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About Twentieth-Century Drama

Scope of the Collection

Twentieth-Century Drama contains the essential collection of published plays from throughout the English-speaking world, covering the history of modern drama from the 1890s to the present day. The collection's contents range from canonical authors such as George Bernard Shaw, Langston Hughes, Sean O'Casey, NoŽl Coward, Eugene O'Neill, Harold Pinter, Neil Simon, Tom Stoppard and Thornton Wilder, to off-Broadway experimentation and South African township theatre.

No other electronic collection offers such diversity: Twentieth-Century Drama is a truly global collection, containing an extensive collection of play texts by over 300 principal authors from North America and Canada, Britain and Ireland, India, Africa, Australia and the Caribbean. The collection's breadth of content and powerful search options allow users to open up connections between classic plays such as Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan (1923), Thornton Wilder's Our Town (1938), August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984), David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow (1987), Harold Pinter's The Homecoming (1965) or Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa (1990) and less well-known texts drawn from the full range of modern theatrical traditions. Areas such as postcolonial writing, women's theatre, and community theatre are given full representation, and Naturalist, Expressionist and absurdist works appear alongside popular comedies, melodramas, farces and thrillers.

Key areas now covered by the collection include:

  • African American drama: from the Harlem Renaissance writers Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston to Black Arts plays such as Amiri Baraka's Dutchman (1964), Lonne Elder III's Ceremonies in Old Men (1969) and Ed Bullins's The Electronic Nigger (1968), to August Wilson's renowned cycle of plays which set out to encompass 'the black experience of the 20th century' decade by decade. The collection also includes the first play by a black playwright to appear on Broadway, Willis Richardson's The Chip Woman's Fortune (1923), the complete works of Amiri Baraka, black women playwrights such as Alice Childress and P.J. Gibson, and two plays by James Baldwin: The Amen Corner (1964) and Blues for Mister Charlie (1965). In addition, the collection contains Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones (1920), whose title role is widely considered the first important role for a black performer in mainstream American theatre – the 1925 revival launched the career of Paul Robeson.
  • Additional American ethnic theatre traditions: the collection includes works produced by such pioneering groups as Hanay Geiogamah's American Indian Theatre Ensemble, the East-West Players, the first contemporary Asian-American theatre company (e.g. Wakako Yamauchi's And the Soul Shall Dance, 1976), and Luis Valdez's bilingual theatre company El Teatro Campesino. Asian-American theatre is also represented by Philip Kan Gotanda, Ping Chong and Elizabeth Wong, and the collection includes two major Cuban-born playwrights in Maria Irene Fornes and Eduardo Machado and the Native American playwright William S. Yellow Robe.
  • Off-Broadway and regional alternative theatre from the US: the collection includes a wide selection of playwrights associated with alternative American theatrical traditions, such as Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart, 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winner) and Eduardo Machado (In the Eye of the Hurricane, 1991), who both wrote for the Actors Theatre of Louisville, one of the most important resident non-profit theatre companies, August Wilson (whose plays premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre), Wendy Wasserstein (Uncommon Women and Others, 1977 Obie-winner), Romulus Linney (Obie-winner with Tennessee, 1980), and Marsha Norman's Pulitzer Prize-winning 'Night, Mother (American Repertory Theatre, 1983).
  • Seminal 'Off-Off-Broadway' productions: Lee Breuer's works for the Mabou Mines company, including the Obie-winning Shaggy Dog Animation (1978), Maria Irene Fornes's Fefu and her Friends (Obie winner, 1977), Megan Terry's Approaching Simone (Obie winner, 1970), John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves (1971 Obie winner), and a number of plays originally performed at the Cafť La MaMa: Leonard Melfi's Birdbath (1965), Rochelle Owens's controversial Futz (1967 Obie-winner), Hanay Geiogamah's Body Indian (1972), and Ping Chong's After Sorrow (1997).
  • Popular successes from Broadway and the West End, from throughout the collection's historical range: Brandon Thomas's Charley's Aunt (1892), Arthur Wing Pinero's The Second Mrs Tanqueray (1893), Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), David Belasco's Madame Butterfly (1902), J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan (1904), Clare Beecher Kummer's Good Gracious, Annabelle (1916), Augustus Thomas's The Copperhead (1918), Clemence Dane's melodrama A Bill of Divorcement (1921), Frederick Lonsdale's farce On Approval (1927), R.C. Sherriff's Journey's End (1928), Noël Coward's Private Lives (1930), Robert E. Sherwood's Idiot's Delight (1936), Thornton Wilder's Our Town (1938), Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables (1954), Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden (1955), Murray Schisgal's Luv (1964), James Goldman's The Lion in Winter (1966), Peter Nichols's A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1967), Bernard Pomerance's The Elephant Man (1979), David Edgar's adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby (1980), August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984), John Godber's Happy Families (1991).
  • Women playwrights from throughout the century and across the globe, including Elizabeth Robins, Zoë Akins, Rachel Crothers, Clare Beecher Kummer, Susan Glaspell, Edna Ferber, Edna St Vincent Millay, Lady Augusta Gregory, Zora Neale Hurston, Marita Bonner, Jane Bowles, Clemence Dane, Enid Bagnold, Megan Terry, Rochelle Owens, Michelene Wandor, Margaretta D'Arcy, Nell Dunn, Susan Yankowitz, Marsha Norman, Beth Henley, Sharon Pollock, Ama Ata Aidoo, Maha'sveta Debi, Tess Onwueme, Wendy Wasserstein, Christina Reid, Emily Mann, Reza de Wet, Gertrude Stein, Sophie Treadwell, Ntozake Shange, Elizabeth Wong and Wakako Yamauchi.
