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Maxwell Anderson and his dramas

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A Thesis
Presented to
the Faculty of the Department of English
The University of Southern California
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts
Melba Frances Sanders
February 1941
UMI Number: EP44161
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UMI EP44161
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T h i s thesis, w r itte n by
............... MSKBA FRAHCES SANDSES..................
u n d e r the d i r e c t i o n o f
hev.. F a c u l t y C o m m it te e ,
a n d a p p r o v e d by a l l its m e m b e r s , has been
presented to a n d accepted by the C o u n c i l on
G r a d u a t e S t u d y a n d Research in p a r t i a l f u l f i l l ­
m e n t o f the re q u ire m e n ts f o r the degree o f
D ate.
F a c u lty Com m ittee
C hairm an
I N T R ODUCTION .......... . . . .. ................
L i f e ...................
. . . .
. . ...
P r i z e s ......................................
Playwright’s Producing company . . . . . . . . . . .
Manner of writing
Essays .
.......................... xiv
Interest in verse w r i t i n g ..........
FIELDS OF I N T E R E S T .............................
I n t r oduction..........
Intrigue and greed in government .............
Elizabeth the Queen
Night over T a o s .....................
Both Your H o u s e s ............................
Mary of S c o t l a n d .....................
The Masque of K i n g s ........................
Injustice in the c o u r t s .....................
The B u c c a n e e r .........................
Outside Looking I n .........................
Gods of the Lightning
Racial intolerance and religious bigotry . . .
The Wingless V i c t o r y .......................
War realistically pictured ...................
What Price Glory?
Valley Forge
Problems of m a r r i a g e ..............
White Desert
Saturday*s Children
t e - ......................................
The Star Wagon
Commercial greed
The Star Wagon
Philosophical questioning
. . . . .
High T o r .............................
MOTIVATING THEMES■ ..............................
Key Largo
The brutalizing effect of power upon the
Illegitimate p o w e r ..........................
The B u c c a n e e r ............................
First F l i g h t ..............
Outside Looking I n .......................
Legitimate power— ingovernmental intrigue •
Elizabeth the Queen
. . . . .
Mary of S c o t l a n d ...................
The Masque of K i n g s .....................
Night over Taos
Yalle.y F o r g e .......................
Both Your Houses
Legitimate power— in the courts . . . . . .
Gods of the L i g h t n i n g ...................
Winter s e t ...............................
False glorification of social institutions
Problems of marriage
White Desert
. . . . . . . .
Saturday* s C h i l d r e n ...................
G y p s y ............
. . . . . . .
The Wingless Y i c t o r y ...................
High T o r ................................
The Star Wagon
Philosophical questioning ...................
Racial and religious bigotry
Justification of life*s struggle
Key Largo . . . . . . .
DRAMATIC F O R M .....................
"The Essence of Tragedy'1 as Mr. Anderson sees
i t ............
Introductory explanation
The effect of the author’s philosophy on the
outcome of his p l a y s .....................
The prevailing weakness of Mr. Anderson*s
dramas . . .....................
Types of tragic conflict and recognition
scene as illustrated by Mr. Anderson’s
d r a m a s ..............
Tragic flaw in the h e r o .................
Elizabeth the Q u e e n ...................
Night over Taos
Valley Forge ............................
Mary of Scotland
Tragic flaw involved in the forces of cir­
. . . . . . . ..........
Gods of the L i g h t n i n g .................
The Wingless V i c t o r y ............
Philosophic conflict of the hero, tragi©
flaw i n v o l v e d .......................
The Masque of Kings
. . . . . . . .
Key L a r g o ...................
Analysis and illustration of other character­
istics of Mr. Anderson’s dramatic form . .
Symbolism in the c h a r a c t e r s .............
Characters who are m o u t h p i e c e s ...........
F a t a l i s m ..................................
The use of blank verse . .
................. 105
Mr. Anderson*s justification . ...........
The present writer's justification
. . . .
Examples of good versification . .
. . . . 107
. . . . . . .
The rebel escapes punishment ...............
What Price Glory?.
........................ 109
First Flight
.............................. 110
The Buccaneer
. . .......................... Ill
Saturday's Children
. . . .
Outside'Looking I n . . ......................112
The rebel fights the established order and
meets d e s t r u c t i o n .......................
Gods of the L i g h t n i n g ...................... 114
W i n t e r s e t ...................................115
Night over T a o s ............................ 116
Valley Forge .................
Elizabeth the Q , u e e n ........................ 117
Mary of S c o t l a n d ............................ 118
The Wingless V i c t o r y ........................ 119
The Masque of K i n g s ........................ 120
The disillusioned rebel triumphs through
idealistic evasion .......................
High T o r ....................................... 122
The Star W a g o n ........................... . .
The hero achieves success through vicarious
s a c r i f i c e .................
Key Largo
HIS PHILOSOPHY . . ...............................
Mr. Anderson’s philosophy as set forth in the
essay, "Whatever Hope We Have" . . . . . . .
The expression of his philosophy through his
p l a y s .........................
W i n t e r s e t ............
The Star W a g o n ................................ 133
Key Largo
C O N C L U S I O N ......................'.................. 139
B I B L I O G R A P H Y .....................
APPENDIX:The essay, "Yes, by the E t e r n a l . " .............. 158
Maxwell Anderson was born on December 15, 1888, at
Atlantic, Pennsylvania, where his father was pastor of the
village Baptist church.
His father, formerly a railroad fire­
man who became a minister of the gospel, frequently ehanged
pastorates, taking the family to various parishes in several
middle<~ western states.
Young Maxwell not only got his school­
ing "all over Pennsylvania," as he has remarked, but in many
of the schoolhouses of Ohio, Iowa, and North Dakota.
the time he was thirteen he worked every summer as a farm
He graduated from the University of North Dakota in
1911, having worked his way through in three years.
several years he taught school, first in North Dakota and then
in California.
Securing his M.A. at Stanford University in
1914, he taught English there for a year and then at Whittier
College, California.
His proclivity for telling the class
exactly what he thought brought him into disfavor in the last
He remarked one day before his students, after
reading a poem, "A Prayer before Battle," that had the enemy
offered the same argument for victory, the Lord of Heaven
might have been placed in an embarrassing predicament.
that remark he was summarily dismissed from the faculty.
Wishing to find a more profitable profession than
teaching, Mr. Anderson entered journalism, a profession he
followed for ten years.
For a time he served as a reporter
on the editorial staffs of both the San Francisco Chronicle
and the Call-Bulletin; he lost the latter job, it is said,
because he declared that "it was hardly reasonable to suppose
that Germany could pay the entire Allied War Debt," and in
1918-1919 such an opinion was considered questionably radical.
In 1919 because of the poems and articles he had contributed
to various magazines, he became a member of the editorial
staff of the New Republic» but his editorials again proved
too liberal and he was changed to the book reviewing depart­
Later he was on the staff of
its last year, and then went to the
the New York Globe during
Hew York World.
While a newspaper man, Mr. Anderson became interested
in drama.
His first venture, White Desert (1923}, because of
its heavy subject and poetic form, was a failure.
What Price
Glory? (192A), a collaboration with Laurence Stallings, was a
surprising success because its realistic, vigorous portrayal
of the World War and its clear-cut dramatic style met so
aptly the unconscious demand of the
1923 for that type of war play.
American audiences of
The two men
continued in col­
laboration in the writing of First Flight (1925) and The
Buccaneer (1926), but these plays were not dramatically suc­
Mr. Anderson’s next venture, Outside Looking In
(1925)* while written without collaboration was made from-
Jim Tully’s book, Beggars of Life.
The play, while not com­
mercially profitable because of its skimpy plot, is noteworthy
as the first indication of Mr. Anderson’s approaching relent­
less attacks on various social inequalities.
In Saturday*s
Children (1927) Mr. Anderson proved he could write a success­
ful play alone.
In some respects this ’’beautifully observed
study of middle-class life” was a let-down of the standards
its author had set for himself, but the simple and direct,
neighborly story succeeded most gratifyingly.
Gods of the
Lightning (1928), a collaboration with Harold Nickerson,
another newspaper man, was a disguised dramatic version of the
notorious Sacco Vanzetti case, and as such aroused a storm
both for and against.
Because of its bitter propaganda the
play did not run very long.
Gypsy (1929), the remaining play
of Mr. Anderson’s early period, because of its unpopular sub­
ject and uncertain endings, was dramatically a failure, though
important in its thought content.
The second period of Mr* Anderson’s writings brought
him successive dramatic triumphs.
Most of the plays of this
period were poetic historical dramas.
A few were social prob­
lem plays.
His apprenticeship in the theatre finally served, he
had arrived at a maturity wherein he had definite mean­
ing to his audiences. He had acquired . . . a distinc­
tive attitude. Ever the crusader, he found in social
injustice material for play after play of protest. Ever
the artist he now dared to become a poet dramatist,
couching his characteristic studies of personality in
verse, searching for fundamental truth and beauty be­
neath the surfaces of character and event.1
The outstanding dramatic successes of this period were
Elizabeth the Queen (1930), Both Your Houses (1933), Mary of
Scotland (1933), Valley Forge (1934), Winterset (1935), and
The Masque of Kings (1936).
Night over Taos (1932) and The
Wingless Victory (1936), while not dramatically popular be­
cause of the little-known historic subject matter of the
former, and because of the marked vehicle nature of the lat­
ter, are yet important as examples of Mr. Anderson's purposes.
The two plays, High Tor (1936) and The Star Wagon
(1937), lighter in mood and purpose, and indicative of a
trend toward poetic idealism, have not awakened popular re­
sponse to the degree called forth by the dramas of the pre­
ceding period.
By many they are considered transitional
plays to a new period.
Key Largo (1939), a poetic, philosophic
study recently played and published, may be the first of a new
It shows a new and more hopeful attitude than any of
Mr. Anderson's former serious dramas, though it is decidedly
In recognition of Mr. Anderson’s outstanding dramatic
achievement he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Both Your
Houses in 1933, and in 1935 a hew prize-awarding organization,
^ Carl Cramer, "Maxwell Anderson, Poet and Champion,"
Theatre Arts Monthly. 17:437-446, June, 1933.
the New York Drama Critic’s Circle, gave its first prize to
Winterset and its second prize in 1936 to High Tor.
The fol­
lowing is an excerpt from his acceptance speech:
A playwright must be insanely certain of himself and
also quite critical of all he does. He should be straight
Irish by descent., because the Irish write the best English
. . . .
He must function as a sincere high priest at the
inner altar of the theatre, and at the same time as the
beguiling prostitute in the porticos of his temple. He
must be born with a sensitive soul that is somehow ac­
companied by a complete incapacity to feel pain.
wise he will go mad, or die young and go to Hollywood.
But of all these qualifications, necessary as they may
seem, only one is central. The others are protective
armor or protective coloring; his priesthood, his belief
in what he is doing, his belief in the theatre and its
destiny, are the essentials to significance.
In the words of Eleanor Flexner, in her book, American
Playwrights, 1918-1938,
None of our leading playwrights, with the exception of
Eugene O ’Neill, has written as consistently without com­
promise as Maxwell Anderson, who has shaped public taste
rather than conformed to it, and has followed the dic­
tates of his own interests and artistic standards rather
than those of the box office.
This is fundamentally true, for out of the twenty plays
Mr. Anderson has written, only a very few actually met with
great financial rewards on Broadway, nor is any one of them
aimed at money making.
Of all his plays, Mr. Anderson says,
Mary of Scotland made the most money and High Tor gave him
the most personal satisfaction.
On several occasions he has
gone to Hollywood, frankly admitting that he had done so be­
cause he needed money, and working for moving pictures was
the quickest way of getting it.
At the completion of his con­
tracts he has quietly returned to New York and the theatre.
He, nevertheless, has had considerable to do in the writing
of such screen plays as All Quiet on the Western Front,
Washington Merry-Go-Round, So Red the Rose, and Rain.
moving picture versions of Elizabeth the Queen, Mary of
Scotland, and Winterset were outstanding successes.
Mr. Anderson has also published three radio dramas de­
voted to three different rebellions— Feast of the Ortolans
(the French Revolution), Second Overture (the Russian Revolu­
tion), and The Bastian Saint Gervais (the Spanish Rebellion).
During the year 1938-1939 Mr. Anderson was most concerned with
the activities of the newly- formed Playwrights* Producing
Together with Mr. Anderson, S. N. Behrman, Sidney
Howard, Elmer Rice, and Robert E. Sherwood formed the Play­
wrights* Company.
Mr. Anderson’s first venture into musical
comedy, Knickerbocker Holiday, was the second production of
the company, and one of the better items of the last theatri­
cal season.
The playwrights got together to produce their own
plays, because they were of Mr. Anderson’s opinion that the
best writing that was ever done for the stage was done
in the seventeenth century by men who were associated
with stable producing companies composed of playwrights
and actors.
When Mr. Anderson was starting his career as a play­
wright, he wrote his plays when and how he could.
He wisely
waited until after What Price Glory? was a sure success before
lie resigned from the World,
When that play became a definite
"bit,” be admits, "I quit, and bought a cane.”
Since be and
bis first wife and three- sons were tben occupying a small apart­
ment in Manhattan, ffir. Anderson and Mr. Stallings wrote What
Price Glory? largely in the New York public library.
Now on
bis estate at New City in Rockland County, New York, Mr.
Anderson has a small one-room cabin somewhat removed from the
main house and secluded in thickets of birch, dogwood, red oak,
and maples.
"I like to work where it's dark and dull and damp,
and I find it here," he has said.
The cabin contains a work­
bench, a bookshelf with books, a cot, and a stove bearing the
patent-mark of September, 1845*
The first drafts of all Mr. Anderson's plays are writ­
ten in longhand with a fountain pen in large, ledger-like
Mrs. Anderson types all his finished scripts.
play is carefully thought through and mulled over in his mind
before he retires to his retreat to set it down neatly in his
Once he actually begins writing, he works rapidly.
The Star-Wagon, for instance, was written in a month.
He once
staged one of his plays, Valley Forge, but he has never tried
it again, because he doesn't
When he attends
rehearsals, he sits back and
saysnothing, staying on
only to make necessary changes and dialogue adjustments, both
of which he makes with surprising versatility and speed.
opening nights lie used to sit quietly in the balcony to watch
how the play went and after that never went to see it again.
Of late, however, he doesn't even go to first nights.
In 1939 Mr. Anderson published The Essence of Tragedy
and Other Footnotes and Papers, containing four essays dealing
with his dramas.
"The Essence of Tragedy" is an essay pre­
senting Mr. Anderson's viewpoint regarding the essential
features of tragedy.
"A Prelude to Poetry in the Theatre,"
an introductory essay to Winterset, is also included in this
little volume.
This essay gives Mr. Anderson's reasons for
writing many of his plays in blank verse and expresses his
convictions regarding the high calling of the dramatist,
"fdiatever Hope We Have" is a third essay giving a concise
statement of Mr. Anderson's philosophy of evolution.
by the Eternal" is an essay refuting an article by Mr. Mfax
Eastman in which the latter urged Mr. Anderson to use poetic
drama to forward the practical or scientific reorganization
of the affairs of men.
Mr. Anderson asserts that poetry is
just as unfit for that business as for making up the accounts
of a brokerage house.
What the poets vision and project "is
man as he must and will be, a little nearer what he himself
wishes to become."
The remaining essay, "The Politics of
Knickerbocker Holiday" is also a preface to the musical comedy
of that name.
The first three essays dealing with the essence
of tragedy, the use of poetry in the theatre, and Mr. Anderson’s
philosophy will be discussed at length in other chapters.
As a reviver of poetic drama Mr. Anderson is note­
worthy in American drama, and it is for this contribution that
American dramatists are looking expectantly to Mr. Anderson.
From the time of his boyhood he has loved poetry, and has con­
stantly experimented with verse patterns.
AJLong with P a d r ^ c
Colum, George O'Neil, Genevieve Taggart, and Frank Earnest
Hill, he was one of the founders of a noteworthy magazine of
poetry, The Measure, which, next to Poetry was the most im­
portant of the verse magazines bred by the poetry renaissance.
He published his only book of verse in 1925, You Who Have
In two of his poems, "Epilogue" and "Full-Circle,"
is contained the gist of Mr. Anderson's pessimistic philosophy
of man's tragic aloneness, a philosophy which is manifest
again and again in his produced plays:
Now that the gods are gone,
And the kings, the gods' shadows, are gone,
Man is alone on the earth,
Thrust out with the suns, alone.
"When I wrote White Desert," he has said, "I wrote it in verse
because I was weary of plays in prose that never lifted from
the ground."
It is said that Brock Pemberton was so afraid
that poetic drama would not be well received that he had the
play typed out in prose form in order that the aetors would
not be unduly alarmed.
Not until Elizabeth the Queen did Mr.
Anderson again try writing poetic drama, and then, with the
exception of the satiric comedy, Both Your Houses, for several
years all his published plays were in poetry.
During this
period there were the following historic poetic dramas:
Elizabeth the Queen. Wight over Taos. Mary of Scotland, Valley
Forge, The Wingless Victory, and The Masque of Kings.
He also
tried successfully in Winterset and Key Largo the unique ex­
periment of writing a modern social problem play in blank
verse, and in High Tor a modern social problem in poetic form.
Mr. Anderson says that flexible blank verse is as suited to
this age as Shakespeare's verse was to the Elizabethan Age,
and that the use of it is not an imitation.
In Maxwell Anderson's dramas the range of interest re­
garding social questions is unusually broad.
Various aspects
of tyranny, greed, and double-dealing are presented at length
in the dramas Elizabeth the Q.ueen. Night over Taos, Both Your
Houses, Mary of Scotland, and The Masque of Kings.
in the courts is satirized in The Buccaneer and Outside Look­
ing I n , denounced with fierce vituperations in Gods of the
Lightning, and considered with psychological introspection in
Racial intolerance and religious bigotry are the
themes of The Wingless Victory. Religious prejudice also plays
an important part in Mary of Scotland.
The presentation of a
realistic picture of modern warfare is the main purpose of
What Price Glory?
Valley Forge, with its tragic presentation
of deprivation also illustrates this idea.
Various problem­
atic aspects of marriage having to do with low income or with
faithlessness to the marriage vow are set forth in White
Desert, Saturday's Children, Gypsy, and The Star Wagon.
