Jones and Pinero.—The work of Henry Arthur Jones and Sir Arthur Wing Pinero marks the advance of the English drama from artificiality and narrowness of scope toward a wider, closer relation to life. Henry Arthur Jones, both a playwright and a critic, was born in Grandborough, Buckinghamshire, in 1851. Contemporary English life is the subject of his numerous plays. The Manoeuvers of Jane (1898) and Mrs. Dane’s Defence (1900), are among his best works.
[Illustration: HENRY ARTHUR JONES.]
Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, born in 1855 in London, began his career as an actor.
[Illustration: ARTHUR WING PINERO.]
His real ambition, however, was to write for the stage. More than forty works, including farces, comedies of sentiment, and serious dramas of English life, attest his zeal as a dramatist. Among his most successful farces are The Magistrate (1885), The School Mistress (1886), and The Amazons (1893). Clever invention of absurd situations and success in starting infectious laughter are the prime qualities of these plays.
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1893) is by most critics considered Pinero’s masterpiece. The failure of a character to regain respectability once forfeited supplies the nucleus for the dramatic situations. Excellent in craftsmanship as it is disagreeable in theme, this play contains no superfluous word to retard the action or mar the technical economy. Adolphus William Ward says: “With The Second Mrs. Tanqueray the English acted drama ceased to be a merely insular product, and took rank in the literature of Europe. Here was a play which, whatever its faults, was ...an epoch-marking play.”
One great service of Pinero and Jones to the twentieth-century drama has been excellent craftsmanship. Their technical skill may be specifically noted in the naturalness of the dialogues, in the movement of the characters about the stage, in the performance of some acts apparently trivial but really significant, and in the substitution of devices to take the place of the old soliloquies and “asides.” Of the two, Pinero is the better craftsman, since Jones, in his endeavor to paint a moral, sometimes weakens his dramatic effect.
George Bernard Shaw.—Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1856. He was willful and took “refuge in idleness” at school. His education consisted mainly in studying music with his talented mother, in haunting picture galleries, and in wide reading. At the age of twenty, he went to London and began his literary career. He was at various times a journalist, a critic of art, music, and the drama, a lecturer, a novelist, and a playwright. Shaw describes himself as a man “up to the chin in the life of his times.” He is a vegetarian, an anti-vivisectionist, an advocate for woman’s suffrage, and a socialist.
[Illustration: GEORGE BERNARD SHAW.]