Further Critical Evaluation of the Work
Henry Arthur Jones was the first of the British dramatists who were to revitalize the English theater at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. The new realism and seriousness of the Continental drama, stimulated primarily by the impact of Henrik Ibsen’s plays, prepared the theatrical atmosphere in England for a similar thrust into modernity. Although denying any direct Ibsen influence, Jones felt that the same seriousness could be brought to the English stage and that he was the playwright to do so. He made his position clear in a letter to The Daily News in 1883:The truth is that audiences want literature, they want poetry, but they do not want unactable, intractable imitations of Shakespeare’s form without his vitality. They want life, they want reality; they demand that the characters they see on stage shall be, not the ghostly abstractions of the study, but living, breathing human beings, with good warm red blood in their veins.
During his most popular and successful years, Jones ably translated his polemic into such plays as SAINTS AND SINNERS (1884), THE MIDDLEMAN (1889), THE LIARS (1897), and MRS. DANE’S DEFENCE (1900). The important exception in Jones’ sequence of popular successes was MICHAEL AND HIS LOST ANGEL.
Since that time critics have taken a closer look at the play and some—including the playwright—have believed it to be his best. It is...
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