High Tor and The Star Wagon commercial greed is amusingly
In all these dramas dealing with social problems, Mr.
Anderson presents the idea that the possession of power bru(
talizes the possessor, resulting in irremediable injury to the
weak, helpless, and innocent.
Those who have power use it
purely for their own comfort, advancement, and further accre­
tion of power.
The little men who block or impede their way
are wrecked and east aside in the headlong selfish endeavors
of the "brigands, in power.”
always be so.
It has always been so and it will
In a burst of indignation, the people may rise
en masse to demand justice and honesty; but their indignation
will pass without the wrong having been righted.
and social apathy will again be the prevailing spirit, and
the "brigands” will reassume their vast prerogatives, abuse
and injustice flourishing as before under governmental and
judicial protection.
Two of the dramas on marriage deal with economic in­
justice resulting from too low a wage scale.
No matter how
congenial the marriage, the success of it is threatened by
penury and grinding limitations.
The other two dramas of mar­
riage deal with the personal problem of inconstancy; in one
the woman is unfaithful in revenge for the m a n ’s intolerable
jealousy; in the second the woman is habitually unfaithful
through deficiency of character.
In all but these two dramas Mr. Anderson’s women charac­
ters are forces for good and honor.
ness, goodness, and courage.
They have dignity, sweet­
In three instances, Elizabeth,
Mary, and Oparre, they are the leading characters, rising to
real heights of tragic grandeur.
Mr. Anderson’s male
protagonists are usually rebels against injustice.
early comedies they emerge fairly triumphant.
dies they are annihilated.
In iiis
In his trage­
The protagonists of his later
comedies are disillusioned and evasive.
hero achieves philosophic anchorage.
In Key Largo the
Though some of his plays
deal with royal characters, most of his men and women are from
common life, his tragedies depending not on the fall of heroes
of noble life, but on the tragic social implications to be
found in the misfortunes of common men.
The dramas, Elizabeth the Queen, Night over Taos, Both
Your Houses, Mary of Scotland, and The Masque of Kings, set
forth social injustice, or intrigue and greed in government.
In Elizabeth the Queen, Elizabeth*s advisers, by subtle in­
trigue, pitted Elizabeth against Essex.
By insuring her
supremacy and bringing about his downfall they made sure their
own continuance in power.
Though the love between Elizabeth
and Essex was great, the overweening urge for dominion and
power in each usually prevailed over their love.
The insured
supremacy of either meant inevitably the enfeeblement and
downfall of the other, as neither could endure the thought of
The sympathy and support of Sir Francis Bacon
were with Essex, while Lords Cecil, Burghley, Howard, and
Raleigh were the supporters of the Queen.
Through the threats
of the latter, Sir Francis was forced to ally himself with
their intrigues against Essex and to allow himself to become
the determining influence with Elizabeth that molded her de­
cision to imprison Essex, an imprisonment that led to his
death as he refused submission for himself and finally re­
fused to permit her that submission.
Thus the play sets forth
the overwhelming ambitions of two dominant parties of a nation,
complicated by love between the two main opposing characters,
the turning point in the struggle being determined by the pre­
vailing force of Elizabeth’s ambition and the crafty intrigues
of her counselors.
Night over Taos the conflict is between the outdated,
Spanish patriarchal social order of New Mexico, and the capital
istic, democratic Americans.
As in First Flight the struggle is symbolized by the
rivalry of two men over one woman, and again, as in the
earlier play, democracy comes in the wake of bullets,
calico cloth, and whisky.1
In the presentation of the patriarchal social order we see the
harsh domination of Montoya over his sons and wives, of the
bitter feuds within the family, growing out of rivalry for
precedence and power, of revenge followed by cruel and devas­
tating punishments.
Montoya’s sons are the rebels against the
domineering social order, the elder resorting to intrigue and
violence, while the younger openly voices the sentiments of
equality and justice, both incurring their father’s bitter
^ Philip Stevenson, ’’Maxwell Anderson: Thursday’s
Child,” New Theater Magazine, 3:5-6, 25-27, September, 1936.
Both Your Houses portrays in comic satire the greed and
graft of politicians representing personal and vested inter­
Anderson implies through his drama that when govern­
ments become rotten enough and when people become sufficiently
informed of it the government is changed.
At present our
system is every man for himself and the nation be damned, in
the words of Gray, the smooth politician.
But all government
is graft, made up of "brigands in power” the apathy of the peo­
ple maintaining them in their greed.
Mary of Scotland there is a contest for power
similar to that in Elizabeth the Queen.
Mary contends against
strongly intrenched governmental intrigue and religious bigotry,
realizing as did Elizabeth that she has a throne to gain or
lose; yet, unlike Elizabeth, she follows impulse and emotion
rather than cool judgment.
Mary’s misfortune was that -she did
as she pleased irrespective of whom she antagonized, thinking
always that her position made her secure.
Also she did not
realize until it was too late who her real enemy was, the
vicious force that was back of the coils of intrigue that re­
lentlessly bound her.
Mary is admirable in her high ideal of
government, but the opposing forces of greed and selfishness
dissipate her efforts.
The theme of The Masque of Kings is that kings are in
masquerade. Men who rush to power to set men free can maintain
maintain themselves in power only by killing or enslaving other
This thought is explicitly stated by Prince Rudolph and
Implied by King Joseph.
Prince Rudolph heads a plot for re­
volt in Austria, through which he hopes to bring a more liberal
government to the people.
The plot is discovered by his
Rudolph then maneuvers a coup de etat, but becomes
disheartened when he realizes he will have to use the same
ruthless methods of his father in order to maintain his power.
Also his faith is utterly broken when he realizes that the
woman he loves had been originally sent to him- by his father
as a decoy.
The next group of dramas, The Buccaneer, Outside Look­
ing I n , Gods of the Lightning, and Winterset, deal in some
way with injustice in the courts.
The first two of these deal
with illegitimate power; the last two with legalized power.
The Buccaneer only indirectly belongs to this group dealing
with the courts.
Captain Morgan, the buccaneer, was captured
by royal order and taken to England for trial on the charge of
having taken Porto Bello and Panama City without legal sanc­
tion, and of having divided the loot among his men.
His answer
was that he had greatly benefited England by so doing, and that
he had lived up to English law a thousand times more closely
than those foxy gentlemen who live near enough to the courts
to buy them when they need them.
Outside Looking In presents hoboes as innate and
irredeemable rebels against society, men who, by heredity and
birth, by a wretched childhood and youth, are maladjusted to
They are an illegitimate power, who prey upon so­
ciety, menace it, and are one jump ahead of the law.
They re­
fuse to make any worthy contribution, and there is no place
for them in organized society.
They are a perverted humanity
that has been legislated against from earliest childhood.
They are buccaneers of the road as a result of injustice,
winning, when they do win, by force and craft.
Gods of the Lightning and Winterset present Anderson* s
real attack on the courts.
The theme of Gods of the Lightning
is an old one: Justice miscarries because the courts and police
force are the tools of vested interests.
Men who advocate
freedom, equality, and justice fearlessly, are destroyed, be­
cause they disturb the social order based on wealth and big
Through the character Suvorin, the author again
presents the idea that m a n ’s present life is ruled by brigands
in power, that the present legal and political systems should
be done away with.
To quote the words of Suvorin*s denuncia­
That would be like you, too! To kill us all three,
innocent and guilty together— burn us in your little
hell to make your world safe for your bankers— you kept
judge of a kept nation, you dead hand of the dead!
In bitter irony the drama concludes with the escape of the
murderer, Suvorin, and the execution of the two innocent men,
Macready and Capraro, two I.W.W. workers, whose “capital of­
fence” had been to create unrest among members of the labor
Winterset is a further development of the same theme.
According to the story, years ago an innocent man named
Romagna had been sent to the chair for a murder that was ac­
tually committed by a henchman of Trock Estrella, the gangster.
Years later, Mio, the son of Romagna, comes to the water front
seeking the central characters of the old Romagna case, in a
fierce attempt to discover the guilty man in order to clear
his father's name.
Through careless sportiveness he antag­
onizes the police, so that when he needs their help in proving
Trock’s murder of Shadow, they will not believe him or give him
In fact, they show more consideration for Trock the
criminal on parole, than for Mio.
During the story, Trock,
paroled for good behavior, is responsible for three more mur­
ders, none of which comes to the attention of the police, and
he continues to live out his miserable tubercular six months,
a prey on all who know him.
The injustice of racial intolerance and religious
bigotry are presented in The Wingless Victory.
Here again
force wins, and the weak, the helpless, and the innocent suf­
Here the author unmasks religious hypocrisy through the
story of the rejection of Oparre, the East Indian woman, by
Hathaniel's Puritan family, when, after a long absence, he
returns with Gparre as his bride.
Their race prejudice and
religious intolerance finally drive her to suicide.
What Price Glory? is an achievement in the debunking
of war as a sentimental and romantic theme for the stage.
What Price Glory? says in effect: War is a life and
death brawl for a worthless prize, a game without rules,
played by soldiers called men.
But "good soldiers" are
not complete human beings. They are good for just onething— brawling. They cannot abide by rules, anywhere,
ever. In a brawl this is an advantage, but in a civil­
ized environment they are useless and unhappy. This
thesis is expressed in dramatic terms through the rivalry
between Flagg and Quirt for the affections of the girl
Charmaine— who is abandoned by both in the end. Neither
soldier has any life beyond the war-brawl b u s i n e s s .2
On leave, outside the brawl area, Flagg has a miserable time
because of his inability to regulate his conduct according to
the customary rules of social orderliness.
He wastes his few
days in drunkenness and disorderly conduct, which give him no
satisfaction and causes great annoyance to all associated with
He is a great fighter, yet he doesn’t know why he fights
and he doesn’t care.
”??e are all dirt," he says, "and we propose to die in
order that corps headquarters may be decorated."
He fiercely
scorns the noncombatant officers above him who rationalize
the profession of brawling and try to make rules for it.
Says Flagg in Act One:
Damn headquarters I It’s some more of that world-safefor-demoeracy slush! Every time they come around here
I ’ve got to ask myself is this an army or is it a stink­
ing theosophical society for ethical culture and the Bible
backing uplift!
2 Ibid
Flagg is the first of the long procession of Anderson* s
rebel-heroes, the forerunner of Morgan, Oklahoma, Gypsy,
Macready, Bothwell, Essex, Montoya, and Mio, whose contempt
for organized authority is their outstanding trait.
Also like
them Flagg conceals under his rough exterior a hidden kindness
and generosity.
Valley Forge in its harshly realistic picture of the
Revolution^also strips that historic struggle of its glamor
and labels Congress as the same selfish, graft-ridden body,
though on a small scale, as that depicted in Both Your Houses.
Washington is hampered and checked in all his plans and pur­
poses by a double-dealing Congress that promises him help on
the one hand and offers to sell him out to the British on the
Nevertheless, Valley Forge is the most optimistic and
hopeful of Anderson’s earlier plays as it presents a noble
ideal to fight for, and the prospect of its possible attain­
The idea expressed in the American soldiers and in
Washington is valiant struggle for and unyielding faith in
the principle of self-government.
Problems of marriage are casually presented from vari­
ous angles in the dramas White Desert t Saturday*s Children,
Gypsy, and The Star Wagon.
Briefly, the story of White Desert
is that of a moody and jealous husband who accuses his wife of
infidelity and shoots her when she deliberately sins to be
avenged upon him.
The drama was not popular with the public
because of its stark realism, though it was enthusiastically
received by the reviewers.
The drama is interesting how
chiefly because it is Mr. Anderson’s first poetic dramatiza­
tion of a modern subject, and because in it he shows his in­
tuitive knowledge of character.
That marriage kills romance is the thought presented
in Saturday*s Children, according to one reviewer.
of a love affair, marriage means "a house and bills and
general hell.**
According to Bobbie, a love affair occurs when
two people are being held apart and they insist on being to­
gether; marriage just naturally pushes them together so that
they fly apart.
In the opinion of the present writer, the
difficulty presented was that of a too low income.
Most of
their trouble arose from bills and insufficient money.
In Gypsy, Anderson gives us a heroine even more desir­
ous of freedom even than Bobbie.
Like all extreme romantics
she has a fate on which she conveniently thrusts all respon­
sibility for her inconstancies.
She shifts all the blame to
her mother.
"Why am I that way?** she cries to her mother.
it in my blood?
"Who put
You!*’ The trouble with Gypsy was that
no matter how much she loved a man, temptation still beset her.
She did not have the courage of her convictions.
Gypsy had
seen her mother go from one man to another, always on the
downward path, never able to reach the ideal of faithfulness
in marriage with, its resultant security and beauty of exist­
Consequently she despises herself.
"Considered as a morbid character, who first idealized
herself and then couldn’t stand the reality, Gypsy is cred­
The story is amusing, and the portrayal of the char­
acter intellectually commands some respect.
Though there is a glorified ending, Star Wagon pre­
sents in the opening scene Martha’s disappointment and feel­
ing of futility regarding their marriage because Stephen had
made no professional advancement through the years, and was
almost as poor as when she married him, not through any lack
of ability, but through lack of business sagacity and
The Star Wagon and High Tor hinge on social problems
resulting from commercial greed.
The Star Wagon presents
sketchily the current tendency of some great companies to em­
ploy a scientist to work out an invention.
The employer then
takes the discovery as his own, secures a patent on it, and
manufactures it without giving the inventor a fair reward.
This was the way Duffy, the tire manufacturer, had been treat­
ing Stephen.
There is, however, no serious consideration of
the question, though the injustice is removed finally in a
whimsical fashion.
3 Francis R. Bellamy, ’’Drama Notes,’’ Outlook. 151:171,
January 30, 1929.
High Tor presents the greed and power of a big trap
rock company which threatens to condemn the undeveloped hill
belonging to Van Van Dorn, an impractical dreamer who loved
his mountainside for its natural beauty and for the old Dutch
legend associated with it.
The trap rock representatives want
to pay Van Dorn very little for the land, and in addition, to
demolish the old landmark in order to use the rock for road
Van Dorn not only refused to agree to this, but
also expressed his strong antipathy to all forms of employ­
ment that tend to commercial slavery, preferring to live a
carefree life on his mountainside, taking little heed for the
Finally, however, through the influence of his sweet­
heart, and an Irving-like visit of the Pixie Dutch phantoms,
Van Dorn became sufficiently practical and amusingly adroit
enough to wring from the trap rock representatives $50,000
for the land, showing a concession to the commercial spirit
on the part of Anderson.
Mr. Anderson’s last drama, Key Largo, unlike all his
preceding dramas, does not present a rebel against the social
Rather, it presents a philosophical conflict in the
mind of the hero who has lost faith, regarding whether there
is any real reason for a m a n ’s fighting and dying for a cause.
The hero finds that there is.
This drama marks a new trend
in Mr. Anderson’s philosophy and consequently in his dramas.
The two chief motivating themes of Mr. Anderson’s
dramas are the brutalizing effect of power upon the possessor
and the false glorification of social institutions.
With the
former theme he shows the irremediable injury to the weak,
helpless, and innocent, for in all struggle it is force that
harshly triumphs.
In his early plays, The Buccaneer, Outside
Looking I n , and First Flight, he shows the effect of illegit­
imate power.
The greed and cruelty of legalized power are set
forth in the later dramas, Elizabeth the Queen, Night over
Taos, Both Your Houses, Mary of Scotland, Valley Forge, Gods
of the Lightning, Winterset, The Masque of Kings, High T o r ,
Star Wagon, and Key Largo.
The falsely glorified social movements and institutions
which he sets forth are war, the courts, marriage, government
intrigue, and commercialism.
What Price Glory? and Valley
Forge present the unattractive aspects of war; The Buccaneer,
Outside Looking I n , Gods of the Lightning, and Winterset sug­
gest or dramatize injustice and graft in the courts; White
Desert, Saturday*s Children, Gypsy, and The Star Wagon, re­
veal certain unsatisfactory aspects to be found in marriage;
Elizabeth the Queen, Night over Taos, Both Your Houses, Mary
of Scotland, Valley Forge, and The Masque of Kings dramatize
governmental intrigue; and High Tor and The Star Wagon pre­
sent commercial dishonesty.
racial and religious bigotry.
The ?/ingless Victory presents
In all these dramas, the hero
is a rebel against the social injustice portrayed or against
the limitations and falsehoods*of the social life represented.
In the war dramas the heroes are long-suffering; the situations
presented, vividly picture the inglorious nature of war.
In the three early plays, though the heroes assume il­
legitimate privileges and powers, they escape punishment,
partly because that conduct is overlooked in their social or­
der as it does not maliciously attack or interfere with the
established order and partly because it is the expression of
a roguish individualism, both being essentially the attitude
of the author also at this early period.
In the later dramas
the hero is in marked conflict with the prevailing order, his
attitude fiercely denunciatory (save in Elizabeth the Queen
and the two last comedies) and his fate a more or less bitter
These also reflect the author’s fiercely denunciatory
attitude of this period, and his spirit of pessimistic im­
A third period of escapism, a transitional period,
is represented by Winterset, High T o r , and The Star Wagon.
Though Mio, in Winterset, is fiercely denunciatory of injus­
tice in the courts, he evades the issue and finds solace, al­
though it includes death, ini-idealistic love.
High T o r , in
which the hero humorously belabors the forces of commercial
greed, is, in the main, a charming fantasy of cloud-wreathed
Mount Tor, Dutch pixies, and comic rogues stranded on the
mountain side, the hero gaining his just fortune only by
fanciful means.
Though Hannah in The Star Wagon scathingly
denounced Stephen's inability to profit financially through
his inventions, as the company claimed all patents, yet the
story is one of escape into the past, a fanciful reliving of
life as they might have lived it, and a happy solution for
Stephen and Martha as a consequence of their escape into un­
King in Key Largo, Mr. Anderson's last play, marks
the crystallization of a new and fourth attitude on the part
of the author.
King does not challenge the established
phases of our social life; rather, he challenges life for a
meaning: Is life a mere vicious muddle, or are there things
worth dying for?
King finds that
the advancement ofciviliza­
tion, the hope of
man, depends on
the willingness ofmen to
fight and die for
what they believe in.
Here, at last,
the author
Then they have truly
sees some hope for the human
race, and in this drama sounds through his hero a constructive
idea and a justification of his death.
