on 3 March 2012
Eric Bentley's book The Life of the Drama (Atheneum: New York, 1964) is an insightful and beautifully written explanation of how drama works. He explains in his Acknowledgements that this tome grew out of his experience as a professional drama critic, a series of lectures that he delivered at Harvard University, and his own rather mixed experiences in the world of professional entertainment which included valuable lessons in How Not To Do It. Eric Bentley sees a play as "a river of feeling". The main characteristic of The Life of the Drama is that Bentley's observations have been distilled over time. His ideas on the subject of farce, for example, are carefully constructed and clear and I have also found his thoughts on the treatment of despair in the theatre very intellectually stimulating. He says a number of important things about drama and, for this reader, engaging with his thoughts has been a privilege and a very helpful experience.