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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Shakesepare play not written by Shakespeare, 4 Feb 2004
This review is from: The Lady's Not for Burning (Paperback)
My first introduction to this play was catching a production starring Richard Chamberlain on PBS many years ago. It was literate, sophisticated and witty and I fell in love with it immediate. Since then I have always talked about "The Lady's Not For Burning" as the best Shakespeare play not written by Shakespeare. Why? First, because it makes people stop and pay attention to what I am saying. Second, because if they actually read the play they are going to be forced to agree you are pretty near the mark. Christopher Fry is not only a poet, but also a wit, to whom words are beautiful playthings.
First produced in 1948, "The Lady's Not for Burning" is set in a room in the house of Hebble Tyson, Mayor of the small market-town of Cool Clary, more or less or exactly in the year 1400. The story involves Thomas Mendip, a discharged soldier, and Jennet Jordemayne, daughter of a recently deceased alchemist. The disappearance of Matthew Skips has the town in an uproar and although Thomas claims credit for the deep and demands to be hung, Jennet is accused of witchcraft and may well be burned at the stake. He wants to die, but no one will kill him, while her life is in danger and she wants to live. Of course, the pair will fall in love, in dialogue that represents the most dazzling verbal invention since, well, Shakespeare. Particularly enjoyable is Jennet's soliloquy on how her father managed to turn lead into gold.
"The Lady's Not For Burning" is a play that has actually improved over the years because Christopher Fry never stopped tinkering with it. This particular version, "The Second Edition," contains revisions for productions in 1971 (directed by the author) and 1972. If you view the 1995 Yorkshire Television production with Kenneth Branagh and Cherie Lunghi, you will notice the improvement of the second act scene between Thomas and Jennet. I have enjoyed this play in all its myriad manifestations and when I finally had an opportunity to direct any play that I might choose, Christopher Fry's masterpiece was my immediate choice. Share this play with everyone you know who loves intelligent, well-written drama
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