In considering the foregoing motivating themes as pre­
sented in each drama we shall briefly note the story of each.
The Buccaneer is a romantic, lightly historical comedy which
treats piracy somewhat in operetta style.
It presents a
colorful period and the striking personality of Captain Morgan.
It is the story of Captain Henry Morgan’s successful raid on
Panama, in which he sacked the city and established his head­
quarters at the hacienda of the beautiful Lady Elizabeth.
first Lady Elizabeth scorned his overtures, calling him a com­
moner in blood, in education, and in spirit, having the look
of a hostler’s lackey; and assuming that wherever they were
concerned, she was the one to give commands.
Morgan was struck
with admiration for her regal beauty and imperial bearing, and
with keen pleasure that she was English.
Accepting the in­
genious role offered him as sheltered guest in her house,
Captain Morgan had the novel experience of being lightly set
aside and laughed out of countenance, when, during the course
of a few hours, he sought to become amorous.
There is con­
siderable amusing repartee and much ardency until she has half
promised to go away with him.
The King’s men, however, enter
with a warrant for his arrest, aided by Elizabeth who has just
learned of his duplicity regarding one of her maids.
He is
returned to England for trial, and Elizabeth has safe passage
aboard one of the King’s ships.
In his trial Captain Morgan
gave as justification for his piracy the plea that in ex­
change for the loot which he and his men had pocketed, King
Charles had two good English ports.
For England to take
Panama and Porto Bello legally would entail a costly war with
When charged with offering a robber’s title, he
As if there was, an acre of land owned in Europe, to
say nothing of the New World, that wasn’t founded on a
robber’s title.
I ’ve lived up to your law a thousand
times closer than these foxy gentlemen who live near
enough the courts to buy them when they need them. They
sit at home and distract and gouge and burrow under those
who are bold enough to strike out for the king.
Earlier in the play he explains that the difference between
piracy and war is legal, not actual, and that a devastated
city looks much the same whether an officer or a buccaneer
has taken it.
On learning that the reason Morgan was caught
in Panama was his lingering to win the Lady Elizabeth, and
feeling that Morgan was his boldest and most successful pri­
vateer, King Charles took a cynical pleasure in giving him
command of Commodore Wright’s fleet, knighting him, and send­
ing him as governor to Jamaica (isle of ginger).
By a ruse
the Lady Elizabeth accompanied him as Lady Morgan.
First Flight is based on an incident in the early life
of Andrew Jackson.
The issue presented is federal centralism
versus local self-government.
Jackson is the protagonist for
the federal central government, for the nation generally, and
for North Carolina in particular.
Mr. Dozier, a black-leg
lawyer, and Major Singlefoot represent the Franklin Free State
local government claim.
Mr. Jackson had come to Franklin
Free State as the new prosecuting attorney.
During the course
of a highly colorful backwoods sociable Mr, Jackson is craftily
questioned by the Buckskins in an attempt to trap him in an
utterance, but he outwits them.
Finally one of the Buckskins
demanded an answer to the question: Was Andy Jackson for the
Free State, knowing that Dozier and Singlefoot were at the
head of it?
Jackson said he was against it as the two men
were no true leaders.
At this Dozier demanded that they shoot
out the question, whereupon a duel took place in which Jackson
was wounded and Dozier was killed.
Though Jackson wins out in
his stand for federal government, yet he is a freebooter in
and in love.
In making his
did not hesitate to infringe on
escape from thesettlement
-the good gracesof the girl
Charity, had he not been put to shame by the unconscious pro­
testations of love by Lonny, her time lover, who, in the
course of his remarks, called Jackson a "traveling sharper."
The charming thing about First Flight is that
it is a folk drama filled with amusing commentof American
life in its beginnings. . . . The pompous, balanced
speech of the Carolina gentlemen and the picturesque salty
poetry of backwoods talk are in it. So is the fantastic
exaggeration of the whopping fable, ever charactersitic
of American humor.
But the plot is anecdotal.1
ln Outside Looking In a hoboes1 camp and hoboes1 train
ride are pictured.
Oklahoma is the ruling buccaneer spirit
of the group, who, by force, subjects the other hoboes to his
He is the mouthpiece of the author for denouncing
injustice and corruption in the government and the courts.
His barrel-top speech in the flat car is a parody of court
1 Carl Cramer, "Maxwell Anderson, Poet and Champion,"
Theater Arts Monthly, 17:4.37-44-6, June, 1933.
proceedings including among its humorously cynical remarks
the statement that in the law one can he as crooked as he
pleases so long as he is legal.
Be it known by those present that this here court will
dispense with justice for the present, like every other
court in this land of the millionaire and home of the
slave. This here court is a bar for the subornation of
evidence and the laying down of the law,
Gentlemenl may
cry for justice, gentlemen may plead for justice, but I
tell you that- a .court is a place where justice can be
evaded by anybody that’s able to afford it. The only
question before the jury, Mr. Prosecuting Attorney, is,
who can afford it?
Though Oklahoma appears for a while to be an enemy to
Little Red and Edna, he eventually shows his understanding
and friendship by helping them to escape the uncompromising
severity of the law, and to start life over again.
The police
catch up with the gang of hoboes, and Oklahoma and the rest
of the tramps are held as possible accomplices in the escape
of Red and Edna.
The play suggests that the hoboes are mal­
adjusted to life because of an unfair, unjust social order
that' causes them to become rebels and outcasts.
The drama is
a farcical forerunner of Gods of the Lightning, Anderson’s
later fierce denunciation of judicial injustice.
Elizabeth the Queen, Mary of Scotland, and The Masque of
Kings show the brutalizing effect of power in the intrigues and
machinations of royal governments.
In Elizabeth the Queen the
Queen’s advisers, Sir Robert Cecil, Raleigh, and Lord Burghley,
plot to bring Essex into disfavor.
Raleigh said to Cecil,
[Elizabeth] loves her kingdom
More than all men, and always will.
If he could
Be made to look like a rebel, which he's close to being
And she c.ould be made to believe it, which is harder,
You'd be first man in the council.
When the counselors in meeting challenged Essex to go to
Ireland, he said of Lord Cecil,
the palace is riddled
With his spying and burrowing and crawling underground!
He has filled the court with his rat friends, very
White, squeaking, courteous folk, who show their teeth
Only when cornered; who smile at you, speak you fair
And spend their nights gnawing the floors and chairs
Out from under us all!
The counselors, made untrustworthy and double dealing by their
power and greed, tamper with the correspondence between
Elizabeth and Essex while he is in Ireland, and force Lord
Bacon to assist them in creating misunderstanding and dissention between Elizabeth and Essex.
As a consequence, Essex,
who had a great desire to rule England, strove to supplant the
By a ruse she outwitted him, saying to the-captain,
I have found that he who would rule must be
Quite friendless, without mercy, without love.
Arrest Lord Essex!
Take him to the Tower
And keep him safe.
Unhesitatingly she sentenced him for treason, in order to pre­
serve her power as queen.
Later because of her love for him,
she offered to share her kingdom with him, finally to give it
to him.
But Essex chose to die, justifying himself with these
I have a weakness
For being first wherever I am. I refuse
To take pardon from you without warning you
Of this. And when you know it, pardon becomes
In Mary of Scotland Elizabeth is the personification
of cruel, hidden intrigue with the purpose of increasing and
safeguarding her own power at M a r y ’s expense.
To Lord
Burghley Elizabeth put the proposition:
M y lord, my lord, it is hard to thrust a queen from
her throne, but suppose a queen were led to destroy
led carefully from one step to another in a long
until at last she stood condemned among her own
barren of royalty, stripped of force, and the people of
Scotland were to deal with her for us?
The tricky, dishonest courtiers in Mary’s court con­
nive against her in order to secure more power for themselves.
Moray, M a r y ’s villainous half brother, received this commis­
sion from Elizabeth,
Elizabeth has determined
That you are to reign in Scotland, if not as king,
Then as regent again.
Intending to entice Mary into a false marriage and to
stir up malicious tongues about her, Elizabeth said to
She is a woman, remember, and open to attack as a
We shall set tongues wagging about her. And since it
may be true that she is of .a keen and noble mind,
let us take care of that too.
Let us marry her to a
weakling and a fool-.
Subtle and malicious gossip to libel and defame Mary
was spread like a net throughout Scotland and the Scottish
court by agents from Elizabeth and by maligners in the court,
who were seeking their own advancement.
Having fallen into Elizabeth’s trap by marrying
Darnley the weakling, having lost him through his murder by
the villains in her court, and having married Bothwell sus­
piciously soon after, Elizabeth gloats,
Let her have this love
This little while— we grant her that— then raise
The winds against them— rouse the clans, cry vengeance
On their guilty sleep and love— I say within
This year at the very farthest, there's no more queen
Than king in ScotlandI
Soon the treacherous men in M a r y ’s court tear Bothwell from
her, hold her captive, and then surrender her to exile in the
tower of London because she will not abdicate the throne.
There in a powerful scene with Elizabeth, Mary realizes, at
last, Elizabeth’s fateful influence in her. life.
All this while
Some evil’s touched my life at every turn.
To cripple what I ’d do. And now— why how—
Looking on you— I see it incarnate before me
It was your hand that touched me.
Bitterly Mary accepts her prison fate, valiantly
And set me lower this year by year, as you promise,
Till the last is an oubliette, and my name inscribed
on the four winds.
Still, still I w i n .........
I have borne a son,
And he will rule Scotland— and England.
You have no
The Masque of Kings Emperor Joseph is revealed as
the type of ruler that Rudolph feared he would become and
committed suicide to escape becoming— a grasping monarch who
had gradually lost his democratic ideas one by one, as had
all the Hapsburgs before him, and had become concerned chiefly
in maintaining his power as sovereign, even at the expense of
circumventing and harrassing his son.
Rudolph addresses his
Our Habsburg house
has been a cancer on mankind, a fluke
that eats till the host dies!
Its power*s
destroying what it lives on, yes, and itself,
as it’s destroyed your brain and eats at mine
to make me also what all emperors
have been, blind parasitic poisonous mouths
sucking at arteries.
feeding your strength on blood, your tentacles
sinking in deeper, spreading out further, till
no man dare whisper in an empty room
lest you should reach and touch him.
His family life had become a tragic thing, and his son had
fallen into melancholia because of his circumscribed life.
In the hour of the son’s revolt Smperor Joseph saved his
power by revealing to Rudolph that to maintain himself as
ruler and to start his democratic reforms he would have to be
as arbitrary and as ruthless as his father had been.
The titles to possession all run back
to brigandage and murder. . . .
. . . I set up
my title now on murder, as m y father
set his up long ago. And I take over
an old concern, maintained by fraud and force
for traffic in corruption.
A government's business is to guard the trough
for those whose feet are in it.
. . . king or franchise,
dictatorship or bureaucrats, they're run
by an inner ring, for profit.
Franz Joseph told him that he would try reforms, and then he
would learn that all reforms are counters in the game of
government, played to get what you want; a trick of management
he also had found useful.
Franz Joseph also revealed to Rudolph that the woman
he loved had been sent to him originally as a tool of the
This tore away Rudolph's last faith, and he withdrew
in bitterness to Mayerling.
When Mary Vetsera realized that
she would lose Rudolph in any event, she killed herself as­
serting that she had rather be a statue to her love, cold and
white, but changeless.
In bitter hopelessness Rudolph assures
his mother and father before he, too, commits suicide,
If I go back
this morning, and leave her lying in this room
alone, then hour by hour you'll win me from her,
and in the end it will be my hand that guides
all Europe down to hell. . . .
. . . But I've learned
from the little peddler's daughter, the Vetsera,
how to keep faith with the little faith I have
quite beyond time or change.
As Essex was the unyielding rebel against Elizabeth’s
rule, as Mary was the hapless victim of Elizabeth's intrigues,
so Rudolph and his mother were the unbending rebels and un­
fortunate victims of Emperor Joseph’s callous practices.
all three dramas Anderson uncovers the false glorification of
imperial government by revealing the corroding effects of
vicious political intrigue, and thirst for power.
Night over Taos is a story of., political intrigue in
the House of Montoya.
what is now New Mexico.
Montoya was the Spanish governor of
His word had always been supreme both
among the Spanish dons around him and the peons, and in his
own household.
Now Montoya was getting somewhat old, and the
Americans were pressing hard on his dominions.
Montoya says,
I have heard it said here and there
That Spain is old and I am old, and the dogs
Of the north will have their day.
We come of an old, proud race,
From that part of the earth where the blood runs
and the hearts
Of men are resentful of insult. We are either
And masters of ourselves, or else we die.
Miguel says,
Some give credit
To new strange gods, and deny our ancient customs.
The rights of the old, the rights of fathers- give
To the rights of sons. Children look up with envy
At family possessions, and snatch when they can;
And some say, ’‘Good, Let the old men look to
And some say justice should be dealt by the rabble
On young and old, on rich and poor alike.
In Montoya’s struggle against the Americans, his
eldest son Federico secretly planned to supplant his father
as the leader, by coming to an agreement with the Americans,
whereby he would give up some of the Montoya claims in return
for the privilege of keeping some of his power and holdings.
Democratic government would be instituted.
Also he planned
to take the beautiful girl Diana, whom his father was intend­
ing to marry.
It happened his younger brother, Felipe, and
the girl were lovers, but Felipe was faithful to his father*s
interests although he was much drawn to American democratic
The father, on discovering the duplicity of his
eldest son, had him put to death, and intended Felipe’s death,
but was deterred by his dons.
Martinez says,
¥fe*re at war with a nation that outnumbers
Our little state by millions!
This counter-stroke
Y o u ’ve planned might make them wary, hold them off...
Make them regret what they’ve started!
But fail in
Lose the next battle, lose the people’s confidence,
And your history’s ended! Kill Felipe, and you do
Keep him with you, and you may win!
Realizing from the hot words of Felipe and his Spanish
advisers that the old order was passing and equality and free­
dom were coming in spite of anything he could do, he himself
took the poison that he had intended for Felipe and Diana,
preferring to die with the old order rather than to be dis­
placed by the new.
The hot passion and hidden intrigue of
this old Spanish house all hinges on the urge for power,
whether it be Montoya’s succession of fiercely .jealous wives,
his ambitious dons, or his sons aspiring to his power in terms
of the new order.
Unlike the former three dramas of political
intrigue, though this one ends with tragedy, it looks forward
to a new and better day of freedom and opportunity for all
Montoya’s son Felipe is the unwilling rebel against
the old order, and the apostle of the new.
Valley Forget presenting Washington’s tribulations
there during the American Revolution, is of interest in two
ways, first for its realistic, harsh picture of war conditions
as they no doubt were experienced by the Continental Army.
The stir and splendor of war as it is often pictured are en­
tirely missing from this drama.
Alcock says,
This army? If God was to damn and blast the army every
working day for a full year He couldn't do anything to it
that hasn't been done. We've got everything from the itch
to the purple fever, nothing to eat, nothing to wear, and
the coldest son-of-a-bitch of a winter since the lake of
Galilee froze over.
Second, this is another drama of political intrigue.
The Continental Congress, while giving Y/ashington their nominal
support, evaded sending him desperately needed supplies and
privately considered terms of peace with the British.
selfish seeking after personal power and gain is similar to
that of the counselors of Queen Elizabeth.
The noble cause
of liberty for which Washington and his men so bravely fought
was of minor importance to many in the Continental Congress.
Conway, Congressional Commissioner, admits to Washington,
We were commissioned by Congress
to angle for Howe's termsI Well, . . .
Does it surprise you? When a war's lost
the usual thing's to feel around for bargains
and that's what's being done’
Harvie adds,
There are those among us who know that a war is worth
what it brings on the exchange, no more. And when
Your stock is going down, its best to sell
before it goes to nothing. . . .
A war, my friend,
is_a tactical expedient to gain
certain political ends. Those ends being proved
impossible, the w a r ’s without excuse,
and should be pushed no further than need be
to gain an advantageous peace.
This attitude is a strange contrast to that voiced by
Washington earlier in the play:
Y o u’ll get death and taxes under one government as well
as another.
But I ’ll tell you why I'm here, and why I ’ve
hoped you were here, and why it’s seemed to me worth
while to stick with it while our guns rust out for lack
of powder, and men die around me for lack of food and
medicine and women and children sicken at home for lack
of clothing and the little they need to eat— yes, while
we fight one losing battle after another, and retreat to
fight again another year. What I fight for now is a
dream, a mirage, perhaps--*the right of free-born men to
govern themselves in their own way. . . .
So far our
government’s as rotten as the sow-belly it sends us.
whether it gets better or worse i t ’s your own, by God,
and you can do what you please with it— and what I fight
for is your right to do what you please with your govern­
ment and with yourselves without benefit of kings.
The action of the play concerns itself with the
wretched needs of the men in camp, Washington’s desperate ef­
forts to get supplies from Congress, the problem of dealing
with traitorous soldiers in his own camp, and his intention of
making a hurried peace with Howe to forestall the Congress
from making terms behind his back.
Howe Washington learns
sending him aid.
At his conference with
from Mary Philipse that the French are
Washington puts the desperate condition of
his army before the men he has with him, and one and all
earnestly support continuing the war.
In admiration
Washington says,
The forge was cold
that smelted these fellows into steel— but steel
they are.
I know them now. . . .
Let one ragged thousand of them
pledge them to this with me, and w e ’ll see it through.
To Howe Washington admits,
And we have lost; we know it; by all rules of the game
we*re beaten, and should surrender.
If this war
were for trade advantage, it would end to-night.
It was made over subsidies, or some such matter,
but it’s been taken over.
Let the merchants submit
if that’s any good to you, then come out and find
my hunters and backwoodsmen, and beat us down
into the land we fight for. When you’ve done that—
the king may call us subject.
For myself, I’d have died
within if I ’d surrendered.
As Howe leaves and Washington and his men bury the soldiers
who fell in the last skirmish, Washington remarks sadly,
This liberty will look easy by and by
when nobody dies to get it.
Valley Forge, like Night over Taos, and unlike the
three dramas of imperialism, ends with a hopeful and outward
look of attainable liberty and justice through mutual sacri­
fice and struggle.
Both Your Houses is a highly amusing satiric comedy re­
lating the experiences of Representative Alan McClean in his
sensational attempt to break the machine then in control in
He had been included on a committee for securing
a Nevada dam.
