Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Madness of George III was widely hailed for its wit, energy, use of history (altered when necessary for dramatic purposes), occasional echoes of modern-day English politics, and ability to engage audiences in accepting a play that ultimately goes nowhere except back to the status quo.

Alan Bennett’s stature in England already was high before the first production of the play in 1991, thanks to his long career, which began in the early 1960’s, as actor, director, screenwriter for films and television, author, and playwright. He turned from a satirist to a versatile writer of considerable substance, attaining the position of England’s finest living playwright in the judgment of some critics. His awards began with the London Evening Standard Drama Award in 1961 for Beyond the Fringe (pr. 1960), a comic revue in which he partnered with Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller, and Dudley Moore, and the awards have continued to accumulate.

The Madness of George III opened in New York City in 1993, introducing Alan Bennett as a dramatist to American audiences. Bennett gained even more fame in the United States when the film version, titled The Madness of King George, premiered in 1994 (its title changed so American viewers would not think it was a sequel). Bennett authored the screenplay, and the film, considered by some critics even more successful than the stage version, garnered four Academy Award nominations.