Harley Granville-Barker : as a Dramatist

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      Harley Granville-Barker (1877-1946) was born in London and was on the stage by the age of thirteen. He was associated with the Stage Society (founded 1898) as actor, producer, and manager, and was responsible for introducing to the public the work of Shaw and Galsworthy. He was involved in other theatrical ventures at the Royal Court Theatre (1904-1907) and at the Savoy Theatre (1912-1914). In spite of the high quality of his productions, both ventures failed. About the time of the First World War he was working in England and America, and he established himself as one of the great producers of his age.

Granville-Barker's few plays are of considerable significance in the theatrical history of our period. He carried the pursuit of realism and naturalism further than any of his predecessors, and his plays come closer to ordinary day-to-day existence, with the futility of which he is much concerned.
Harley Granville-Barker

      He was also a Shakespearian critic of consider able standing. By virtue of his professional experience he was able to view the plays in a light totally different from that of the academic critics, and his Prefaces, which bring the discussion' of Shakespeare out of the study and back to the boards, are major landmarks in the history of twentieth-century Shakespeare criticism. They are as follows: Series I (1927); Series II (1930); Series III - Hamlet (1936); Series IV - Othello (1945); Series V - Coriolanus (1949).

      Granville-Barker's few plays are of considerable significance in the theatrical history of our period. He carried the pursuit of realism and naturalism further than any of his predecessors, and his plays come closer to ordinary day-to-day existence, with the futility of which he is much concerned. His plays are discussions of contemporary problems, and his themes include the marriage conventions, the inheritance of tainted money, sex, and the position of women. Heating sentimentality in any form, he is essentially intellectual in his treatment and lacks the sympathetic warmth of the more popular Galsworthy.

      Granville-Barker's tone is generally serious and often heavy, and some of his plays  penetrating readers and were never produced. His concer with his theme, and his fearless attempts to pose his problem fairly and squarely before the minds of his audience without prejudging the issue, often lead to a lack of incident and a surprising neglect of theatrical considerations. His greatest merits as a dramatist are found in his character studies and extremely natural dialogue. His most important plays are The Marrying of Ann Leete (1899), The Voysey Inheritance (1905), Waste (1907), The Madras House (1910), The Secret Life (1923).

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