On studying the bill he opposed it because of
the many riders, saying that there was too much graft involved.
The committee refused to drop the bill, so before the next
meeting Alan, by investigation, learned the implications of
one of the riders which made it possible for him to use his
secret knowledge as a means by which to overload the bill to
the breaking point.
When the bill came before the House of
Representatives for a vote, it wa^ due to be voted down be­
cause of the overloading, even though some of the opposition
had riders in it.
At the crucial moment, however, Alan was
impelled by his personal interest in the daughter of the
chairman of the committee, Mr. Gray, to go out and win enough
votes from the opposition to put over the bill, riders and
all, in order to save Mr. Gray from a criminal indictment,
should the money fail to be voted for the faulty rider in­
volved in the bill.
In the committee meeting Alan once asked, "Isntt hon­
esty possible?”
Gray answered, ”Honesty is almost unknown
under any government and impossible under our system.
system is every man for himself and the nation be damned.”
Sol, the amusing, double-dealing old politician, said,
It works if you give it a chance. Do you want me to
point you the road to prosperity? Loot the treasury,
loot the national resources, hang fortunes on the Wall
Street Christmas tree!
Graft, gigantic graft brought
us our prosperity in the past and will lift us out of
the present depths of parsimony and despair!
Dell, the office girl, put in, ”Y o u ’re pushing it a
little far, Sol!”
Sol in reply,
I ’m understating it! Brigands built up this nation from
the beginning, brigands of a gigantic Silurian breed that
don’t grow in a piddling age like oursl They stole bil­
lions and gutted whole states and empires, but they dug
our oil-wells, built our railroads, built up everything
w e ’ve got, and invented prosperity as they went along!
Let ’em go back to work! We can’t have an honest govern­
ment, so let ’em steal plenty and get us started again.
Let the behemoths plunder so the rest of us can eat!
At the close of the play Alan says,
A lot of [people] aren't so sure we found the final an­
swer a hundred and fifty years ago. Who knows what’s
the best kind of government? Maybe they all get rotten
after a while and have to be replaced.
It doesn’t mat­
ter about you or me. We had a little set-to here over
a minor matter, and you’ve won, but I want to tell you
I ’m not even a premonition of what you're going to hear
crashing around you if the voters who elect you ever
find out what you’re like and what you do to them.
best I can do is just to help them find it out. . . .
You think you’re good and secure in this charlatan's
sanctuary you've built for yourselves. . . .
It takes
about a hundred years to tire this country of trickery—
and w e ’re fifty years overdue right now. That’s my
As Alan was leaving, Levering inquired, "Think the
papers’ll give him a break, Sol?”
Bus interrupted, ’’They’ll give him a break!
On every
front page in the country!"
Sol answered sagely,
I t ’ll blow over, it’ll blow over. As a matter of fact,
the natural resources of this country in political apathy
and indifference have hardly been touched. They’re just
learning to pay taxes.
In a few more years you’ll really
give ’em taxes to pay.
Gods of the Lightning and Vfinterset are biting attacks
on injustice in the courts.
In Gods of the Lightning two
mill workers, Mac and Capraro, are taken on suspicion of
helping to incite a strike, and are charged with the murder
of the paymaster.
As trouble makers, their execution might
serve to repress strike movements.
Consequently, the mill
owners brought much pressure to bear to bring about their con­
When the two men were taken, Suvorin, one of the true
murderers and manager of a cheap restaurant, expressed his
opinion of the strike inciters, and of all government,
You are all believers in pap. The world is old, and
it is owned by men who are hard.
Do you think you can
win against them by a strike? Let us change the govern­
ment, you say. Bah! They own this government, they
will buy any government you have.
I tell you there is
no government--there are only brigands in power who
fight for more power!
It has always been so. It will'
always be so.
During the trial of Mac and Capraro the witnesses were
trained to give vague information or to modify the facts in
such a way as to help to bring a conviction.
When this con­
dition was revealed in the trial, it was glossed over by the
Finally, when Suvorin, for the sake of his daughter
Rosalie, who loved Mac, and to save innocent men, confessed
that he and Heine the Gat (now dead) were responsible for the
crime, the court, instead of setting the two innocent men
free, held all three of them as accomplices.
Both Mac and Capraro had used no discretion in their
testimonies, each making flagrant remarks about the courts,
the government, and the flag.
Judge Vail:
Have you no
for the courts,sir?
Certainly not. The courts are the flunkies of
the rich.
You have no respect for authority?
Respect for authority is a superstition.
the sooner everybody gets over it, the better.
Do you have respect for that flag?
I ’ve got as much respect for it as I ’ve got
for the government in Washington— and for you
and your kind!
When Capraro was asked if he honored the American flag
he replied that he had before he came to this country.
when he looked at it he heard it say,
How much money have you? If you have plenty of money
— then I promise you paradise— But if you are poor, I am
not your flag at all.
So as open rebels against the established order, it
was inevitable that Mac and Capraro should suffer heavily.
All three men were held for execution.
Public feeling ran
high among the mill men; many efforts were made to get an ex­
tension of time, but all efforts were fruitless.
As the hour
of the execution drew near, the news was flashed abroad that
Suvorin had escaped.
Breathlessly everyone waited to see if
the sentence of Mac and Capraro would be delayed.
Exactly on
the minute the news was flashed across the street, "Capraro
MeCready murdered!"
Rosalie sobs hysterically,
Mac— Mac— my dear— they have murdered you— while we
stood here trying to think of what to do they murdered
you! Shout it! Shout it! Run and cry!. Only— it w o n ’t
do any good— now.
Suvorin, the hardened criminal, and Mac and Capraro,
the would-be reformers, are rebels against the power of cor­
porations and the courts that uphold them.
The brutality of
the staged court scene is evidence of the irremediable injury
to the helpless and the innocent where selfish power decides
the issue.
Here the rebels are opposed to the existing order
and the unsophisticated ones are crushed by it.
The majesty
of the court and of the government that maintains it are
hereby held up to scathing mockery.
Whereas exaggeration in
satiric comedy often has a salutary effect on society, it has
a salacious effect when used in tragedy.
Gods of the
Lightning is a vivid picture of things as they are said to be,
not necessarily as they are.
Destructive criticism in
tragedies is morally hurtful, because it results in an ex­
aggerated and biased picture.
When Gods of the Lightning is
shown on the stage, a large per cent of the audience unthink­
ingly align themselves with its argument, jeering the flag
and deriding the courts and national government.
Gods of the Lightning is based on a true occurrence,
the Sacco-Yanzetti Case.
Sacco and Yanzetti, two Italians,
were accused of the murder of the paymaster of a shoe factory
in Massachusetts.
Five years later Celestino Maderias, sen­
tenced to be executed for one crime, admitted participation
in the murder, declaring at the same time that Sacco and
Yanzetti were innocent of any part of the double murder.
new trial was asked but it was denied.
were sent to the electric chair.
throughout the country.
In 1927 the two men
The day was a stormy one
Hunger strikes were called; bombs
were thrown into the New York subway, and crowds clustered in
the streets in mass demonstrations.
The play which so graphically follows the original in­
cidents, was such potential dynamite that it was closed after
only a couple of weeks, though with a packed house on the
last night.
Men and women who eared about what happened to
Sacco and Yanzetti, or about abstract justice, cared about
Gods of the Lightning.
done can’t be undone.
very good play.
The others said, "Too bad, but w h a t ’s
They were anarchists, anyway.
Not a
They’re dead; to whom can it matter now?"
Winterset is the author’s answer to that final question.
Winterset is the story of the after effects of such a
legal crime.
It is the drama of what might have happened to
the principal actors in a trial like that of the SaccoYanzetti Case, were those actors to meet again a decade or so
after the case itself has been officially closed.
It is the
story of how a wrong festers in society until it destroys
the mind of the judge, who fears that he may have made an er­
ror in judgment and may have convicted an innocent man;
wrecks the victim’s son, who wanders through his whole life
in search of evidence to prove his father's innocence, alone
except for a great hatred of society; adds the last measure
of brutality to the leader of the gang who ordered the murder,
and to his henchman who fired the gun; involves a boy who was
a witness to the shooting but kept his mouth shut to save his
own skin, and the boy's old father who has no place in any
world that is newer than the Talmud, and the boy's young sis­
ter, who, by an accident of fate, is the final link in the
chain between innocence and crime, love and hate, life and
More elaborately, the story of Winterset is as follows:
Trock, the true murderer in the Romagna case, after a short
term in prison on another charge was now free and looking
along the water front for Judge Gaunt, who had sentenced
Romagna to die, and now, half crazed because he had sentenced
an innocent man, was stopping people in the streets and alley­
ways, trying to justify the sentence.
Mio, the son of Romagna,
through investigation, had traced the evidence of the murder
there to the river front.
and they fell in love.
There by accident he met Miriamne
Her brother Garth was one of the few
persons who knew of Trock's guilt.
Trock warned him to stay
under cover, and Garth promised, although his sister,
Miriamne, who had stumbled upon the facts, believed it better
not to live this lie, to speak the truth even if it meant
While in the street, Garth and his father Esdras dis­
covered old Judge Gaunt, and took him to their refuge.
while Miriamne learned who Mio was, and that he was searching
out her own father and brother.
In the Esdras basement old
Judge Gaunt argued out in his tortured mind the case that had
driven him insane.
During this time Mio came to the Esdras abode and begged
for the evidence which father and son could give him.
He very
soon recognized Judge Gaunt, and argued with the obsessed judge
for his father's innocence.
Gaunt: Romagna was found guilty
by all due process of law, and given his chance
to prove his innocence.
Mio: What chance? When a court
panders to mob hysterics, and the jury
comes in loaded to soak an anarchist
and a foreigner, it may be due process of law
but it's also murder!
Every word you spoke
was balanced carefully to keep the letter
of the law and still convict— convict, by Christ,
if it tore the seven veils! You stand here now
running cascades of causistry, to prove
to yourself and me that no judge of rank and
could burn a man out of hate! But that’s what you
under all your varnish!
The trial itself
was shot full of legerdemain, prearranged to lead
the jury astray—
Gaunt: And if
the jury were led astray, remember it's
the jury, by our Anglo-Saxon custom,
that finds for guilt or innocence. The judge
powerless in that matter.
Mio: Not you! Your charge
misled the jury more than the evidence,
accepted every biased meaning, distilled
the poison for them.
During their conversation Trock reappeared in the
Esdras home, prepared to steer the judge into a death trap.
Into their midst, in gruesome fashion, returned the man known
as Shadow, one of Trock’s closest accomplices, whom he had
shot and thrown into the river a short while before.
Now he
stumbled, bloodstained and dripping with river water, threat­
ening to murder Trock; but before he could kill the terrorstricken gangster, he collapsed.
Shadow’s body was taken
into an adjoining room and left.
A mock trial was now held in the basement, during
which Mio learned that Trock, by means of Shadow, had com­
mitted the crime for which his father was sentenced to death.
Turning bitterly on Judge Gaunt Mio cried:
It’s plain beyond denial
Even to this fox of justice— and all his words
are curses on the wind! You lied! You lied!
You knew this too!
Gaunt: (low) Let me go! Let me go!
Mio: Then why
did you let my father die?
Gaunt: Suppose it known,
but there are things a judge must not believe
though they should head and fester underneath
and press in on his brain.
Justice once rendered
in a clear burst of anger, righteously,
upon a very common laborer,
confessed an anarchist, the verdict found
and the precise machinery of law
invoked to know him guilty— think what furor
would rock the state if the court then flatly
all this was lies— must be reversed? It's better,
as any judge can tell you, in such cases,
holding the common good to be worth more
than small injustice, to let the record stand,
let one man die.
When policemen who had tracked Judge Gaunt to this
spot, entered the scene, Mio tried to get them to arrest
Troek for murder.
But the body of Shadow had disappeared from
the adjoining room, and Miriamne, swearing by her brother
rather than the man she loved, lied in implying that Trock
had committed no crime.
with them.
The police left, taking Judge Gaunt
Now, more or less indifferent to Trock, and his
own need to escape, Mio lingered to talk to Miriamne.
outcome of that talk was a new and happier outlook on life for
Mio, but the delay was most unfortunate, for when Mio started
from Miriamne's door, he was shot by Trock*s henchmen.
the dead bodies of Mio and Miriamne Esdras delivered a eulogy
that theirs is "the glory of earth-born men and women, not to
cringe, never to yield, but standing take defeat implacable
and defiant, die unsubmitting."
The whole story, in showing the effect of the original
verdict in the Romagna case on the lives of all these people,
sets forth the brutalizing effect of misused power in the
Mio, in his search for the truth, and Miriamne in her
death are the rebels against social injustice.
The mock trial
and the various appearances of the police in the street and
in Esdras*s home were used to reveal the falsity of our system
of justice.
Speaking in Carr's words,
[Justice] is something you can buy.
In fact, at the
moment I don't think of anything you can't buy, includ­
ing life, honor, virtue, glory, public office, conjugal
affection and all kinds of justice, from the traffic
court to the immortal nine.
Mr. Anderson's pessimistic hopelessness in general is expressed
by Esdras in these words:
Yes? Yet it’s true
the ground we walk on is impacted down
and hard with blood and bones of those who died
There’s not one title to land or life,
even your own, but was built on rape and murder,
back a few years.
Concerning marriage, Maxwell Anderson seems to have
considerable regard for the ennobling and arresting influence
of love between a man and a woman, as exemplified in The
Masque of Kings, Outside Looking I n , The Wingless Victory,
Winterset, and Key Largo.
Nevertheless, in four dramas,
White Desert, Saturday’s Children, Gypsy, and The Star W a g o n ,
he removes the glamor in some ways from marriage.
heshows one or both in revolt
In each
against certain restrictions.
Desert is the story of a moody and jealous husband who
accuses his wife of infidelity and shoots her when she delib­
erately sins to be avenged upon him.
Saturday’s Children is
an amusing comedy of two young married people.
Bobby, the
girl, to prevent Rims from taking a job in China, used a
feminine trap to elicit from him a proposal.
They are married
and settle down to try to live on his meager salary.
pointments and recriminations end in Bobby’s securing a job
and living in a rented room, until her husband discovers that
what she really needs is romance.
Rims comes to her room,
they make up, then quarrel again, and the landlady in the in­
terest of respectability ejects him at ten o ’clock.
alone, sobs hysterically in the dark.
Slowly a black shape
rises in the moonlight on the fire escape and Rims steps
through the window.
"Though the story is slight and familiar,
by adroit characterization, by spontaneous and enlightening
dialog, by fertility in the invention of details, Mr. Anderson
has given it freshness.”*
Refusing the merely sentimental conclusion of children,
Mr. Anderson leaves the story in that state of confusion
characteristic of the present time. Love brought them
together and it is love that they desired.
They wanted
each other, they did not want the responsibilities, the
discords, and the difficulties which marriage, the conven­
tional sequel of love entails, and when they get them all
they are frank enough to admit where the difficulty lies.
Without realizing it, they are playing their part in a
gigantic struggle— the struggle between nature which
yields less and less easily to those demands— and because,
though they know no way out, they are, like so many, no
longer sure that Nature is right, no longer convinced that
there is anything worth giving the happiness of their own
lives for, they end with a mere temporization.
Anderson's comedy is a mood, akin to the melancholy of
despair. He has envisaged frankly the fact that marriage
and children and the humdrum life of the family are not
what most young lovers want, and no mere facile sentiment
is enough to reconcile him to the fact that society re­
quires that these are what they shall get. The accent of
the play is absolutely contemporary.3
In the mind of this writer the difficulty portrayed
was the too small salary on which the couple had to live. .
The grinding niggardliness of their daily lives destroyed the
romance of being together.
Their problem was temporarily
solved when Bobby again secured a position.
the play reveal this.
Excerpts from
One evening when Rims came home the
conversation was as follows:
^ D. Carb, "Saturday's Children," Vogue, 69:132, April,
3 J. W. Krutch, "Drama Review," Nation, February 15,
1927, p. 194.
Bobby: Well, then, there1s just no use, you see. We get
$160 and our expenses are $174 and— We've just
got to cut everything away down. Rims, we can’t
live on #160 a month.
(Looking up at him) Darling,
you do love me, don't you?
Rims: Honest, kid, nobody ever loved anybody the way I
love you.
I think about you all day long. And
then I come home at night and— (He turns away) we
get into some god-dam mess— and it -just shoots the
Bobby: I know.
I t ’s just the same way with me.
I think
all day how marvellous it's going to be when you
come home— and then you get here— and I don’t
know— it isn’t marvellous at all— It’s just a
house and we're just married people— and— some­
times I hate it— everything* s getting spoiled—
Rims: I guess i t ’s mostly relatives and— money.
Later that evening they again get into a dispute over
personal problems,
Rims: A fellow gives up a lot when he gets married.
long as h e ’s single, he owns the earth, but when
he's married his m o n e y ’s not his own, his time’s
not his own, he's got to keep on working whether
he wants to or not, and there’s hell to pay if he
spends an extra dime. Whenever I tired of my job
I used to quit— if I didn’t like one town I tried
another— and now I can't—
Bobby: And if you think a man gives up a lot when he gets
married, a girl gives up something when she gets
married, and don't you forget it! I spend the
whole day here taking care of this damned house
for you and cooking your meals and washing your
dishes and never going anywhere because we can’t
afford it— and every time I get a dime for myself
I have to ask for it!
It's degrading!
Perhaps after Bobby secured a position the two incomes
gave them the independence they so sorely desired.
At any
rate, the play is decidedly amusing and human.
As if in apology for his successful domestic comedy,
Mr. Anderson selected a menage almost as easily identifiable
for his next work, but with the significant difference that
u -
his characters were much more complex.
Ellen, nicknamed
Gypsy, is an eccentric, fascinating girl whose ’’love is quick­
Her instability is so carefully motivated, so con­
vincingly portrayed, that audiences, while they could not like
her, accepted her as an existent individual.
Anderson’s picture of her is another example of his
ability to create a character.
The trouble with Gypsy
was that no matter how much she loved a man, temptation
still beset her, not a very new aspect of human nature
so far as men go.
Gypsy had seen her mother pass from
one man to another, always on the downward path, never
able to reach the ideal of faithfulness in marriage
with its resultant security and beauty of existence;
rather than see herself go the same way, she preferred
to die.