  • The complete works of Bernard Shaw, including such central works of modern European theatre as Pygmalion (1913), Heartbreak House (1919) and Saint Joan (1923). The texts used are those of the authorized Penguin edition, and include all of Shaw's prefaces and supplementary essays, including key texts such as 'The Revolutionist's Handbook' and 'Maxims for Revolutionists' (published with the 1905 play Man and Superman). These plays appear by permission of the Shaw estate, and have never before been licensed for electronic publication.
  • Irish Theatre: from the complete works of Wilde, Shaw, Yeats, Lady Gregory, Synge and O'Casey to Thomas Kilroy's 2004 play about Oscar Wilde and 'Bosie' Douglas, My Scandalous Life. Readers can trace the history of the Irish National Theatre, from W.B. Yeats's On Baile's Strand and Augusta Gregory's Spreading the News (the two plays that opened the Abbey Theatre in 1904), co-founder J.M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World (1907) and Deirdre of the Sorrows (1910), and Lady Gregory's translation of Douglas Hyde's Gaelic play The Twisting of the Rope (1902), through to Sean O'Casey's Dublin Trilogy, produced at the Abbey Theatre in 1923–26 and Brian Friel's essential plays depicting the state of Ireland and its people such as Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), Translations (1980) and The Freedom of the City (1973). The collection also includes Denis Johnston, the playwright who established the Dublin's Gate Theatre's trademark Expressionist style with The Old Lady Says 'No!' (1929) and The Moon in the Yellow River (1931).
  • The '1956 revolution' at London's Royal Court Theatre: the collection contains John Osborne's epoch-making Look Back in Anger (1956) and The Entertainer (1957), John Arden's anti-militarist Sergeant Musgrave's Dance (1959) and Arnold Wesker's influential trilogy Chicken Soup with Barley (1958), Roots (1959) and I'm Talking About Jerusalem (1960).
  • The Royal Court's first era of avant-garde prominence: J.E. Vedrenne and Harley Granville Barker's legendary 1904–07 repertory seasons, in which the influence of European Naturalism was seen in productions of plays such as Shaw's Major Barbara and Man and Superman (both 1905), John Galsworthy's The Silver Box (1906) and Granville Barker's own The Voysey Inheritance (1905).
  • Political plays from throughout the century: Elizabeth Robins's suffragist play Votes for Women (1907); Miles Malleson's banned anti-First World War plays, and his early 'docudrama' about the Tolpuddle Martyrs (Six Men of Dorset, 1934); later anti-war plays such as Allan Monkhouse's The Conquering Hero (1924) and Irwin Shaw's Bury the Dead (1936); early texts from the British radical tradition, such as Joe Corrie's community theatre texts (In Time O' Strife, 1927) and Montagu Slater's miners' strike drama New Way Wins: the play from Stay Down, Miner (1937); Paul Green's plays for New York's Group Theater (The House of Connelly, 1931; Johnny Johnson, 1936); Luis Valdez's agitprop works such as Las dos Caras del patroncito (The Two Faces of the Boss, 1965), written for his bilingual theatre company El Teatro Campesino; and works on the dangers of fascism and neo-fascism, such as David Edgar's Destiny (1976) and C.P. Taylor's Good (1981).
  • Historical dramas: from John Drinkwater's Abraham Lincoln (1918), Paul Green's historical pageant The Lost Colony (1939) and Robert Lowell's trilogy Old Glory (1964; adapted from stories by Melville and Hawthorne), Gertrude Stein's Byron: A Play (1949) and Lucretia Borgia (1968) and James Goldman's The Lion in Winter (1966) to contemporary works such as Sharon Pollock's Walsh (1973), which deals with Chief Sitting Bull's expulsion from Canada, and Blood Relations (1980), about the Lizzie Borden murders, Stephen Sewell's Traitors (1979), set in the Stalinist Terror, and Romulus Linney's 2 (1990), set at the Nuremberg trials.
  • Alternative and community theatre from Britain and Ireland: Heathcote Williams's seminal AC/DC (performed at the Royal Court's Theatre Upstairs, 1970); John Arden and Margaretta D'Arcy's epic 6-part community theatre work The Non-Stop Connolly Show (1975); John McGrath's The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil (written for the 7:84 Theatre Company, 1973); the plays of D.H. Lawrence, largely unperformed until Peter Gill's Royal Court performances such as The Merry-Go-Round (1973); Michelene Wandor's Care and Control (written for Gay Sweatshop in 1977); Snoo Wilson's The Number of the Beast (Bush Theatre, 1982); Nell Dunn's Theatre Workshop production Steaming (1981).
  • Global and postcolonial theatre in English. The collection includes major postcolonial texts such as the Nobel Prize-winner Derek Walcott's Ti-Jean and His Brothers (1957), Dream on Monkey Mountain (1967) and the Haitian Trilogy, and Ngugi wa Thiongo's The Black Hermit (1968), plus number of plays that were central to the development of national dramatic traditions, such as Rabindranath Tagore's Mukta-dhara (1922), Ray Lawler's Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1956), Efua Theodora Sutherland's Edufa (1967) and The Marriage of Anansewa (1975) and Errol Hill's Trinidian calypso musical Man Better Man (1960). More recent works that give a contemporary perspective on traditional folk materials include Jack Davis's Aboriginal trilogy starting with The Dreamers (1981), Maha'sveta Debi's Mother of 1084 (1999), Habiba Tanavira's Charandas Chor (1982) and Tess Onwueme's Shakara: Dance-Hall Queen (2000).
  • Innovative re-readings of the classics: Gertrude Stein's experimental interpretation of the Faustus myth in Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights (1938),Tony Harrison's versions of The Oresteia (1981) and The Misanthrope (1973), Ola Rotimi's The Gods Are Not to Blame (1971), based on Oedipus Rex, Biyi Bandele's dramatisation of Aphra Behn's Oroonoko (1999), and adaptations of Ibsen by writers as diverse as Paul Green, John Osborne, C.P. Taylor and Thomas Kilroy.

