Noël Coward Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

ph_0111206272-Coward.jpg Noël Coward Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Noël Coward was an extraordinarily prolific playwright, lyricist, and composer, writing more than fifty plays and musicals during his lifetime. He did not limit his literary endeavors solely to drama but ventured into other genres as well. These diversions into the realm of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry proved equally successful for him. In addition to his plays, Coward wrote three novels (two unpublished), several collections of short stories, satires, a book of verse, and several autobiographical works, Present Indicative (1937), Middle East Diary (1944), and Future Indefinite (1954).

Coward’s versatility is also apparent in his original scripts for five films, his screenplays and adaptations of his hit plays, and his several essays on the modern theater that appeared in popular journals and in The Times of London and The New York Times. Like his plays, Coward’s other works reveal his distinctive satiric style, sharp wit, and clever wordplay.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

In 1970, Noël Coward was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for “services rendered to the arts.” The succinct phrasing of this commendation is as understated as some of Coward’s best dialogue, considering his long and brilliant career in the theater. Coward wrote plays specifically designed to entertain the popular audience and to provide an amusing evening in the theater. Few of his plays champion a cause or promote a social issue. His most noteworthy achievement came in the writing of scores of fashionable comedies, revues, and “operettes” that were resounding successes on the English, American, and Continental stages and continue to enjoy success today. For this insistence on writing light comedy, he received substantial criticism, and several of his works were brusquely dismissed as “fluff” by critics. These same plays, however, never wanted for an audience, even during the most turbulent, politically restless years.

Coward came to be associated with the 1920’s in England in much the same way that F. Scott Fitzgerald was identified with the Jazz Age in the United States. Whereas Fitzgerald seriously examined the moral failings of his prosperous characters, however, Coward treated them lightly. His plays chronicle the foibles, fashions, and affairs of the English upper class and provide satirical vignettes of the social elite. Coward’s life and work reflect the same urbane persona; indeed, he wrote his best parts for himself. Coward’s...

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Briers, Richard. Coward and Company. London: Robson Books, 1987. A short, well-illustrated biography of the English actor, playwright, composer, director, producer, and bon vivant.

Castle, Charles. Noël. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1973. Documentary biography combining the memories of Coward’s friends with excerpts from his plays, the lyrics of many of his songs, and photographs.

Castle, Terry. Noël Coward and Radclyffe Hall: Kindred Spirits. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996. Contains a comparison of Coward and Hall as well as of homosexuality and literature. Bibliography and index.

Citron, Stephen. Noël and Cole: The Sophisticates. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. A comparison of Coward and Cole Porter as composers. Bibliography and index.

Cole, Leslie. Remembered Laughter: The Life of Noël Coward. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976. A charming, well-written biography.

Cole, Stephen. Noël Coward: A Bio-bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. An invaluable guide for further research.

Coward, Noël. Present Indicative. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1937. Describes his life through 1931, detailing his rise to fame.

Coward, Noël....

(The entire section is 558 words.)