Considered as a morbid character, who first
idealized herself and then couldn’t stand the reality,
Gypsy is credible. 4Like Saturday’s Children, Gypsy gives an excellent idea
of the intellectual confusion now prevailing in American so­
ciety regarding sex— both inside and outside of marriage.
the latter drama, Gypsy is the rebel protagonist against the
heritage of her own blood.
Like all extreme romantics, she
has a fate, a daemon, on whom she conveniently thrusts all
responsibility for her sexual varietism.
Ellen’s mother,
Marilyn, tried to talk with her, but Ellen would receive no
counsel from her mother.
After accusing her mother of various
affairs which her mother refused to admit, Ellen said:
Oh, I knew you’d lie about it. Y o u ’d always
lie— I haven’t begun to tell you what I know
about you!
Francis R. Bellamy, ’’The Drama,’* The Outlook, 151:171 >
January 30, 1929.
Marilyn: You say that to me, knowing that you are deceiv­
ing your husband— living with another man and
making David a fool— and you find me sickening.
Oh, I know youI
I know every breath you draw
and every thought you think!
Looking like a
pure innocent child and posing that way— and
living like a— . H e ’s your second lover!.
Ellen: Why am I that way? Who put it in my blood? You!
Do you wonder
you make me hate myself?—
It's not true about
me!I won't have it true!
Marilyn: If you only wouldn't hate me, maybe I could help
Ellen: I can't hate anyone as much as I hate myself..
You can't help me.
Wanting to be honest with David, her husband, in spite
of everything, Ellen told him about the first liason, assur­
ing him she would never love anyone but him again.
many months she had formed an attachment for Cleve.
ing the heart to stay
with David
him only part of the truth,
Not hav­
under-the circumstances, she
and then went to live with
When David finally learned the truth, he was broken­
Ellen then confessed to Cleve that she might do him
that way some time.
Not wanting to assume the tragic role
that he had seen David play, Cleve left her, at her words,
Go, and go quickly! You were right about me. I would
have betrayed you and lied to you and broken you.
perfectly unreliable and indecent. And now that I know
it there's nothing more to say.
After Cleve has left, Ellen turned on the gas.
ing to the first account she dies.
According to a later ac­
count, before she succumbs she hears the telephone ringing.
She revives herself sufficiently to answer.
ing to ask her for a week-end date.
It is Wells call­
She accepts.
In The Wingless Victory the theme developed is that of
racial and religious bigotry.
Oparre, an East Indian princess,
married Nathaniel MeQuestion, the owner of the merchantman
The Queen of the Celebes, that plied between Boston and the
Celebes in 1800.
Believing that his Puritan mother and minis­
ter brother would adhere to the principles of the Christian
religion and receive Oparre, Nathaniel brought her and their
two little girls to live in Boston.
Having become converted
to the Christian religion, Oparre believed she and Nathaniel
would find a real home in Boston.
Their arrival in the home
of Mrs. McQuestion soon disillusioned them, however.
Phineas: Why are you here?
You mate with some aborigine in a jungle,
beget your children on her, and bring her here,
to spread your baboon kisses on white women
as if nothing had happened!
They are permitted to stay because Nathaniel offers to save
the family home and business.
As time went by Oparre came
more and more to feel the aversion of the townsmen as well as
that of Nathaniel's people.
She suggested to Nathaniel that
they go away and begin life again in some new place.
Nathaniel had sunk all that he had in the chandlering business
and even the ship belonged to the company.
W e ’re fast here.
Square on the bar
till the cash comes in again.
It's safe enough;
we're rich if we stay here, but if we go
w e ’ve nothing.
She urged him to leave anyway, but he would not.
One day Phineas, Nathaniel's preacher brother, came to
him with an account of a ship's log that had been discovered
. aboard the Queen of the Celebes containing a record of how
the ship had been taken from the Dutch.
Phineas threatened
to turn the log over to civil authorities unless Nathaniel
would send Oparre and her children away.
Phineas: Let the woman go,
or I swear I ’ll go through with this.
held the whip,
and pushed your black brood on us, and laughed
to see
how we took the stench! We'll wipe that laugh­
ter out
One way or another!
We give you a further choice.
If it suit you
follow your woman. We'll press no suit against
if you're both away.
Nathaniel: Leaving the money safe
in your reverend hands!
Phineas: Take with you what you can gather.
Nathaniel: And that's exactly nothing.
At first Nathaniel was horrified, but bitter at the
loss of all his property, he decided to- let Oparre go.
Oparre finally understood what it was that he expected of her,
she turned on him in her pain and fury, lashing him and his
people for their injustice, and spurning the vain teachings
of the Christian religion.
Oparre: All these white frightened faces, come in and
We have news for you.
I have been misled
a long time by your Christ and his beggar’s
written for beggars! Your beseeching, pitiful
The old gods are best, the gods of blood and
and the arrows dipped in venom!
You worship
them, too,
Moloch and Javeh of your Old Testament,
requiring sacrifice of blood, revenging
all save their chosen!
You vouchsafe no pity
to the alien, and I'll give none.
. . . . Your rodent flesh on mine,
in rodent ecstacy!
I ’ll tear you out
from my breast, tear my breast down to bone
and hard
till that shame’s gone from my people!
She and her children went on board the vessel that
same evening.
old god.
In her madness Oparre hung the tapestry of the
Her servant told her of the hemlock she had brought
from the Orient for just such a need.
She and Oparre first
gave it to the children and then took of it themselves.
Oparre was dying, Nathaniel came to tell her he would go with
Nathaniel: They may have it all,
ship, goods and money— whatever we brought
with u s ,
May it prosper them— because I ’ve nothing
if I let you go.— A man must keep something
or it’s no use living—
She died in his arms.
Nathaniel said he would sail with the
ship, and find his rest when his dust lay down with hers.
The brutal effects of commercialism and the false
glorification of it are portrayed with deft satiric humor
and charming lightness in the two dramas High Tor and The
Star Wagon.
High Tor was awarded the prize of the New York
Drama Critics Circle in 1936.
It is a phantasy of legends
having to do with the coming to America of Hendrick Hudson.
When one of his ships, the Onrust, foundered in the Tappan Zee,
its crew sought the heights of the Hudson and lived their lives
out there waiting for the return of Hendrick to take them hack
across the sea.
Even now, the nHigh Tor" legend goes, their
spirits haunt the Catskills and are to be heard in the winds
when storms rage, and to be seen in the mists that circle the
In this atmosphere the hero of the play, a young
descendant of the Dutch, fights to retain his ownership of
High Tor Mountain, and to save it from the trap rock trust
that would gouge out its inwards to construct crushed rock
The practical American sweetheart who would have
him sell, and the shade of the pretty young wife of the cap­
tain of the Onrust, are parties to the h e r o ’s conflict.
Van Dorn, owner of the mountain, having a rugged disdain for
work that involves a pay envelope, uses his pinnacle for
spiritual gratification.
To him it represents individuality,
remoteness from the sordid commerce of life, and a lofty
perch of isolation.
His greatest joke is that he can look
down across the river to an opposite shore upon which jowl to
jaw, huddle Sing Sing prison and an automobile assembly plant.
"Right from here," he says, "you can’t tell one from
another; get inside and what’s the difference?
there and you work, and they’ve got you."
Y o u ’re in
A crooked judge and his partner, a real estate dealer,
try to force him to sell his mountain for a small sum.
one night, darkened by storms, peopled with wandering Dutch
ghosts and frightened bank robbers, and through an amazingly
diverting set of circumstances, these two sharpers lose their
With the return of the dawn and Van Van Dorn’s realiza­
tion of new prospects and a broader horizon out West, he
comes to an agreement with the real estate dealers whereby he
is well paid for his mountain.
Biggs and Skimmerhorn come up the mountain to inter­
view Van Dorn:
You like the view, I suppose?
Certainly is a view.
You wouldn’tspoil it, of course?You wouldn’t
move in with a million dollarsworth of machin­
ery and cut the guts out of the mountain, would
We always leave the front— the part you see from
the river.
But you take down all the law allows.
Well, w e ’re in business.
Wot with me.
Do you mind if I ask how much you’re offering?
We said seven hundred, but I ’ll make it a thou­
sand right here and now.
But you offered Mr. Van Dorn’s father ten thou­
sand before he died.
His father had a clear title, right down from
the original Van Dorn.
But unfortunately the
present Mr. Van Dorn has a somewhat clouded
claim to the acreage.
M y father’s title was clear, and he left it to
The truth is he should have employed a lawyer
when he drew his will, because the instrument, as
recorded, is faulty in many respects.
It was
brought before me in my capacity as probate judge
at Ledentown.
Van: And in your capacity as second vice-president of
the trap rock company you shot it full of holes.
Skimmerhorn: Sir, I keep my duties entirely separate.
Van: Sure, but when your left hand takes money your'
right hand finds out about it. And when there’s
too much to carry away in both hands you use a
basket. Y o u ’re also vice-president of the power
company, and you stole right-of-ways clear across
the country north and south—
Skimmerhorn: We paid for every foot of land—
Van: Yes, at your own price.
Stalled on the mountain with night coming on, the two real
estate men talk:
Skimmerhorn: The w i l l ’s perfectly good.
I could find holes
in it, but I ’ve probated plenty much the same.
Biggs: What of it?
Skimmerhorn: A judge has some conscience, you know. When he
sets a precedent he likes to stick to it.
Biggs: I never knew your conscience to operate except
on a cash basis. You want half.
Skimmerhorn: Yes, I want half.
Biggs: Well, you don’t get it. Any other judge I put
in there’d work for nothing but the salary and
glad of the job. You take a forty per cent cut
and howl for more.
The woods are full of shy­
ster lawyers looking for probate judgeships and
I ’ll slip one in at Ledentown next election.
Skimmerhorn: Oh, no, you w o n ’t, Art; oh, no, you w o n ’t. You
wouldn’t do that to an old friend like me; be­
cause if you did, think what I ’d do to an old
friend like you.
The Star Wagon is a romantic fantasy.
Stephen Minch,
an inventor, has made a fortune for his employer, has reached
his peak with the invention of a "star wagon," which will re­
turn its driver to any desired point in the past.
Nagged by
his wife for his resigned poverty and fired by his employer
(partly for spending time on the star wagon, and partly for
being so submissive), the inventor throws the switch of the
star wagon, and is instantly transported to the year 1902,
when he met and married Martha.
Resolved to rectify his mis­
takes, he says no to his heart, makes a practical match with
a rich girl, and amasses a fortune.
His wife betrays him,
associates force him into dishonest stock manipulations, he
longs for the sweet girl Martha, and drowns his sorrow in
When he cannot stand his second-ehoice life any longer
he remembers his time machine hidden in the attic.
back into his former life, he returns gladly to his poverty,
and finds happiness with Martha.
His employer, on discover­
ing that he does not have the formula Stephen had worked out
for the rubber analysis, and having profited by the night’s
adventure in the past, comes to Stephen to ask him to come
back to work.
Having awakened to a more independent spirit,
through his return to youth, Stephen rejects the offer until
Mr. Duffy offers him the position of an independent engineer,
and gives Hanus, his helper, a job.
This play indirectly presents two themes, marriage and
In the first act Martha expresses her unhap­
piness at their limited circumstances:
Martha: Every year you invent something, and every year
I think maybe it’s going to mean something to
you and me. Maybe w e ’ll be able to have an
apartment in town, and a servant, and I won't
have to cook and wash and make my own garden,
and every time an invention comes along what
happens? It belongs to the company. And do you
get a raise in salary, so we could live a little
better, and I could have some clothes and play
bridge in the afternoons, or even go to a con­
cert— ? No, the company makes the money, and
youfre still in the laboratory at # 27.50 a week,
and a barnacle called Hanus star-boarding with
us. You invented a washing machine that every­
body else in the world can afford except me.
You built a piano action, but I haven’t any
I don't know anything you haven’t in­
vented except a way to make money! And every­
body makes money out of you, and takes the credit
away from you, and steals patents— and nobody’s
ever seen you angry— nobody* s ever heard you com­
plain— or ask for a raise!
Aren't we still in love with each other, Martha?
Are we? Being in love doesn't last forever on
#27.50 a week.
X thought we were.
You haven’t thought about it. You haven't
thought about me for so many years I can’t be­
lieve it ever happened. . . . You should have
married someone else.
At last Stephen and Hanus get off to work, but they arrive
tragically late as it is a morning when Mr. Huffy is very
angry with Stephen for making a rubber formula for a tire
that will not wear out.
He sharply reprimands Stephen, and
finally discharges him, telling him to leave the formula for
rubber so far worked out, with the company.
Duffy: I asked you for a twenty-two thousand mile tire!
I didn’t ask you for a hundred and thirty thou­
sand mile tire!
Do you want to wreck the tire
business— all over the United States? You know
as well as I do the profits in the tire business
come from replacements.
If we equip our car
with tires that w o n ’t wear out, we stand to lose
seven millions a year! What's more we're pledged
to the Rubber Association not to make a tire
that’ll do better than thirty thousand miles!
You knew that, and you slipped over a formula
that’d wreck our business and get us in Dutch
with all our competitors!
On hearing of Stephen’s time machine, Duffy orders it scrapped
for costs.
That night Stephen and Hanus steal it and turn the
time back to tiieir youth.
After he has married Hally and has
become quite wealthy, he and the other men become involved in
a risky business deal in which many shares are deeded to Hanus
for safe keeping.
When he is asked to sign away the property,
he refuses because, as he says, "It’s a dirty steal of twenty
million dollars from people that can’t afford it, and I ’m not
Duffy replies, ’’W e ’ll get it anyway, you know.
one way'll be unpleasant for you, and the other you’ll be on
easy street.”
In order to save his tire business, Stephen gets Hanus
to sign.
Then sick of the double dealing, Stephen and Hanus
get out the time machine and return to the present.
glad to be back, and appreciate what they have.
All are
Duffy sees
the light about Stephen and he gets a better position.
The dishonesty and graft of big business is here por­
trayed with light satiric humor.
The unhappiness of many
women, whose husbands never make more than a bare living, is
realistically revealed in the lives of Martha and Stephen,
though the story has a happy ending.
Key Largo. Mr. Anderson's most recent drama, is another
portrayal of the injustice of our police system, though the
play is fundamentally a philosophic study of man facing death
for a cause.
King McCloud had persuaded six other youths to
go with him to Spain to fight on the side of the Royalists.
By accident he learned that he and his comrades were detailed
to hold a ridge until the rest of that division of the armyhad entrenched themselves farther back.
Also he learned that
the Royalists were secretly negotiating with Franco, and that
soon the war would be over, with Franco's army triumphant.
Feeling that the original idea for which they had fought had
become lost and that the final outcome was a makeshift that
would only lead to another war, he begged his friends to slip
away with him and try to save their own lives.
believed that right would win in the end.
Victor d*Alcala
He said,
There’s something in the world
that would rather die than accept injustice— something
positive for good— that can't be killed—
or I ’ll die inside.
And now that the sky’s found empty
a man has to be his own god for himself—
has to prove to himself that a man can die
for what he believes— if ever the time comes to him
when he's asked to choose, and it just so happens
it's up to me tonight.— And I stay here.
The other men agreed with him and remained, but King slipped
King later discovered that all his friends were killed
that night.
Several months later King came to the home of Victor
d ’Alcala to tell his family about Victor’s death.
Really he
came to try to find peace for himself for having abandoned
his cause in the face of death.
Though Alegre, Victor’s sis­
ter, and her blind father could not approve his actions, they
told him he could stay there, somewhat as a protection against
Murillo, a gambler who was using their simple home on a
Florida Key as a small gambling resort to fleece the tourists.
Murillo was protected by Gash, the sheriff of the Key.
Alegre and her father complained to Gash about Murillo, ask­
ing how they could get rid of him and his gang as they ruined
the trade,fleeced the tourists, and gave
the place a bad name,
any kind of gambling
toldthem the country was wide open to
and they would have to take what came.
Then d ’Alcala warned
him that Murillo was taking a chance if he remained there, and
openly accused Gash of taking money from the gamblers.
anger Gash replied, "When you start prophesying it sounds too
much like a threat [concerning the money].
And that kind of
talk doesn’t make for friendship.”
Gash protected Murillo even in the face of his obvious
murder of the head of a chain gang on the road, and did every­
thing in his power to pin the crime on three innocent men, two
fugitive Indians from the chain gang, and King, who had claimed
to be Alegre’s brother.
When Gash had discovered the murder
he came to d'Alcala’s house to talk to Murillo and the others.
Gash: All I say, I wish whoever did it had sunk him
deep enough so he wouldn’t come floating around
to cause a stink. W e ’ve got a body, and it was
certainly murder, and when a fellow’s working
for the state and drawing checks you can be God
damn sure he's got connections somewhere. H e ’ll
be missed, and there’ll be an investigation.
It'll come to m e — I ’ve had to swear in extra
deputies already,— and there was enough to ex­
plain without explaining murder.
Murillo: Good God’
. I hope I ’m not a suspicious character.
Gash: Get me right, Mr. Murillo, what I think about
you or anybody here, w o n ’t matter a damn— but if
other people think you should be arrested and I
didn’t arrest you, then I begin to worry about
my job! You have to hold the votes to get re­
elected sheriff, and most of the time you can
just play along, and it’s easy, but when it’s
murder you've got to watch your step, for they're
watching you. They're watching me now. Watching
both of us.
Murillo: I ’m getting out.
Gash: Son, if I take my hand away and you start running
you'll never get off this Key, you w o n ’t get
fifty yards!
I wish to God I could get you out
of this, and into Cuba, because you’re around m y
neck! And you’ll cross me up if you ever get in
the dock.
Murillo suggested that Gash pin the murder on the two
Indians who had run away from the chain gang, but Gash replied
that it was useless to pin suspicion on two runaways that they
couldn’t find.
The idea that they had murdered the boss in
making their escape would make a perfect story, but first they
must catch the men.
The sheriff, on learning that the Indians had been
there that morning, and that King had claimed to be Victor
d'Alcala, wormed from Alegre where the Indians were hiding.
He also warned them that Victor had onee been cited on a
charge of aiding a runaway,.and that this would be used against
Gash: Now I begin to think w e ’ll get somewhere. The
Indians did the killing to get away and Victor
helped them— on that theory h e ’s an accessory, and
can be arrested, so that's one in the bag!