The collection also includes plays by important literary authors of the period, including Joseph Conrad's adaptation of his novel The Secret Agent (1922), James Elroy Flecker's popular success Hassan (1923), and poetic dramas such as Edna St Vincent Millay's Aria Da Capo (1924) and Thomas Hardy's The Dynasts (1904–08). The text of Oscar Wilde's Salome is included in both English and French versions; the former includes the original illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley.

Subject and Monologue Indexing

Subject indexing: all plays are indexed by subject, using Library of Congress subject headings to provide a consistent taxonomic standard. From the Advanced Search screen, use the Subject search field to restrict searches to plays with specified topical subjects or settings. Subject indexing covers:

  • Geographical locations: including London, Paris, Vienna, New York City, the Appalachian Mountains, Hawaii, Sicily, Australia, New Delhi, Yorkshire and Nigeria
  • Historical settings: such as the 19th Century, World War I, World War II, the American Civil War, the Easter Rising or the Vietnam War
  • Historical figures: find plays that feature the Brontë sisters, Lord Byron, Rosa Luxemburg, Sigmund Freud, George Washington, Hermann Goering, Marilyn Monroe, Malcolm X, Sitting Bull, William Shakespeare, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Jack the Ripper, Alexander the Great or Aleister Crowley
  • Topical subjects: from Disability, Education, Sexual Politics, Marriage, Strikes, and the African-American Experience to Baseball, Newspapers, Turkish Baths and Strip-Tease

Monologue Indexing: the Find Monologues search screen allows users to search for long speeches (for use as audition pieces, or for close study), by gender of speaker, playwright, date and other limiters. Monologues have been selected purely by length, with no editorial intervention, to allow users to make their own choice from the full range of texts.

