The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Plenty begins in a room that has been stripped bare, like the prostrate, bloody, naked man who lies sleeping on a mattress. Susan sits smoking on a packing case as Alice enters and discusses the cold climate, which she relates to the “loveless English,” thereby callously acknowledging the existence of Raymond. From their conversation the audience learns that there has been a fight between Susan and her husband Raymond and that Susan is leaving him and giving their house to Alice, who will use it as a home for unwed mothers.

The second scene shifts abruptly from 1962 London to 1943 France, where Susan and Lazar, two British undercover agents, have met at night in a field—Lazar has just parachuted into France and awaits a “drop” from an airplane. Despite the interference of the well-intentioned French Underground, the two secure the package. The distraught Susan loses her composure, declares that she does not want to die, like Tony, at Buchenwald, and embraces Lazar. Lazar asks her the French term for “mackerel sky,” un ciel pommele (the phrase is repeated during their abortive reunion in scene 11); and while nothing romantic happens onstage, the excitement and vitality of this scene suggests the offstage sexual relationship that sustains Susan in the postwar years of torpor and mediocrity.

The following lengthy scene, which occurs in 1947 Brussels, introduces Sir Leonard Darwin, Raymond’s superior in the British Foreign Service. Tony, with whom Susan has been touring Europe, has died abruptly, and it is Raymond’s task to make the necessary arrangements. Since Tony has a wife back in England, Raymond’s job is a bit complicated, and he has to make a conscious decision to lie. (Raymond’s initial assistance leads to further concessions and the eventual ruination of his diplomatic career.) This scene also establishes Susan’s distinction between “them,” the “fools . . . who stayed behind,” and “us,” “those of us who went through this kind of war” in France. Susan’s impatience and intolerance is at odds with Darwin’s naïve, evolutionary optimism about European reconstruction: “Ideals. Marvellous. Marvellous time to be alive in Europe.”

Scene 4 begins with a radio announcer’s apt comments about a “reconstructed” musical selection and then dramatizes the extent to which Susan’s obsession with the past dominates her life. As Raymond sleeps, a visual reminder of Scene 1, Susan and Alice, an aspiring writer, discuss Susan’s problems with her amorous boss and the status of her affair with Raymond, who has been commuting from Brussels on weekends. Raymond wakes; as he speaks of “acclimatizing” and becoming rich, Susan cleans her gun (Alice...

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Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Although much of Plenty is staged realistically, the sets not only serve as backdrops for action but also express the state of the English nation. For example, the Knightsbridge home of the Brocks, which is “decorated with heavy velvet curtains, china objects and soft furniture” in scene 7, the occasion when the British seized the Suez Canal, is in scene 1 “stripped bare,” much like Raymond and England. Similarly, the dark, “sparsely furnished and decaying room” where Lazar and Susan attempt to recapture their past is at once, because of its darkness, reminiscent of the dark, exciting night when they met in the second scene and indicative of the decay in their own lives. When Susan states, “I’ve stripped away everything,” she means that she has discarded all trivial irrelevancies, but she also is “exposed,” like Brock, and there is little left, except obsessive memories destroyed by reality. In fact, as Bert Cardullo has pointed out, in Plenty David Hare reverses the usual consolations of darkness and light. Susan’s most exhilarating experience occurs in darkness, which makes her failure in the dark Blackpool hotel room even more ironic. Sunlight only reveals reality and her growing disillusionment and despair.

Similarly, Hare uses what Cardullo terms anticipatory darkness and sound to introduce all but two of the scenes; the darkness and sound become the promise that is destroyed when the house lights go up....

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Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

England in 1978
England is one of the countries that comprise the United Kingdom along with Scotland, Wales, and Northern...

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Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

Plenty takes place in the European countries of England, France, and Belgium. The twelve scenes occur in seven...

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Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

1940s: During World War II, Great Britain envisions that it will be able to provide for the development of its colonies abroad. On...

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Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Research the role of women in World War II. What did women contribute to resisting German dictator Adolf Hitler's forces in Europe or more...

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Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

Plenty, was made into a film by Twentieth Century-Fox in 1985. Hare wrote the script and Fred Schepisi directed the film. The drama...

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What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

Paris by Night is another of Hare's works. It was first published in 1988, and was written expressly for film. The story is about an...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Craig, Sandy, Editor Dreams and Deconstructwns Alternative Theatre in Britain, Amber Lane Press, 1980.


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(Great Characters in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Brustein, Robert. “Theatre: Plenty.” The New Republic, November 29, 1982, 24.

Bull, John. New British Political Dramatists. London: Macmillan, 1983.

Cardullo, Bert. “Hare’s Plenty.” Explicator 93, no. 2 (1985): 62-63.

Donesky, Finlay. David Hare: Moral and Historical Perspectives. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Gale, Steven H. “David Hare’s Plenty.” In Drama, Sex and Politics, edited by James Redmond. Cambridge, England: Cambridge...

(The entire section is 91 words.)