Thursday, February 03, 2005 +

“The Playwright as Thinker”

The phrase “the playwright as thinker” was suggested to me in 1945 by my friend Jacques Barzun as a possible replacement to my own title for the book (used by my British publisher), The Modern Theatre. Jacques Barzun saw that I was trying to raise the intellectual status of dramatic art at a time when drama critics said it deserved no intellectual status at all, being an entirely un-intellectual thing with anti-intellectuals as its audience. Amidst the polemics that ensued it was overlooked that when I interpreted the two playwrights who more than any others have been called cerebral—Shaw and Pirandello—my thesis was that they were no less impassioned than Ibsen or Strindberg.
—Eric Bentley, Preface to Thinking about the Playwright: Comments from Four Decades (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1987)

Bentley’s “acknowledgements” to the book begins, “Perhaps the greatest psychic need is to feel needed.”