Then d ’Alcala told just how Murillo had committed the
murder and weighted the body with stones to sink it in the
Murillo: God damn you, who told you that?
d'Alcala: Told me? I knew so well where you had sunk that
body that today at my direction it was fished to
the surface, and freed of weights and floated to
the bar where it was found to use against you!
Gash: Where did you get this story? Can you substan­
tiate it?
d'Alcala: I hear better than most men see.
That could be manufactured
Gash: That's not evidence.
by the yard and no check on it. No court in
Florida would take a blind m a n ’s word for a thing
like that, and no court should, unless there’s
corroboration, and there isn't any.
There were
two Indians here according to what I hear.
They fished him up and set him afloat.
they have reason for wanting to involve Murillo
here, or do you have some reason?
I wanted to send his murder
d*Alcala: Sir, I have some!
home to him because h e ’s fixed himself here on
m y house like a cancer on the heart!
But I tell you what
Gash: That’s a possible version.
it’ll sound like to a jury: It’ll sound as if
two convicts killed a foreman to get away— and
then got scared, and towed the body down to the
doorstep of a man who’d had a quarrel with that
foreman, and as if your son was in on it somehow,
because you knew exactly where the body was sunk,
and because the boy was mixed up in a very simi­
lar business some years ago. That sounds to me
like sense. How does it sound to you?
d*Alcala: Like the lie it is, and you know it is.
Gash: That’s how it all adds up for any jury, I tell
you. And the truth in court is what sounds like
the truth in court, and not what happened, not
Alegre: But look what you’re doing! Doesn’t it matter
w h o ’s guilty?
Gash: That comes into it. As a matter of fact I'd
much rather have the Indians than your brother,
and you know where the Indians are.
So think it
over, maybe we can make a deal. Tell me where
-they are and I ’ll do without your brother.
been in politics here all my life, and I don't
like it myself, and I didn't invent it, but what
you have to do is sell protection to people that
can pay, and then protect them the best you can.
Alegre: Even from murder?
Gash: No, not from murder.
But if it comes down to
murder, you give them what breaks you can.
Alegre: You could be honest.
You know that?
Gash replied that he couldn’t.
It had been tried; but
you have to have a machine to stay in office, and nothing
runs a machine but money.
He had never been off the Keys,
but he had heard it said there was honest government else­
where, here and there, by fits and starts.
but he couldn’t see how it could last.
it wouldn’t be natural.
laundry down at Star Key.
It might come in, but
He knew a John Chinaman who ran the
He said in China the same word
that means to govern means to eat.
Maybe there was,
They’d worked it out in
The government eats you, but it protects you first,
because if it didn’t you wouldn’t get fat enough to make good
Alegre: But if they knew about you— J
Gash: Lady, they know, and nothing you could say would
mean a thing.— For your own good, and his— I
tell you, give me a line on those Indians and
from now on w e ’re friends.
Alegre, in disdain: W e ’d be dishonored by such a friend­
ship .
Gash, earnestly: Well, give me the information and
friends or not, I ’ll keep my word.
Thereupon Alegre told him how to find the Indians.
While the police were capturing the Indians, King,
Alegre, and her father talked about life and death.
King learned that Alegre had deified him and loved him when
she thought he had died in Spain, and that to her he was now
spiritually dead, he resolved to take the crime on himself and
to die if necessary.
At the return of Sheriff Gash he ’’con­
fessed” to the crime and claimed there were no accomplices.
The Indians were freed.
Thereupon, King drew a gun on
Murillo and started to drive him out of the house.
At this
Murillo's henchman, Hunk, shot King through the back and King
killed Murillo.
King asked to be allowed to remain seated as
befitted a warrior.
Gash: You can’t be sorry for a man that planned it,
and it all worked out, and he got what he wanted.
— Just for the record, sir, this was your son?
d'Alcala: He was m y son.
King had at last found happiness and peace in dying for
a noble cause.
In an essay called "The Essence of Tragedy” Mr. Anderson
has defined tragedy from the Aristotelian standpoint, and has
explained the influence of these principles on his dramas and
all modern dramas.
By study of the varying success of his own
plays and through a careful review of Aristotle*s Poetics.
Mr. Anderson prepared a working definition of what a play is,
a formula of what he felt would include all the elements neces­
sary to a play structure.
Aristotle made a point of the recog­
nition scene as essential to tragedy.
The modern recognition
scenes are subtler and harder to find, yet they are none the
less present in the memorable plays.
They have little to do
with disguise or the unveiling of a personal identity, yet the
element of discovery is decidedly present.
For the mainspring in the mechanism of a modern play
is almost invariably a discovery by the hero of some
element in his environment or in his own soul of which
he has not been aware— or which he has not taken suf­
ficiently into account.!
In the words of Mr. Anderson*s formula:
A play should lead up to and away from a eentral
crisis, and this crisis should consist in a discovery
by the leading character which has an indelible effect
on his thought and emotion and completely alters his
Maxwell Anderson, The Essence of Tragedy and Other
Footnotes and Papers. p. 6.
course of action.
The leading character must make the
discovery; it must effect him emotionally; and it must
alter his direction in the p l a y . 2
The turning point of Hamlet is Hamlet’s discovery that
his uncle was unquestionably the murderer ofrhis father.
Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Lincoln’s discovery is that he has
been a coward, that he has stayed out of the fight for the
Union because he was afraid.
In each case, the discovery has
a profound emotional effect on the
hero, and gives an entirely
direction to his action in the play.
There is a second important principle that is just as
important as the point of discovery.
The hero who is to make
the central discovery in a play must not be a perfect man.
He must have some variation of what Aristotle calls
a tragic fault— and the reason he must have it is that
when he makes his discovery he must ehange
self and in his action— and he must change
The fault can be a very simple one— a mere
unawareness, for example— but if he has no fault he
cannot change for the better, but only for the worse.
It is necessary that he become more admirable, and not
less so, at the end of the p l a y . 3
In other words, a hero must pass through an experience which
opens his eyes to a fault of his own.
He must learn through
In a tragedy he suffers death itself as a conse­
quence of his error or his attempt to correct it, but before
he dies he has become a nobler person because of his recogni­
tion of his error and the consequent alteration of his course
. P. 7.
3 Ibid., p. 6.
of action.
In a serious play which does not end in death he
suffers a lesser punishment, but the pattern is the same.
In both forms he has a fault to begin with, he dis­
covers that fault during the course of the action, and
he does what he can to rectify it at the end. . . .
Hamlet’s fault was that he could not make up his mind
to act. He offers many excuses for his indecision
until he discovers that there is no real reason for
hesitation and that he has delayed out of cowardice.
Lincoln, in Abe Lincoln in Illinois, has exactly the
same difficulty.
In the climactic scene it is revealed
to him that he had hesitated to take sides through fear
of the consequences to himself, and he then chooses to
go ahead without regard for what may be in store for
him. From the point of view of the playwright, then, the
essence of a tragedy, or even of a serious play, is the
spiritual awakening, or regeneration, of his hero.4
When a playwright has his hero make a discovery which
has an evil effect, or one which the audience interprets as
evil, on his character, the play is foredoomed to failure on
the stage.
For the audience will always insist that the al­
teration in the hero be for the better— or for what it believes
to be the batter;
As audiences change the standards of good and evil
change, though slowly and unpredictably, and the meanings
of plays change with the centuries. One thing only is
certain: that an audience watching a play will go along
with it only when the leading character responds in the
end to what it considers a higher moral impulse than
moved him at the beginning of the story, though the
audience will of course define morality as it pleases
and in the terms of its own day. It may be that there
is no absolute up or down in this world, but the race
believes that there is, and will not hear of any denial.?
4 Ibid.. p. 10.
5 Ibid., P. 11.
The reason why theatre audiences demand evidence of
moral regeneration in the hero, according to Anderson, is that
tragedy, in its Greek origin and in its continued development
is of a religious nature celebrating m e n ’s virtue and his re­
generation in hours of Crisis.
The theatre began in two com­
plementary religious ceremonies, one celebrating the animal
in man and one celebrating the god.
Old Greek tragedy was dedicated to m a n ’s aspiration,
to his kinship with the gods, to his unending, blind at­
tempt to lift himself above his lusts and his pure
animalism into a world where there are other values than
pleasure and survival.
Our theatre has followed the
Greek patterns with no change in essence, from
Aristophanes and Euripides to our own day. Our more
ribald musical eomedibs are simply our approximation of
the Bacchic rites of Old Comedy. In the rest of our
theatre we sometimes follow Sophocles, whose tragedy
is always an exaltation of the human spirit, sometimes
Euripides, whose tragi-comedy follows the same pattern
of an excellence achieved through suffering.
The forms
of both tragedy and comedy have changed a good deal in
non-essentials, but in essentials— and especially in
the core of meaning which they must have for audiences—
they are in the main the same religious rites which grew
up around the altars of Attica long ago.6
It could be maintained that what the audienee demands
of a hero is only conformity to race morality, to the code
which seems to the spectators most likely to make for race
In many instances, especially in comedy, and ob­
viously in the comedy of Moli&re, this is true.
But in the
majority of ancient and modern plays it seems that what the
audience wants to believe is that men have a desire to break
Ibid., p. 12.
the moulds of earth which encase them and claim a kinship with
a higher morality than that which hems them in.
The theatre at its best is a religious affirmation,
an age-old rite restating and reassuring m a n ’s belief
in his own destiny and his ultimate hope.
The theatre
is much older than the doctrine of evolution, but its
own faith, asseverated again and again for every age
and every year, is a faith in evolution, in the reach­
ing and the climb of men toward distant goals, glimpsed
but never seen, perhaps never achieved, or achieved
only to be passed impatiently on the way to a more dis­
tant horizon.7
In the light of the preceding discussion of"The Essence
of Tragedy" we shall now consider the central crises and the
variations of tragic fault involved in Mr. Anderson’s tragic
The dramas shall be divided for discussion into three
groups, paralleling in the main, the division of his dramas
according to Mr. Anderson’s philosophical development as pre­
sented at the beginning of Chapter II.
The first group deals
with a tragic flaw in the hero that decides his action at the
crucial moment.
This group represents Mr. Anderson’s more
youthful outlook, and the conflict is largely external.
dramas to be considered under this head are Elizabeth the
Queen. Night over Taos. Mary of Scotland. and Valley Forge.
The second group deals with a tragic flaw involved in the
forces of circumstances as set forth in Gods of Lightening and
Wingless Victory.
This group represents Mr. Anderson's stormy
rebellion against the flaws he sees in society, the conflict
7 Ibid.. p. 14.
still being largely external.
The third group presents a
philosophic conflict in the mind of the he'ro and its effect
on his decision in the crucial moment of discovery.
In this
group are The Masque of K i n g s . Winterset. and Key Largo.
These three dramas are the more serious and important of Mr.
Anderson’s tragedies, as the mental conflict of the heroes
together with the outer conflict of circumstances makes them
more or less psychologic and philosophic studies.
In this
group, The Masque of Kings and Winterset represent Mr.
Anderson’s evasion of the situation "by means of death because
he sees no hopeful solution in life, because of his pessimistic
Key Largo, though considered in this group, pre­
sents Mr. Anderson’s clarified philosophy of evolutionary
Here, at last, the author has something positive
and hopeful to say, and it has a recreative effect upon the
form of his drama.
It will be clear from the foregoing classi­
fication that Mr. Anderson’s ’’choice of subject matter” in each
group presented, ”ls his personal problem of life, and takes
its answer from his personal relation to his time.”**
In other
words, the determining factor in the conflict of the dramas of
each representative group, is Mr. Anderson’s degree of philo­
sophic maturity at the time of writing them.
First, however, before a full discussion of each drama,
we shall briefly compare the dramatic outcomes of the dramas
of each group to see how Mr. Anderson’s philosophy has ef­
fected the conclusions.
Of the historic dramas of the first
group, Elizabeth the Q.ueen and Valley Forge end most strongly
and hopefully.
While the willing death of Essex in Elizabeth
the Queen partakes of the nostalgic loss of faith characteris­
tic of The Masque of Kings (to be discussed in another group),
yet his potential suicide made possible the glorious and un­
divided reign of Elizabeth.
You govern England better than I should.
I ’d lead her into wars, make a great name,
Perhaps, like Henry Fifth and leave a legacy
Of debts and bloodshed after me. You will leave
Peace, happiness, something secure.
Though Essex recognizes his weakness and his action results
in good to others, there is no change in himself, other than
that of self-sacrifice.
Valley Forge is by far the most posi­
tive and aspiring of this group of dramas, though it is the
only one of the group that is realistic.
By being convinced
of the "metal" of the "men in homespun" at the moment of in­
tended surrender, Washington’s tottering faith was restored
in the cause of Democracy, the fight was to go on unremittingly
I£!s [Democracy] destined to win, this dream,
weak though we are. Even if we should fail,
I t ’s destined to winl
In Valley Forge there is the minimum tragedy of bitter hard­
ship, the death of some of his loyal men, and years of hardship
ahead, yet hope and accomplishment of an independent future
with Washington as the leader and epitome of that staunch
spirit of Democracy is the prevailing emphasis.
most optimistic of Mr. Anderson*s dramas.
It is the
Mary of Scotland
is more virile in its conclusion than Night over faos, yet it
results in no good to anyone.
However, Mary*s resolution not
to abdicate, but to maintain unflinchingly her sovereign
majesty and her integrity of character, even in the face of
life imprisonment and death, trusting to future generations
to sift out the truth regarding her and Elizabeth, is heroic
and impressive, though characteristic of Mary*s headlong im­
In Night over Taos. Montoya permits the dis­
placement of the old order with the new by his death, but it
is not a heroic death.
He evades the issue by means of sui­
This is suggestive of the later dramas, The Wingless
Victory and The Masque of Ki n g s .
The tragic flaw involved in Gods of the Lightning;
Wingless Victory (dramas of the second group) is not so much
manifest in the hero or heroine as in the eveloping social
In Gods of the Lightning the flaw is injustice
of the courts to weak but innocent men.
The whole drama is a
fiery vituperation and condemnation of judicial procedure in
which the common public realize and condemn the injustice, but
there is no implication of social betterment.
It is all bit­
The social flaw involved in Wingless Victory is that
of racial and religions bigotry and intolerance.
Oparre commits suicide, the tragedy is not so hopeless as in
Gods of the Lightning or the later suicidal drama, The Masque
of Kings.
In the first place, Oparre*s instinctive reaction
to the mandates of her native heathen cult, which demanded
suicide in the face of great humiliation, was a natural and
expected one.
In the second place, Nathaniel repented his
disaffection and came to her, albeit too late, yet showing the
triumph of the better nature of the white race.
death, though highly dramatic, is not necessary.
Her reversion
to the savage cult of her childhood as a superior faith to that
of the Christian religion, is an example of what Mr. Anderson
discussed, as "the hero making a discovery which has an evil
effect, or one which the audience interprets as evil, thus
foredooming the play to failure on the stage."9
As mentioned
once before in the preceding chapter with regard to Gods of
the Lightning, in the opinion of this writer, destructive
criticism in tragedies is morally hurtful, because it results
in an exaggerated and biased picture, painted with the venom
of overwrought emotion, thereby creating further prejudice
rather than judicial thought.
I think this is the ease re­
garding the picture of Christians set forth in this drama.
The Masque of Kings, Wihterset, and Key Largo, the third
9 Ifrld. , p. 10.
group of Mr* Anderson*s tragedies, involve a philosophic
mental conflict of the heroes together with the outer conflict
of circumstances, the flaw in each hero being connected with
the philosophic questioning involved.
In the first group of
tragedies, Mr. Anderson had primarily been writing historic
In Gods of the Lightning and Wingless Victory of the
second group he was not merely writing a story; he was bit­
terly and hopelessly denunciatory of our order of social jus­
In The Masque of Kings and Winterset. the two dramas
chronologically preceding Key Largo, he is still denunciatory
of human government and forms of justice, but because of his
gloomy conception of man as essentially animalistic, he can
see no higher improvement for the hero at the moment of crucial
discovery than his own death.
In the words of Rudolph in The
Masque of Kings the greatest improvement he could make was to
keep faith with the little faith I have
quite beyond time or change*
by dying young and assuming none of the darkly hopeless re­
sponsibilities of his position.
In Winterset Esdras expresses
Anderson*s gloomy outlook in these words:
I wish that I ’d died so,
long ago; before you*re old .you'll wish
that you had died as they have.
These two dramas are the incarnation of Mr. Anderson's own
nostalgic fear and loss of faith at this period of writing.
Having characters mouth such empty subterfuges as the above
quotations, Mr. Anderson has the heroes escape all further
effort or responsibility by committing suicide or by being
killed as a consequence of hesitation.
or gain as a result of their deaths.
There is no progress
That conclusion is Mr.
Anderson* s helpless evasion of the philosophic questions in­
There is some excuse, however,-for the suicide con­
clusion in The Masque of K i n g s , as, no doubt, Mr. Anderson
was attempting to follow certain historical events.
less, the prevailing tone of hopeless pessimism is Mr.
Anderson’s own attitude at this time.
The three plays, Gods of the Lightning, The Masque of
K i n g s , and Winterset also helped to teach Mr. Anderson the
principle that a successful tragedy must result in some prog­
ress and development as an outcome of the suffering involved.
In Key Largo he adherred to this principle.
He was aided in
this by the crystallization of his philosophy of Evolution
which found expression in the essay "Whatever Hope We Have."
His idea as expressed there and in Key Largo is that the human
race progresses through evolution, which takes place as in­
dividuals fight and die for the good that they know, the best
being carried forward as an increment of culture.
This phil­
osophy is one of the reasons he gives for theatre audiences
demanding that the hero change in himself and in his actions
for the better.
In Key Largo he expresses this philosophy of
Evolution in the words of d*.Alcala:
If it’s true we came
from the sea-water . . .
. . . w e ’ve come a long way;
so far there’s no predicting what w e ’ll he
before we end. . . .
. . . and perhaps men help
by setting themselves forever, even to the death,
against cruelty and arbitrary power,
for that’s the beast— the ancient, belly-foot beast
from which we came, which is strong within us yet,
and tries to drag us back d o w n .
Over and over again the human race
climbs up out of the mud, and looks around,
and finds that it’s alone here; and the knowledge
hits it' like a blight— and down it goes
into the mud again.
