Play-Making - A Handbook For Playwrights And Would-Be Playwrights
A Manual of Craftsmanship in Creating Plays
CHAPTER I_ INTRODUCTORY
CHAPTER II THE CHOICE OF A THEME
CHAPTER III DRAMATIC AND UNDRAMATIC
CHAPTER IV THE ROUTINE OF COMPOSITION
CHAPTER V DRAMATIS PERSONAE
CHAPTER VI_ THE POINT OF ATTACK: SHAKESPEARE AND IBSEN
CHAPTER VII EXPOSITION: ITS END AND ITS MEANS
CHAPTER VIII THE FIRST ACT
CHAPTER IX "CURIOSITY" AND "INTEREST"
CHAPTER X_ FORESHADOWING, NOT FORESTALLING
CHAPTER XI TENSION AND ITS SUSPENSION
CHAPTER XII PREPARATION: THE FINGER-POST
CHAPTER XIII THE OBLIGATORY SCENE
CHAPTER XIV THE PERIPETY
CHAPTER XV PROBABILITY, CHANCE AND COINCIDENCE
CHAPTER XVI_ LOGIC
CHAPTER XVII KEEPING A SECRET
CHAPTER XVIII CLIMAX AND ANTICLIMAX
CHAPTER XIX CONVERSION
CHAPTER XX_ BLIND-ALLEY THEMES--AND OTHERS
CHAPTER XXI THE FULL CLOSE
CHAPTER XXII CHARACTER AND PSYCHOLOGY
CHAPTER XXIII DIALOGUE AND DETAILS
There are no rules for writing a play. It is easy, indeed, to lay down negative recommendations--to instruct the beginner how not to do it. But most of these "don'ts" are rather obvious; and those which are not obvious are apt to be questionable.
It is certain, for instance, that if you want your play to be acted, anywhere else than in China, you must not plan it in sixteen acts of an hour apiece; but where is the tyro who needs a text-book to tell him that? On the other hand, most theorists of to-day would make it an axiom that you must not let your characters narrate their circumstances, or expound their motives, in speeches
addressed, either directly to the audience, or ostensibly to their solitary selves.
But when we remember that, of all dramatic openings, there is none finer than that which shows Richard Plantagenet limping down the empty stage to say--
"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried"--
we feel that the axiom requires large qualifications. There are no absolute rules, in fact, except such as are dictated by the plainest common sense. Aristotle himself did not so much dogmatize as analyse, classify, and generalize from, the practices of the Attic dramatists.
He said, "you had better" rather than "you must." It was Horace, in an age
of deep dramatic decadence, who re-stated the pseudo-Aristotelian
formulas of the Alexandrians as though they were unassailable dogmas
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