Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Terence Rattigan emerged as a writer of comedy and light plays in Britain during the 1930’s. His most significant play during the pre-World War II era was French Without Tears (pr. 1936, pb. 1937). During World War II, Rattigan wrote a series of pro-British plays in support of the war effort: Love in Idleness (pr. 1944, pb. 1945) and Flare Path (pr., pb. 1942) were representative of his works during the early 1940’s. As the war closed, Rattigan became interested in writing a screen script based on the Archer-Shee case. The result was The Winslow Boy, which paved the way for Rattigan’s acceptance as a serious playwright.

The Winslow Boy captured the interests of critics and the public and proved to be a turning point in Rattigan’s career: It opened to acclaim in both London and New York. In 1948 a film adaptation of The Winslow Boy was produced. In 1999, playwright David Mamet produced another film version of The Winslow Boy starring Nigel Hawthorne, Jeremy Northam, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Gemma Jones. While some critics charged Rattigan with pandering to “middle-class standards,” others applauded his craftsmanship as a master of the “problem play.” In the last three decades of his life, Rattigan wrote a series of acclaimed plays: Playbill: The Browning Version and Harlequinade (pr. 1948, pb. 1949), Separate Tables: Table by the Window and Table Number Seven (pr. 1954, pb. 1955), Ross (pr., pb. 1960), A Bequest to the Nation (pr., pb. 1970), In Praise of Love (pb. 1973, pr. 1974), and Cause Célèbre (pr. 1977, pb. 1978).