Over and over again we have a hope
and make a religion of it— and follow it up
till w e ’re out on the topmost limb of the tallest tree
alone with our stars— and we don’t dare to be there,
and climb back down again.
It may be that the blight’s on the race once more—
that they're all afraid— and fight their way to the ground.
But it w o n ’t end in the dark.
Our destiny’s
the other way.
There’ll be a race of men
who can face even the stars without despair,
and think without going mad.
As King sees the necessity of standing irretrievably for what
one believes, he says:
and so in the last analysis -one dies
because it's part of the bargain he takes on
when he agrees to live. . . . A man must die
for what he believes— if h e ’s unfortunate
enough to have to face it in his time—
and if he w o n ’t then h e ’ll end up believing
in nothing at all— end that’s death, too.
Hence, the philosophy of Key Largo is progressive and to a
slight degree hopeful as it conforms
”torace morality."
a consequence of its stronger ending it is abetter play
his preceding dramas.
The positive idea of m a n ’s necessary progress has not
glvih Key Largo a semipositive and hopeful outlook, it has had
a redeeming effect on the form of Mr. Anderson’s dramas, as
The prevailing weakness of Mr. Anderson’s dramas previ­
ous to Key Largo was-the fatal shift in the last act.
action had broken down at the end of Act II from a fierce re­
bellion of the hero against some cruel social force, to a
matter of personal concern.
This shift did not occur in the
historical dramas as Mr. Anderson was guided by known circum­
stances, and the interest in them is fundamentally personal.
Nor was it so noticeable in other dramas that were largely
personal in interest, such as What Price Glory? The Buccaneert
G ypsy, and High T o r .
But in dramas whose strong motivating
interest is some social problem, such as Gods of the Lightning.
Both Your Houses. and Winterset. the author, because of his
hopeless pessimism, sees no way out for society, and in the
last act evades the issue by switching to a personal angle of
the story and a personal interest conclusion.
In Gods of the
Lightning the social implications make a large canvas for the
first and second acts.
The third act is almost purely the
personal matter of Rosalie’s grief and helplessness.
In Both
Your Houses, Alan McGlean starts out to clean up what legisla­
tive business he has a part in and was near to making some
progress.- But that would not be in line with Mr. Anderson’s
Alan McClean must relinquish his aim to defeat the
extravagant bill for which he was a committeeman, and now fight
for it, because it happens that the father of the girl he
wants to marry will be revealed i n “some dishonest dealings if
the bill does not pass.
So with disillusioned condemnation of
all congressional proceedings and all congressmen, Alan backs
down and shares in the dirty, politics, maintaining that he is
through and going home.
In The Wingless Victory and The Masque of K i n g s , the
writer’s hopelessness can see no way out for the characters.
They have no courage within themselves with which to meet an
adverse fate, no inspiring touch of divine truth is brought
to them to teach them to live bravely and overcomingly in the
face of a bitter situation.
The Wingless Victory is more logi­
cal than The Masque of Kings.
Oparre dies according to her
religious faith, being only a primitive woman anyway.
her marriage was the crux;- of the story, and at its failure
her resources were exhausted.
The tragedy in that play is
that Nathaniel came to her too late.
In The Masque of Ki n g s .
the essential problem was Rudolph’s repugnance to an autocratic
This social question was abandoned in the last act for
a personal grief at the death of Mary Vetsera.
The hopeless­
ness and helplessness of the writer before the issues of life
are painfully manifest in this play.
Rudolph’s suicidal atti­
tude expressed Mr. Anderson’s own attitude toward living.
In Winterset. Mio turns from his quest of righting the
wrong that had been done to his father, to a new outlook of
love and forgiveness with Miriamne, the original quest casu­
ally cast aside.
Unlike the conclusion in Key Largo, the
outcome in Winterset turns away from the original theme, does
not solve the problem, and is not the inevitable conclusion.
The play reveals the author’s dawning realization of the di­
vine nature of forgiving love, but the not the
logical outcome of the original theme.
would be a truly great play.
If it were, Winterset
M i o 1s wavering in purpose brings
his destruction, and to no point.
Either the original theme
of making known to the world the injustice done to his father
should be adhered to throughout the play, the social signifi­
cance still remaining uppermost; or else the author should not
have stressed so heavily the social problem of justice, and
have laid the emphasis from the beginning on the personal ele­
As it is, the story fails in the third act because the
author’s outlook demands that whatever is good and beautiful,
that love, forgiveness, and faith are inevitably sacrificed
to the ’’brigands” of one sort or another in the world.
he tries to give some meaning to M i o ’s and Miriamne’s death
with Esdras’s words:
this is the glory of earth-born men and women,
not to cringe, never to yield, but standing,
take defeat implacable and defiant,
die unsubmitting.
Mio hadn’t stood for anything.
He couldn’t, because Anderson
didn’t stand for anything.
In Key Largo, however, there is no fatal shift in the
last act.
Key Largo sets forth in a prologue the motivating
situation which involves a great choice.
The two acts that
follow show the result of. that choice in King*s life, and his
voluntary death when again faced with the question of dying
for truth and justice.
The introduction of the personal at­
tachment between him and Alegre does not detract from the
original theme, but rather solves the problem and brings the
inevitable conclusion.
Here Mr. Anderson’s crystallized phil­
osophy of self-sacrifice of the individual for the upward
progress of the race is the fundamental question for solution
throughout the play and his conclusion answers the question
Though the story of the play may not be a
very realistic or impelling one, yet the fundamental question
involved and its solution are of tremendous importance to the
race, to the nation,
and to the individual.
It is a question
that every man must answer for himself in time of war, or at
an hour of great crisis.
A man must believe in something and
stand for it irremediably else he dies inwardly, whether his
body lives on or not*
By men so standing for honor and justice,
the culture of the human race is slowly but surely advanced.
Mr. Anderson has come to this conclusion by.the slow hard route
of observation and analysis.
Perhaps some day his plays will
present the same idea with the loving insight of-the Great
Master, who said, nHe who would save his life shall lose it,
but he who loses his life for my sake and. the Gospel (for
honor and for truth) the same shall save it.”
Having considered the effect of Mr. Anderson's philos­
ophy on the outcome of his plays, we shall now consider each
tragedy in detail for the moment of discovery and the tragic
In Elizabeth the Queen the tragic flaw in the character
of Essex was a weakness for being first wherever he was.
cause of it he allowed Raleigh and Cecil to trap him into
going to Ireland.
If he had never gone to Ireland, Raleigh
and Cecil would likely never have been able to effect a mis­
understanding between Elizabeth and Essex.
Had he not had an
overweaning desire to rule, he would not have presumed to take
the throne from Elizabeth and then to have offered to share it
with her.
After having been neatly outwitted by Elizabeth and
cast into prison, he had time, as he said, to think over
quietly his and Elizabeth's relative merits and to realize at
last that she was a wiser ruler than he.
As a result of his
discovery he made a partial improvement; he left her undivided
sway in her kingdom.
Essex had two other grave faults that
are closely related to the one given above, that helped markedly
in bringing about his downfall: headlong impetuosity, and lack
of diplomacy.
Bacon, his good counsellor, entreated him not
to antagonize Raleigh or Elizabeth, but Essex gave little heed.
In the council meeting he was hasty in his decisions, refusing
to give due consideration to weighty decisions.
and arrogant, in the last act, he chose to die rather than to
surrender or to share.
The moment of recognition for
Elizabeth came at the close of the second act, when Essex
revealed to her that she was his prisoner.
Then as she said:
I trusted you,
And learned from you that no one can be trusted.
I have found that he who would rule must be
Quite friendless,' without mercy, without love.
Acting on this wisdom she used strategy and regained her power.
Her only weakness in this play, if it can be called a weakness,
was her love for Essex*
As it was that of an older woman for
a younger man, it was a flaw.
Though it gave her temporary
happiness, it could hardly do otherwise than bring her final
In Night over Taos, the tragic flaw in Montoya is that
he is old but does not realize the fact.
He thinks he can
win and hold the love of the young girl Diana.
The moment
of discovery for him comes while he is talking with Diana.
She is evasive when he speaks of his love for her and asks
her if she loves him.
But when she says
If I were in love I could take all my life in my hands
And give it to him I loved, and turn away
And never see him if he asked itt
he realized she was in love with someone else.
Though he
stubbornly resisted, he realized the truth of what the priest
Martinez said,
Pablo, when a man grown gray
Loves a young girl, he peoples the wind with rivals.
youth turns to youth
Inevitably as water seeks a level.
Also the old order of unquestioning domination was
passing, but Montoya did not realize it until Martinez, his
Dons, and even the women demanded that he let Felipe live.
To Felipe, the young leader, they were looking to lead them
into the new era that' was dawning.
In the words of Martinez:
'Things are not as they were!
From now on you’ll listen to more than yourselfI
............... . . . . . . .
.to kill Felipe
Endangers us alii
Hermano: And why should our winning or losing
Depend on Felipe?
Martinez: You haven’t seen that yet?
That Montoya no longer governs Taos? . . . That you
All of you . . . hold your places here only so long
As the peons think you worth fighting for? You heard
What Raquel said . . . Felipe must not die!
And all Taos waits at your gate to hear the answer.
Montoya: A m I alone among you?
Fernando: Speak to Felipe, Don Pablo.
Too much
Depends on this.
Montoya: I am alone.
Montoya realized in this counsel that he was old and
the rule was passing unmistakably * from him.
At first he
thought to give way to Felipe as the leader, but to keep
Diana for himself.
Felipe insisted, however,-on Diana’s hav­
ing a right to choose, and she chose—to go with Felipe.
a burst of headstrong rage Montoya prepared to give them; a
poisoned drink, and then he recalled a dream that personified
his dread of the new, and he started up, saying,
Do you know w h a t ’s true?
I ’m old and alone, and my people fall away,
...................And doubt of me and m y purpose.
Till now I thought I was young.
I ’ve always been young,
The first man in the field . . . in any assembly
First there too. To youth and strength belong
The whole of the earth, and I ’ve believed them mine
Because I was strongest.-^ J?he eagle lives long, but at last
He grows old, his sight is dimmed, he misses
His stroke, and goes hungry on his crag. This thing
Comes to them all, eagle and kite alike,
And now it comes to me.
In Mary of Scotland, Mary1s fatal weakness was her im­
pulsiveness and lack of good judgment.
Because she did not
analyze her relationship with Elizabeth and the net of slander
that was growing up about her, she did not perceive Elizabeth*s
evil intentions toward her until the very end.
She would not
listen to Bothwell's warning and take time to analyze
Elizabeth's advice about marriage.
Bothwell said,
And moreover, between the two,
This cormorant brother of yours, and that English harpy
They'll have the heart out of you, and share it. Trust
Not one word they say to you, trust not even the anger
Their words rouse in you. They calculate effects.
Instead, she must jump to conclusions and in accordance with
Elizabeth's plans, marry lord Darnley, a weakling who could
only bring her disaster.
Part of her impulsiveness was due to
her being so jealous of her royal prerogatives and so head­
Impulsiveness, arrogance, willfulness, lack of analy­
sis and judgment- caused her,to cling to preconceived ideas, to
be heedless of judicious advice, and to fail to analyze motives
and circumstances.
She came to Scotland with the preconceived
idea of ruling gently, and thereby allowed many adverse forces
to gain and develop a foothold.
When Bothwell urged her to
rule with a strong hand, she rejected his advice and clung to
her original idea of gentleness.
When the counsellors met to
ask Mary to wed and Elizabeth*s ambassador came to give false
advice, Bothwell sought to marry her, and if not that, to be
allowed to advise her because he had her interests at heart.
She refused to marry him because she did not want to surrender
any of her royal prerogatives:
Mary: Look Bothwell.
I am a sovereign,
And you obey no one. Were I married to you I*d be
Your woman to sleep with. You*d be king here in
And I'd have
no mind to your ruling.
Bothwell: They'll beat you alone.
Together we could cope them.
Mary: Love you I may—
Love you I have— but not now, and no more.
Its for me
•To rule, not
you. I'll deliver up no land
To such a hot-head.
If you'd been born to the blood
I'd say, aye, take it, the heavens had a meaning in
But the royal blood's in me . . . Escape it I cannot.
Delegate it I cannot.
The blame's my own
For whatever*s done in my name. . . . I will have no
She also refused to marry Bothwell because she knew he would
rule harshly.
Mary: Our minds are not the same. If I gave m y hand
To you, I should be pledged to rule by wrath
And violence, to take without denial,
And mount on others' ruin.
That's your way
And it's not mine.
Bothwell: You know not Scotland.
Here you strike first or die. Your brother Morey
Seeks your death, Elizabeth of England
Seeks your death, and they work together.
Mary: Nay—
You mistrust too much— . . . .................
................. For each enemy
You kiil you make ten thousand, for each one
You spare, you make one friend.
Bothwell: Friends? Friends? Oh, lass,
Thou*It nurse these adders and they'll fang thee—
Too tender and too just. My heart cries for thee—
Take my help, take my hands!
Mary: God knows how I wish it.
But as I am queen
M y heart shall not betray me, what I believe
And my faith.
Another reason she would not marry Bothwell was what Bothwell
called her "itch to conquer."
Mary: I mean if I have a son he*11 govern England.
Bothwell: And so he might, if he were mine, too.
Mary: Nay, might—
But it must beI
Bothwell: Does that mean Lord Darnley?
IShe is silent]
Aye, lady, will you stoop so low to choose
A weapon?
Mary: You don*t offer enough, Lord Bothwell.
Bothwell: If I give my pledge to you it's an honest pledge,
And I'll keep it. Yes, and when the tug begins
Around your throne, you'll be lost without me.
Try no threats toward England.— It will tax a hardy
All his time to hold what you have.
Mary: We differ there, too.
What I have I'll defend for myself.
Bothwell: If you marry this Darnley
I take away my hand.
Mary: Before God, he believes
He's held me up so far, and I'd fall without him!
Bothwell: I believe it, and it's true! Darnley, sweet Christ!
No miracle could make h i m a king! H e ’s a punk,
And he'll rule like a punk!
Mary: We shall see, Lord Bothwell.
The moment of full discovery came for Mary when Darnley,
acting as a tool, had Rizzio murdered.
Then she realized what
a grave mistake she had made in marrying him.
When Bothwell
came offering to help her she realized at last that in spite
of his unruliness he was the only one that could help her and
the one that she should have married rather than Darnley.
Oh, Bothwell, Bothwell!
I loved you all the time, and denied
Forgive m e — even too late!
I was wrong!
Mary now tried to rectify her error by taking Bothwell
as her Lord Admiral to act for her.
If she had kept him as
such indefinitely, she might still have avoided disaster.
when Darnley was murdered and Elizabeth spread the suspicion
that Bothwell was responsible, Mary made the hopeless mistake
of marrying Bothwell.
This alienated what friends Mary and
Bothwell had among the people and brought their inevitable
Valley F o r g e , Washington*s defect was his uncertainty
regarding the army under his command, whether it could hold out
indefinitely, with the miserable support it was ^getting from
Men were deserting and going home to get food for
themselves and their families.
Most of them intended to re­
turn in the spring, but that would be too late.
appealed to them in these words:
If you desert they may catch you and they may not,
but the chances are they won*t, for the sentries are men
as you are— hungry, shivering, miserable and inclined to
look the other way. Make your own decision.
But if we
lose you— we*ve lost our war, lost it completely, and
the men w e ’ve left lying on our battle-fields died for
nothing whatever— for a dream that came too early— and
may never come true.
When Washington realized the double dealings of the
Continental Congress and their plans to make peace without him,
he began to feel he was alone in his high purpose in carrying
on the war— "The right of freeborn men to govern themselves in
their own way.**
In his pessimism he almost surrendered to the
His moment of enlightenment came while he was meeting
with Howe to make terms.
Mary Philipse told him that the
French were sending him aid.
Lafayette begged him to gather
his troops and make one final effort.
Washington answered:
The reason I quit
is because I ’ve neither a Congress nor an army.
Congress is through with the war— and the army’s through
and running out. Look for them in the woods—
y o u’ll find them there.
They root for acorns and pignuts
Close in and take
your place in m y ranks if you like it.
At these words his men spoke up, asking to be allowed to fight
Alcock: We thought it was over!
We thought it was falling to pieces, but if you
what you said about being plowed under, before we
hell,,I’m for being plowed under!
When Washington saw their spirit and learned they had ferried
a thousand bushels of corn across the river during the night
for the use of the army instead of going home, he took heart
to continue the war to the finish, realizing that these men
were fighting for the same ideal as he.
Steel they are.
I know them now. And now I change
my answer! Let one ragged thousand of them
pledge them to this with me, and w e ’ll see it through.
To Howe he said,
Let the merchants submit
if that’s any good to you, then come out and find
my hunters and backwoodsmen, and beat us down
into the land we fight for.
Realizing the struggle that was yet ahead Washington later said,
This liberty will look easy by and by
when nobody dies to get it.
In Valley Forge the greater flaw lay in the circum­
stance of Congress* bad faith, but this is a part of the back­
ground and not the central issue.
Washington and his men
transcended it.
In Gods of the Lightning and Wingless Victory the flaw
in the involving circumstances governs the issue.
In Gods of
the Lightning the flaw is the injustice of the court to fool­
hardy but innocent men.
They were "framed*1 for a murder they
had had no part in because they had cost the Northfield com­
pany a couple of millions, one time and another, through their
Bolshevik activities among the mill men.
The court was con­
trolled by the Northfield Company, and a case was built up
against Mac and Capraro because they were troublesome radicals.
While the case was pending, Haslet the representative of the
company and Salter the prosecuting attorney were talking:
Salter: I t ’s rather hard to make It look as they had any­
thing to do with the murder— there’s no evidence.
The next time the boys want to pin something on a
couple of radicals I wish y o u ’d call in a little
expert advice before you start. As far as I am
concerned i t ’s a mess.
Haslet: What are you kicking about?
Salter: The way it looks, that’s all. I t ’s the Goddamnedest flimsiest case I ever had on my hands,
yes, and the most sickening bunch of welching wit­
nesses I ever had to deal with. W e ’re going to
convict and it's going to look like a frame-up.
If I had it to do over again I'd see Northfield
and his docks and mills in hell before I ’d handle
Haslet: You are nervous, Will. What's the matter? D o n ’t
you own any "stock?
S alter: I need some evidence to show in the newspapers.
