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The 101 Greatest Plays: From Antiquity to the Present Paperback – February 14, 2017
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 12.7 ounces
- Paperback : 464 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1783350318
- ISBN-13 : 978-1783350315
- Product Dimensions : 5 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
- Publisher : Guardian Faber Publishing; First Trade Paper Edition (February 14, 2017)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #771,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Of course, you can’t please all people all the time. But I too would have liked to see Cat on a Hot Tin, Death of a Salesman and (most definitely) Shakespeare’s King Lear included, which is probably a lot of people’s best loved Shakespearian story.
How could this possibly be left out? Well, I suppose you must draw the line somewhere and this is what Billington has done, which to my mind is a shame. Like most reviewers I don’t complain about the inclusions. They offer new discoveries—plays that I’d hardly heard of before that are now firmly in my consciousness. I now have some awareness that such plays exist and, after reading Billington’s short exposition on them, will no doubt seek some of them out in the future. The issue is, in fact, that these inclusions have excluded other plays (King Lear, Tin Roof, Salesman) that deserve to have been included. Still, a personal choice is exactly that: a personal choice.
For example, if I had my way, I would have included Arnold Ridley’s The Ghost Train, George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman and John Bull’s Other Island. I would have also included Terence Rattigan’s After the Dance. Perhaps even the neglected play by Granville-Barker: Secret Life. Now how many readers would have agreed with that?
All in all, this is a very good book. Billington’s write-ups about each play are very well done, with lots of fascinating insights, all backed up with interesting quotations and his extensive knowledge from being a critic. Billington has chosen his plays very well. I suppose what I would have really liked is a selection of perhaps 201 plays that would have included many of the plays that reviewers felt shouldn’t have been left out, myself included.
I think Billington’s book makes a good companion to David Lodge’s The Art of Fiction. Lodge takes 50 novels and discusses them in terms of themes and literary devices, such as Suspense, Point of View, Stream of Consciousness, Time-Shift, Repetition and Magic Realist (to name only six). But, though a different type of book than Billington’s (i.e., one discusses novels, the other plays), both authors write clearly and put their views across very well, so that the average person (like me) can develop an understanding of this treasure trove of literature, whether it be in the form of novels or plays.
In short: I fully recommend Michael Billington’s 101 Greatest Plays. It would be difficult to think of a better book to familiarise people with many (if not all) of the plays that have dominated the theatrical world. Four stars because King Lear (my all-time favourite play) was not included. I hope you find my review helpful.