Introduction: The English History Play in the Twentieth Century

  • Niloufer Harben


Although the history play is a most popular genre among English playwrights of this century very little research has been done in the field. In particular, because it is a large and difficult subject, critics have generally tended to shirk any attempt to define the scope and the limits of the genre. Such attempts at definition as have been made are mainly based on Elizabethan playwrights and practice, and very little work has been done along these lines in relation to the twentieth century. The term ‘history play’ has often been used rather loosely and in the twentieth century the existence of such a genre has not been clearly defined or sufficiently elucidated. Various preconceptions surround the term so that our understanding of its meaning is, at best, hazy. It therefore must be critically rewarding to examine it afresh, seeking to define more precisely the scope and limits of the genre.


Historical Fact Historical Issue Historical Figure Historical Truth Professional Historian 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3.
    Acton, The Cambridge Modern History: an Account of its Origin, Authorship and Production (Cambridge University Press, 1907) pp. 10–2.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See G. Clark in G. R. Potter (ed.), The New Cambridge Modern History, vol. 1 (Cambridge University Press, 1957) p. xxv.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    Cited in St. John Ervine, Bernard Shaw, His Life, Work and Friends (London: Constable, 1956) pp. 499–500.Google Scholar
  4. 17.
    E. H. Erikson, Young Man Luther (London: Faber & Faber, 1959) p. 34.Google Scholar
  5. 18.
    Theodore Rozdak, Where the Wasteland Ends: Politics and Transcendence in Post-industrial Society (London: Faber & Faber, 1972) pp. 133–4.Google Scholar
  6. 21.
    B. Croce, History as the Story of Liberty (London: Allen & Unwin, 1938) p. 19.Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    In James Walter McFarlane and Graham Orton (eds. and trans.), The Oxford Ibsen (London: Oxford University Press, 1963) p. 603.Google Scholar
  8. 24.
    See A. B. Harbage, As They Liked It: An Essay on Shakespeare and Morality (New York: Macmillan, 1947) pp. 123–4;Google Scholar
  9. L. Campbell, Shakespeare’s ‘Histories’: Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy (San Marino: Huntingdon Library, 1947) p. 17.Google Scholar
  10. 31.
    S. H. Butcher, Aristotle’s Theory of Poetry and Fine Art: With a Critical Text and Translation of ‘The Poetics’ (New York: Dover Publications, 1894) pp. 35–7.Google Scholar
  11. 32.
    Albert Feuillerat (ed.), The Prose Works of Sir Phillip Sidney, vol. 3 (Cambridge University Press, 1962) pp. 5–17.Google Scholar
  12. 36.
    Martin Meisel, Shaw and the Nineteenth-Century Theater (Princeton University Press, 1963) p. 353.Google Scholar
  13. 37.
    See E. Martin Browne, ‘The Two Beckets’, Drama, no. 60 (Spring 1961) p. 28.Google Scholar
  14. 38.
    Frederick Jackson Turner, ‘An American Definition of History’ in Fritz Stern (ed.), The Varieties of History: from Voltaire to the Present (Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Co., 1956) p. 201.Google Scholar
  15. 39.
    See W. H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Peru: with a Preliminary View of the Civilisation of the Incas (London: Allen & Unwin, 1847) p. ix.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Niloufer Harben 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Niloufer Harben
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MalayaMalaysia

Personalised recommendations