British Drama of 20th century


Traditionally, British drama was divided into limited genre like comedy and tragedy. Even in Elizabethan age only tragic comedy added but with the revolution in the theatre in modern period new forms of drama like dark comedy, drama of cruelty, comedy of menace, absurd drama and meta- theatre emerged.

20th century British drama was supposed to started in Dublin, Ireland with the foundation of Irish Literary Theater by William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory and J.M Synge. They started Irish Literary Theater to provide specifically Celtic and Irish venue works that stage deeply based on emotions of Ireland.

The 20th century drama was merely based on modern writer’s creativeness, innovation and experimentation of the growth and crisis of civilization. The writers of this period were highly promising and creative, they made a huge impact through their innovative ideas, they add more imaginative flavors to the 20th century of British drama. The key factor of this period is that the audience were more reliable, their taste has changed now, they like more realistic topics. Also, the liberating and advance media technology brought change to open and wide frame of work from closed drama.

Establishment of Theatres:

The new style of acting emerges in this period, it helps in establishing more new theatres and acting schools. The first foundation `Irish Literary theatre` was established by W.B. Yeats with two fellow writers in (Dublin), 1903 also known as Abbey Theatre, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, (London), Gaity theater (Manchester), People’s theatre etc. are established in this period.

Trends and Topics:

Emergence of new young dramatists not only brought creative ideas, but  they work on different topics like; drama of non- communication, neo- realist drama, kitchen sink drama, drama of cruelty etc.  Therefore, the audience became more serious as these topic helps to grow their mind.

Topics like; Realism and myth by Sigmund Freud, which deals with truths that are widespread amongst all humans, Poetic realism by John Millington, W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, which deals with the myth that surrogate for real life in order to allow the audience to live the unpleasant plot without completely connecting to it, Political theater and war, based on how a social or political orders uses its power to represent others coercively, political form of play also deals with different types of group that are stereotype for example; women, gay, lesbian, ethnic and racial group. Hence all these topics started in the beginning of 20th century.

Elizabethan Age was more sensational age, the topic of drama of this age was based on extreme cruelty, odious death, pitiful murder etc. This period`s play dealt with subject like; odd shape, rape, violence and murder, sodomy etc.

While, the modern age drama richly varied of realism, latest trending topics, practical matters like; Avant Garde Theater, political, social, and economical etc. Each and every dramatist brought their new individual approach to 20th century drama.

Popular Playwrights of 20th century:

The popular writers who brought major change in this period were;

J.M Berrie- His great act marked by creative humors, tender pathos and fantasy. His most original and characteristic theatre is the `Admirable Chrichton`.

Samuel Becket- He is popularly known as the playwright of the theatre of an absurd, most famous work is Waiting for Godot, End Game, Happy Days etc.

W.B. Yeats- He started an `Irish Literary theatre`, some of his well- known plays are; The Countess Cathelene, The Land of Hearts Desire and The Shadowing Waters etc.

Apart from the above mention playwrights; Eugene O` Neil, Harold Printer, Arnold Wesker, John Osborne, Edward Bond and Caryl Churchill, Sean O` Casey are some major writers who made huge impact in 20th century British drama.


The 20th century drama was so popular because of its lighting effect, stage setting, architecture etc. However, the 20th century drama definitely brought a major change in the history of English dramas, this period marked as the period of achievement. Also, the period was emerged as challenging era of the 20th century. This century`s drama was marked with innovation and experimentation like; Surrealism, expressionism, Aestheticism and epic theater marked in this period.

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