Criteria for Selection of Texts and Editions

Authors and plays have been selected by an academic advisory board, largely according to their current profile in both teaching and research at universities, colleges and schools. For major authors, we have aimed to include each writer's complete dramatic works; for less prominent authors, a representative sample has been selected; in some cases, a single play by a given author has been included owing to its particular significance. While the emphasis has been on selecting authors who feature prominently in both the academic canon and the current theatrical repertoire, we have also aimed to include plays that have suffered neglect owing to lack of availability in print, and to others by authors of historical importance.

Selection has largely been limited to works originally written in English; the exceptions to this are:

  • Translations of non-English-language works have been included where these form part of a playwright's main oeuvre: examples include W.B. Yeats's Sophocles' King Oedipus (1928) and John Osborne's translation of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1989).
  • For multilingual countries that fall within the scope of the collection we have included works written in indigenous languages that have also been performed and published in English: for example, the works of Indian writers Maha'sveta Debi, Girish Karnad, Vijay Tendulkar and others, and Lady Augusta Gregory's translation of Douglas Hyde's Gaelic drama Casadh an tSúgáin (The Twisting of the Rope, 1902).
  • The original French language version of Oscar Wilde's Salomé has been included alongside Lord Alfred Douglas's translation.

Generally, a single edition of each play has been included; for exceptional cases, we have select variant versions of the same play on the advice of our editorial board (an example is the plays of Paul Green). We have limited the source texts to published play texts in book form. Authoritative collected editions of an author's dramatic works have been selected where available; where no such edition exists, we have selected either the first reliable edition of each play, or, as in the case of Thomas Hardy's The Dynasts, a later edition incorporating revisions by the author (in this case, the 1927 limited edition that contained Hardy's final revisions).

The text of Errol Hill's Man Better Man is based on the published text, but incorporates corrections made by the author and links to musical scores of the songs from the play; both were kindly provided by the author's widow, Grace Hope Hill. In the case of Harley Granville Barker, the 1909 texts of Waste and The Voysey Inheritance have been preferred to the later texts used in collected editions, owing to their historical interest.

Each text is reproduced in full, including any accompanying text by the author, plus relevant supplementary matter such as dramatis personae and any illustrations that are integral to the text. Other front and back matter may have been omitted. In all cases, the edition used is stated in full in the bibliographic details, along with details of what has been included or omitted from the printed volume.

Editorial Board

Trevor R. Griffiths is Visiting Professor in Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire, former Professor of Theatre Studies at London Metropolitan University, and has published widely on Renaissance and twentieth-century theatre. He was chair of Foco Novo Theatre Company, and is editor of the Nick Hern Books Drama Classics series, and of Theatre Notebook (the journal of the Society for Theatre Research). His most recent publication is The Theatre Guide (A&C Black, 2003).

Christopher Bigsby is Professor of American Studies at the University of East Anglia and Director of UEA's Arthur Miller Centre for American Studies. He is the author of numerous works on American theatre, including Confrontation and Commitment: A Study of Contemporary American Drama, 1959-1966 (MacGibbon & Kee, 1967), Albee (Oliver & Boyd, 1969), A Critical Introduction to Twentieth-Century American Drama (3 vols., Cambridge University Press, 1982–1985), David Mamet (Methuen, 1985), Contemporary American Playwrights (CUP, 1999), Modern American Drama, 1945–2000 (CUP, 2000) and Arthur Miller: A Critical Study (CUP, 2004). He is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller (CUP, 1997), The Cambridge Companion to David Mamet (CUP, 2004) and joint editor, with Don B. Wilmeth, of the award-winning Cambridge History of American Theatre (3 vols, CUP, 1998–2000). His novels include Hester (1994), Still Lives (1996) and Beautiful Dreamer (2002).

Ian Clarke was until recently Senior Lecturer and Director of Drama at Loughborough University, and is the author of Edwardian Drama: A Critical Study (Faber & Faber, 1989). He now works as a freelance writer and researcher. In addition to numerous essays on nineteenth-century and twentieth-century drama, theatre, and performance, he has also written on Dickens, Shakespeare, and popular culture, and has edited two volumes of critical essays on Shakespeare's plays.

