William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens

The Life of Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare My rating: 4 of 5 stars [For Shakespeare's birth/death day. Also a good day to revisit my essay on Shakespeare's detractors and what they miss about the meaning and worth of his nihilism.] When I was reading this—a late quasi-tragedy of about the same period as … Continue reading William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens

Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard My rating: 4 of 5 stars Find me a dead cloud and a sharp piece of science I want to see the skeleton of weather And let me map all maps we have mistaken for the world And learn by heart the timetable of dice And in our clutching, self-invented steps … Continue reading Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

August Wilson, Gem of the Ocean

Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson My rating: 5 of 5 stars It is perhaps an open question as to the order in which one should read August Wilson’s plays—the chronological order of the Century Cycle, Wilson’s ten-play decade-by-decade portrayal of the African-American experience in the twentieth century, moving from Gem of the Ocean … Continue reading August Wilson, Gem of the Ocean

T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot My rating: 5 of 5 stars I should not like to close without attempting to set before you, though only in dim outline, the ideal towards which poetic drama should strive. It is an unattainable ideal: and that is why it interests me, for it provides an incentive … Continue reading T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

Sophocles, The Complete Plays

The Complete Plays by Sophocles My rating: 5 of 5 stars It is never a bad time to get right with the classics. After having read Oedipus and Antigone several times in multiple translations (Jebb, Arnott, Fagles) over the years, I decided to read all of Sophocles’s extant plays—a mere seven out of 123 (civilization … Continue reading Sophocles, The Complete Plays

William Shakespeare, Cymbeline

The Tragedy of Cymbeline by William Shakespeare My rating: 4 of 5 stars It seems obligatory when discussing Shakespeare’s late romance Cymbeline to begin with Samuel Johnson’s dismissal of it: This play has many just sentiments, some natural dialogues, and some pleasing scenes, but they are obtained at the expense of much incongruity. To remark … Continue reading William Shakespeare, Cymbeline

Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman

Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka My rating: 5 of 5 stars As good a modern play as any I am familiar with. Soyinka brilliantly seizes on a literary possibility granted him by a painful history: he synthesizes the festal form of traditional Yoruba drama—which he explains at length in an essay included … Continue reading Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman

Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams My rating: 4 of 5 stars While I would have liked The Glass Menagerie a lot better when I was 14—is "YA experimental theater" a genre?—two things save it from being adolescent kitsch: the character Amanda Wingfield and what Tom, the narrator, calls "the social background of the play." … Continue reading Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

William Shakespeare, 1 Henry IV

Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare My rating: 5 of 5 stars In the excerpt from The Plays of William Shakespeare collected in this volume, Dr. Johnson asserts that, "None of Shakespeare's plays are more read than the First and Second Parts of Henry the Fourth. Perhaps no author has ever in two plays … Continue reading William Shakespeare, 1 Henry IV

Euripides, The Bacchae and Other Plays

The Bacchae and Other Plays by Euripides My rating: 5 of 5 stars I wanted to read The Bacchae because I had a sense that it had something to do with Dostoevsky's Demons, which I recently finished. It did, in the sense that both works tell the story of a city visited by Dionysian frenzy. In … Continue reading Euripides, The Bacchae and Other Plays