A review in The New York Times, April 20, 1979.

Gottfried, Martin. A review in Saturday Review, March 17, 1979.

Holladay, William E. and Stephen Watt. ‘‘Viewing The Elephant Man,’’ in PMLA, Vol. 104, No. 5, October, 1989, pp. 868-81.

Jiji, Vera. ‘‘Multiple and Virtual: Theatrical Space in The Elephant Man,’’ in The Theatrical Space, Cambridge University Press, 1987, pp. 247-57.

Kauffmann, Stanley. A review in New Republic, May 12, 1979.

Kroll, Jack. A review in Newsweek, February 8, 1979.

Larson, Janet L. ’’The Elephant Man as Dramatic Parable,’’ in Modern Drama, Vol. 26, No. 3, September, 1983, pp. 335-56.

Sharp, Christopher. A review in Women’s Wear Daily, January 16, 1979.

Watt, Douglas. A review in the Daily News, April 20, 1979.

Wilson, Edwin. A review in The Wall Street Journal, January 26, 1979.

Further Reading Davis, Tracy C. Actresses As Working Women: Their Social Identity in Victorian Culture, Routledge, 1991, 200 p. A historical and social examination of the issues faced by female actresses.

Howard, Martin. Victorian Grotesque: An Illustrated Excursion into Medical Curiosities, Freaks, and Abnormalities, Principally of the Victorian Age, Jupiter Books, 1977, 153 p. As the title promises, this book looks at medicine and human abnormalities.

Judd, Catherine. Bedside Seductions: Nursing and the Victorian Imagination, 1830–1880, St. Martin’s Press, 1997, 211 p. Explores the role of nurse in Victorian social and literary history. The evolution of nursing provides insights into gender and class issues of this period.

Ritvo, Harriet. The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age, Harvard University Press, 1989, 347 p. Ritvo provides an unusual approach to discussions of class in Victorian England by focusing on the relationship between animals and humans.


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Sources for Further Study

Guernsey, Otis L., Jr. The Burns Mantle Theatre Yearbook: The Best Plays of 1978-1979. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1979.

Howell, Michael, and Peter Ford. The True History of “The Elephant Man.” 3d ed. London: Allison and Busby, 2001.

Montagu, Ashley. “The Elephant Man”: A Study in Human Dignity. Lafayette, La.: Acadian House, 1995.

Treves, Frederick. “The Elephant Man” and Other Reminiscences. London: Cassell, 1923.


Critical Essays


Teaching Guide