David Krasner teaches in the Theater Studies, African American Studies and English Department at Yale University, teaching acting, directing, theatre history, and dramatic literature. He has worked as a professional actor and director. His first book, Resistance, Parody, and Double Consciousness in African American Theatre, 1895–1910 (St. Martin's Press, 1997), won the 1998 Errol Hill Award from the American Society for Theatre Research for the best book on African American Theatre and Performance. African-American Performance and Theater History: A Critical Reader (Oxford University Press, 2001), which he co-edited with Harry J. Elam, Jr., won the 2002 Errol Hill award. His other publications include A Beautiful Pageant: African American Theatre, Drama, and Performance in the Harlem Renaissance, 1910–1920 (Palgrave, 2002). He is the editor of A Companion to Twentieth-Century American Drama (Blackwell, 2004) and Method Acting Reconsidered: Theory, Practice, Future (St. Martin's Press, 2000). He is currently completing American Drama, 1945–2000: An Introduction (Blackwell), and co-editing Staging Philosophy: New Approaches to Theater and Performance (Michigan) with David Saltz.

Margaret Llewellyn-Jones is a former Principal Lecturer at London Metropolitan University, and is the author of Contemporary Irish Drama and Cultural Identity (Intellect, 2003). She has also edited Spectacle, Silence and Subversion: Women's Performance Language and Strategies (a special issue of Contemporary Theatre Review; Harwood, 1994), co-edited British and Irish Dramatists Since 1958: A Critical Handbook with Trevor R. Griffiths (Open University Press, 1993), and also co-edited Frames and Fictions on Television: The Politics of Identity Within Drama with Bruce Carson (Intellect, 2000).

Mary Luckhurst is Lecturer in Modern Drama at the University of York, and is also a playwright and director. Her research specialisms include post-war European drama, modern plays by British and Irish women, Brecht, acting theory, and dramaturgy and literary management. She has co-edited The Creative Writing Handbook (Palgrave, 1996), On Directing (Faber & Faber, 1999) and On Acting (Faber & Faber, 2001), and co-authored The Drama Handbook: A Guide to Reading Plays (Oxford University Press, 2002).

Brenda Murphy is Professor of English at the University of Connecticut and the author of numerous works on American drama, including American Realism and American Drama, 1880–1940 (Cambridge University Press, 1987), Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan: A Collaboration in the Theatre (CUP, 1992), Congressional Theatre: Dramatizing McCarthyism on Stage, Film, and Television (CUP, 1999) and O'Neill: Long Day's Journey into Night (CUP, 2001), the first full production history of O'Neill's play. She is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to American Women Playwrights (CUP, 1999) and, with Susan C.W. Abbotson, of Understanding Death of a Salesman (Greenwood Press, 1999). She is currently writing a study of the Provincetown Players.

Don B. Wilmeth is Asa Messer Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Emeritus Professor of Theatre and English at Brown University, Editor of the Cambridge Studies in American Theatre & Drama series, Editor of Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History, and the author of numerous works on American theatre. He is the joint editor, with Chris Bigsby, of the award-winning Cambridge History of American Theatre (3 vols, Cambridge University Press, 1998-2000) and, with Tice L. Miller, of the Cambridge Guide to American Theatre (CUP, rev. edn 1996).

Ralph Yarrow is Professor of Drama and Comparative Literature at the University of East Anglia. His teaching and research cover drama and literature from India, South Africa and Europe, including absurd theatre, feminist theatre, and theatre and social change. His publications include Improvisation in Drama (with A. Frost; Macmillan, 1990), Consciousness, Literature and Theatre: Theory and Beyond (with P. Malekin; Macmillan, 1997), Indian Theatre: Theatre of Origin, Theatre of Freedom, (Curzon, 2000), and Lecoq in Britain (co-editor; Harwood, 2001).


The majority of the plays contained in Twentieth-Century Drama are copyright works that have never before been licensed for electronic reproduction. In accordance with the high value of this content, the rights that have been granted by the rights holders have certain restrictions attached to them. For many copyright plays, users can only download smaller divisions of a work, such as an act or scene, and users wishing to print sections of a text must first confirm that they will not infringe conditions of fair usage. For selected plays, such as the works of Bernard Shaw and David Williamson, printing has been completely disabled; please note that printing has only been disabled for plays that are currently in print, and that we have included links to publishers' web sites to facilitate the purchasing of print copies.

All public domain texts, plus a number of copyright works, can be accessed without such restrictions, but users will notice that full-text links for many of the copyright texts will trigger the opening of a satellite window with restricted functionality for printing and saving of texts. Care has been taken to minimise the disruption to the user experience of Twentieth-Century Drama whilst ensuring that the requirements of our publishing partners are met.

Copyright plays cannot be performed without the permission of the author or author's agent. If you wish to perform a copyright text from the collection, please consult the Performing Rights Index to find contact details of the relevant rights holder.