Eric (Russell) Bentley Introduction

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Eric (Russell) Bentley 1916–

American critic, playwright, editor, translator, director, and actor.

Bentley is considered one of the most innovative critics of the modern theater. He was responsible for introducing Brecht and other European playwrights to America through his translations and stage adaptations of their plays. In his critical works, Bentley concentrates on the playwright and the dramatic text rather than on the production aspects of the play. This approach, however, has led Bentley's detractors to believe that he was attempting to compensate for his unwillingness to accept drama as a form of popular entertainment.

In The Playwright As Thinker, Bentley distinguished between "art" and "commodity" in the American theater. It is Bentley's premise that most producers are more attentive to box office receipts than to the artistic quality of a play and, as a result, the playwright is often neglected as a true artist. In Search of Theater is Bentley's evaluation of the state of postwar theater in American and Europe; The Life of the Drama is his comprehensive study of the development of dramatic form and is considered by many critics to be his finest work. His recent critical works are anthologies of reviews written during his years as drama critic for The New Republic and he has lately published a collection of three plays, The Kleist Variations.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.)