Your witnesses are trying to back out all along
the line. I ’d like to know how Spiker got that
original hunch of affidavits. He must have had*
everybody chloroformed.
Those two Bolsheviks have got it coming.
I d o n ’t
give a damn so long as we d o n ’t lose.
You may wish you had, that’s all.
The town’s
crawling with reporters sending in front page
stuff. I t ’s going to make a stink you can smell
from here to Siberia.
What does the judge think about it?
[the judge] I daresay they'll be found guilty.
And no doubt they are. No doubt they are. I long
ago gave up trying to decide who was innocent and
who was guilty.
That’s the jury's business.
this case we have an intelligent jury,
But not too intelligent— not too intelligent.
The persons who were called as witnesses were forced
by blackmail to testify as directed.
Mrs* Lubin who was
called to identify Macready explained that she couldn’t have
seen, the shooting at all from her window because the part of
the street where the shooting took place was shut off from
her view by a railroad tower.
had heard the shot.
Anyway she had looked after she
Salter informed her that perhaps she was
an anarchist, perhaps she had been bought off by the defense;
it might look that way to a jury.
If she changed her testi-
mony from the original sworn affidavit, it would look like
perjury, and in a perjury trial how much of her past would
she be able to conceal from her son?
Bartlet, a sodden youth
of eighteen, was coached to say that "the man in the car was
the dead image of Capraro.”
Gluekstein, the defense attorney,
was given to understand it would be better for him not to win
the case, as "somebody was tipped off by somebody that there
was a woman somewhere in his spotless young life.”
The whole
proceedings were planned to mislead the jury.
At the trial
the testimonies of Bartlet and Mrs. Lubin were revealed to be
faked, but the judge glossed over that fact.
The defense
produced a surprise witness, Suvorin, who—testified that he
had seen the murder take place and that Macready and Capraro
had had no part in it.
Salter revealed the fact that Suvorin
was an escaped criminal who had escaped from a federal prison
after killing a guard and had shared in the robbery of a mail
truck of $170,000.
Suvorin then confessed that the murder
had been committed by his own accomplice, Heine the Gat, who
had been killed in White Plains a month before by a federal
Both had been rum runners who took cash wherever
they could get it.
They had divided the $28,000 pay roll
taken from the murdered man between them.
Suvorin had planned
the murder and had carried it out,
Suvorin: You asked Macready if he planned the rioting to
make his opportunity for the holdup. He did not.
But I knew the plans of the longshoremen. I
overheard them. But I am guilty and they are
not. That may not interest you but it interests
me. You would rather they were guilty. You
would rather pin this crime on a radical than on
a criminal. It suits your plans better.
radicals are not criminals.
They are young fools
who think they are saving humanity.
They think
they will change the government and bring in the
Salter: This m a n ’s confession is an obvious fraud. He
is under sentence of death.
He has nothing to
lose. His daughter is to marry B/Iacready. The
man on whom he fixes the crime is dead.
story has been concocted to save the defendants.
Suvorin: What I I have confessed to this crime*.
Salter: Oh, no— you've confessed that Heine, the Gat, did
it— and Heine's dead. I say it's a fraud—
Suvorin: You do not believe this?
Salter: No, I tell you. Y o u ’ve got nothing to lose.
There1s a murder in your record already.
After a verdict of "Guilty” had been rendered by the
jury, the case was concluded in a practically empty court­
room, those present being the Judge, the Attendants, Macready
and Capraro, the lawyers, and Bdsalie.
Gluckstein for the
defense presented a retraction by both witnesses and the bal­
listic expert.
On the grounds that the jury had been misled
he asked for a new trial.
The judge rendered the decision
that the ballistic evidence was in entire accordance with the
evidence already in the record.
had already been thrown out.
The other two testimonies
The verdict of guilty was brought
on the grounds that the defendants’, consciousness of guilt, as
shown by their actions after the crime, and the general prin­
ciples of the defendants, tallied with the circumstantial
Gluckstein: Does your Honor mean that these men were
convicted on circumstantial evidence and conciousness of guilt?
Judge Vail: There was no other evidence which was not dis­
posed of most ably during the trial.
Gluckstein: In that case there was no real evidence against
these men! And you make that fact the basis
for denying a new trialI
Judge Vail: There was sufficient evidence to convict. . . .
If you have no further motion we will proceed
to the sentence. . . . You, James Macready,
and you, Dante Capraro, suffer the punishment
of death by the passage of a current of elec­
tricity through your body within the week
beginning on Monday, the tenth day of August
in the year of our Lord one thousand nine
hundred and twenty-seven.
This is the sentence
of the law.
The tragic flaw in Macready and Capraro was their radi­
calism in word and
Law and order can be maintained only
when the citizens conform to the established social order,
whether it is a democracy or any other form of government.
To do otherwise is suicide, as
any sensible
Macready and Capraro realized this
person would know.
when it was.too late.
revelation of the injustice of
the court to
the public came
in Suvorin*s confession and in
the collapse
of thetestimony
of the witnesses.
No good resulted from the discovery.
Wingless Victory the flaw is religious and racial
Nathaniel*s mother and brother abhor Oparre and
her children because they belong to a darker race.
Both feel
that they will be irremediably disgraced by her presence in
their home.
Phineas: There*s disgrace enough.
Even though I disown him, never see him,
Think of the fingers pointed at me: there*s
that preacher whose brother married a
nigger wife
and fetched her home! How much is a man
of God
expected to endure?
Mrs. McQuestion: Aye, your enduring!
I have one son already
no mother envies me, and now another
comes home to roost, this.with his pockets
in gold that might be a stay to my old age,
only he sleeps a heathen whore in his bed,
and I ’m cut off for her! Has it crossed
your mind
what scalding medicine I ’d drench her with
if I had the nursing of her? But that way we
get nothing, and she keeps it all! W e ’ll
Hold down whatever boils inside, and move
when we know what game he plays!
The rest of the play then develops how these two get
Nathaniel to invest all his money and even the ship in their
chandlering business, the house, and in mortgages for members
of the church.
When he is completely tied financially, a
"windfall” comes their way in the form of a ship*s log that
reveals a possibility of charging Nathaniel with the Federal
crime of piracy.
With that as a weapon they force Nathaniel
to choose between Oparre and all his investments.
He decides
to send Oparre away, but chooses too late to go with her, for
Oparre and the children are dead.
Oparre*s discovery of
Phineas*s and Mrs. McQuestion*s enmity comes in their welcome
to her in the first act.
Her discovery of her husband’s faith­
lessness comes at the close of the second act.
The effect for
her is a repudiation of Christianity and scorn for the white
The discovery for Nathaniel of the religious arid racial
bigotry of his family comes in Act H in their threat.
ostracism that he and Oparre had suffered before this had left
its mark, however.
The effect on him of the alternative before
him was at first bad.
?/hen left alone for a few hours to think
things over, though, he realized the mistake of his choice and
came to make reparation, but too late.
For the people of
Boston the realization of what they had done came in Oparre*s
denunciation of them, but it brought no action for the better
on their part.
On Oparre*s part, her only flaw was her race.
Nathaniel*s weakness was his tendency to headlong action and
his lack of judgment of people and circumstances.
The last three dramas to be discussed, The Masque of
K i n g s , Winterset, and Key Largo deal, in an ever-increasing
degree, with a philosophic conflict in the mind of the hero.
The weakness of Rudolph in The
.Masque of Kings is that he is
a victim of melancholia, he has lost faith in government as
a wholesome social institution.
As an unbalanced individual
he first cannot await his turn to rule, and then when he has
seized the power unlawfully, he has not the stern metal to
carry out the coup de btat and to establish the democratic
principles that he had been asserting for so long.
He hasn't
the faith to take Mary at her word, he hasn't the faith in
democracy nor in any government to assume the responsibilities
as the executive head.
He is the incarnation of Mr, Anderson's
own nostalgic fear and loss of faith at this period of writing.
Rudolph: I see in one blinding light
that he who thinks of justice cannot reach
or hold power over men, that he who thinks
of power, must whip his justice and his mercy
close to heel.
But in this light,
this blinding light that beats on you and me
........... what guide, what standards, human or
can possibly direct a man or king
toward justice? Is it just that men shall keep
what they already have? It was not gained justly.
The titles to possession all run back
to brigandage and murder. What men own
is theirs because they have it, remains theirs
while they can keep it. There's no other proof
of any m a n ’s deserving.
I set up
my title now on murder, as my father
set his up long ago. And I take over
an old concern, maintained by fraud and force
for traffic in corruption.
When he had learned that.Mary was once in the emplpy
of his father as a spy he said,
Let him have his earth
where men must crawl and women must crawl beneath them
and all their words are lies! I'm sick of it,
sick, and sick to my death!
After Mary has proved her constancy to him by death, he mouths
a lengthy diatribe of his family and all it had ever tried to
do, of sill governments and leaders of government, and then
with a self-justifying excuse of ’’keeping faith with the little
faith I have beyond time or change” he escapes all further ef­
fort or responsibility.
It is to be supposed that the grave
flaw in government that Rudolph points out is, in the main,
true, but that does not justify Rudolph's death.
Nothing is
gained thereby.
In Winterset the flaw in the developing circumstances
is injustice in the courts, though that theme is not paramount
throughout the play.
This fault of the courts is presented in
the words of Carr:
The State can't afford to admit it was wrong, you see.
Not when there's been that much of a row kicked up over
it. So for all practical purposes the State was right
and your father robbed the payroll.
Or in the words of Gaunt:
think that furor
would rock the state if the court then flatly said;
all this was lies— must be reversed? It's better,
. . . . holding the common good to be worth more
than small injustice, to let the record stand,
. let one man die.
For justice, in the main,
is governed by opinion. Communities
will have what they will have, and it's quite as well,
after all, to be rid of anarchists. Our rights
as citizens can be maintained as rights
only while we are held to be the peers,
df those who live about us.
This flaw of injustice in a judicial verdict was clearly
brought to light in the mock retrial in the home of Esdras.
Nothing is done about it by Mio, the logical defender, because
a personal romantic interest has superseded in his mind a d e ­
mand for the justification of his father's name.
M i o ’s fatal
weakness was his tragic heritage.
His family was less than
nothing in the eyes of the world.
All his days had been full
of privation and loneliness, nurtured and kept alive only by
a burning-desire to know the truth and to free his father's
With fatal pathos,, he and Miriamne, the inheritors of
a common tragedy, found in each other love and hope and a new
way of life through forgiveness.
Like Shakespeare's Hamlet,
Mio is set in a position where he cannot battle with fate.
His love for Miriamne causes him to hesitate and to let pass
the opportunity to press a judicial search for the body of
(AJLso, by the way, Mio had alienated the police by
insolent behavior and words on a previous occasion, as did
Macready in his trial.)
Then, when he could have at least
escaped from the intolerable situation, his hungering desire
to understand the situation better caused him to wait too long.
Perhaps it was an unconscious impulse in him to try to learn
from Miriamne and her father a nobler way of thinking and
feeling about life.
Mio: I've lost
my taste for revenge if it falls on yon. Oh, God,
deliver me from the body of this death
I've dragged behind me all these years*
Miriamne, if yon love me
teach me a treason to what I am, and have been,
till I learn to live like a man!
I think I'm
from a long trauma of hate and fear and death
that's hemmed me from my birth— and glimpse a life
to be lived in hope— but it's young in me yet, I
get free, or forgive! But teach me how to live
and forget to hate!
Miriamne: He would have forgiven.
(Meaning Romagna)
Mio: He'd have forgiven—
Then there's no more to say— I've groped long
through this everglades of old revenges— here
the road ends.— Miriamne, Miriamne,
the iron I wore so long— it's eaten through
and fallen from me. Let me have your arms.
They'll say we're children— well--the world's
made up
of children.
It was Mio's fate to be confronted with a conflict of
motivating ideas, that is, ruthless exposal of the truth or
forgiveness and love, at a time when hesitation was fatal.
the hour of his discovery of the truth about his father, he is
distracted by a new perception of life that is just dawning
upon his spirit and senses.
Fate has confronted him with too
involved a situation.*; He is too confused to think his m y
through fast enough to either of his goals, and he is not suf­
ficiently egoistic to save himself at any cost.
In other words,
this is an example of the hero confronted with forces beyond
his strength to contend with.
As a consequence of his delay
he is mowed down by Trock's machine gun.
In Key Largo the flaw in King is his loss of faith in
anything worth believing in and standing for, and if need be,
dying for.
The impulse to live at all costs seems paramount
to him.
King: If it came to dying I don’t trust m y brain,
my busy, treacherous, casuistic brain,
presenting me with scientific facts
and cunning reasons.
I t ’s separate from myself,
separate from m y will— a traitor brain,
an acid eating away at all the faiths
by which we live, questioning all the rules,
and leaving us bare— naked white animals
without poetry or God.
......... I lived with the worms so long
and ran away so often, that m y mind’s trained
to find excuses.
Alegre: What does your mind
think traitorously underneath sometimes to betray
when you’re in danger? . . .
Does it begin "by saying that we live—
all of us— on illusions? That we live
and lay our lives down for things unsubstantial
as a sunrise or a rainbow?
King: That^s how it begins.
A l e g r e T h e n . I have too. I t ’s not peculiar
to soldiers out of Spain, or even to men
w h o ’ve left a line against orders.
I t ’s all of us
in this age of dying fires.
The moment in which King sees the light about life and
. in which he achieves some measure of faith in something worth
believing in occurs after his talk with d ’Alcala about the
progress of mankind by means of evolution and Alegre’s il­
luminating remark that to her he died in Spain.
His conclu­
sion was that it was better to die for what one believes in,
if the test comes, for otherwise to live is to believe in
nothing, and that is worse than death.
Fortified by this
conclusion King dies to save Alegre whom he loves, her father,
and- two Indian fugitives from the brigand grasp of Gash and
In his death he is victorious.
Having analyzed in each tragic drama what Mr. Anderson
considers the first essential of tragedy, we shall now note
other characteristic features of Mr. Anderson*s dramatic form.
The points that will be discussed are symbolism in a charac­
ter, characters who serve as a mouthpiece for Mr. Anderson*s
opinions, and fatalism wherever it is evident.
occurs where a character represents a class of society, or a
Noticeable instances of symbolism occur in the plays
Gods of the Lightning. Wingless Victory, Winterset, Key Largo, a lesser degree, Valley Forge.
Mr. Anderson is a keen
observer and delineator of human behavior, but in only a few
instances in his social dramas does he develop carefully drawn
characters, for instance, Judge Gaunt in Winterset and
Washington in Valley Forge.
Usually his characters are more
representative of a type, and in some instances, of a class
of society, for instance, Suvorin in Gods of the Lightning
and Sol in Both Your Houses.
Those that are most markedly
type characters are often used as a mouthpiece by the author
to express his personal opinion regarding the failings and
weaknesses of our social order.
Suvorin and Sol are espe­
cially good examples of Anderson mouthpieces who proclaim
"there is no government— there are only brigands in power who
fight for more power
Concerning fatalism, all Mr. Anderson’s historic
tragedies have an atmosphere of fatalism, though reference
in them to fate is noticeable only in Mary of Scotland and The
Masque of Ki n g s .
social content.
The same is true in the early dramas of
The later transitional dramas of idealistic
evasion, Winterset and The Star Wagon, and his one drama of
maturing philosophy, Key L a r g o . are progressively fatalistic,
not only in atmosphere but in statement.
In What Price Glory? Flagg and Quirt are more or less
typical professional soldiers, and Charmaine the typical
French hussy.
Yet Flagg is a fairly well-drawn character.
No character acts as a mouthpiece, and there is ho indication
of fatalism other than that of chance.
In The Buccaneer. Captain Morgan is typical of the
He expresses Mr. Anderson’s sentiments in the
A robber’s title I As if there was an acre of land
owned in Europe, to say nothing of the New World, that
wasn’t founded on a robber’s title’
in Outside Looking In the characters in the main are
typical hoboes.
Oklahoma reflects Anderson’s views in the
mock trial with the words:
Gentlemen may cry for justice, gentlemen may plead
for justice, but I tell you that a court is a place
Maxwell Anderson, Gods of the Lightning, p. 34.
where justice can be evaded by anybody that's able to
afford it.
In Elizabeth the Queen. there is no symbolism other
than crafty statesmanship in Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Cecil,
and Sir Raleigh.
No character acts as a mouthpiece.
Elizabeth, a time or two, expresses a favorite idea of
Anderson's, as
Aye . . . the snake-mind is best . . .
One by one you out-last them.
To the end
Of time it will be so . . . the rats inherit the earth.
The only impression of fatalism is that involved in environ­
mental circumstances and in traits of character.
Essex says,
The games one plays
Are not the games one chooses always.
If we'd met some other how we might have been happy . . .
But there's been an empire between us!
I have a weakness
for being first wherever I am.
In Night over Taos. Montoya is symbolic of the old
Spanish order, while Felipe typifies the new democratic order.
Montoya expresses Anderson's prevailing note regarding brig­
andage in the words:
There's not one title
Or possessions in any
On a thousand murders
That wasn't nursed in
to land
empire that isn't based
. . . not one life in a nation
a thousand conquered women!
Make the old men soldiers.
Old men are swift, violent,
crafty, lecherous, unscrupulous in winning, relentless
in defeat, putting their cause before their affections.
Young men are much too tender, much too true.
The fatalism suggested is that of the changing order, the
young and new ever replacing the old.
The Spanish blood runs thin. Spain has gone down,
And Taos, a little island of things that were,
Sinks among things that are. The north will win.
In Both Your Houses. Old Sol is the typical long time
politician; he is also a typical Anderson mouthpiece.
Brigands built up this nation from the beginning. . . .
They stole billions and gutted whole states and empires.
Concerning a log-rolling scandal,
The natural resources of this country in political
apathy and in
have hardly been touched.
just learning how to pay taxes.
In a few more years
y o u ’ll really give ’em taxes to pay.
Other characters that are more or less typical politicians
are Levering, Merton, and Gray.
Alan McClean is the typical
young reformer.
In Mary of Scotland. Elizabeth is cast to symbolize
All her utterances and appearances are symbolic,
Elizabeth: Suppose a queen were led to destroy herself,
led carefully from one step to another in a
long descent until at last she stood condemned
among her own subjects, barren of royalty,
stripped of force, and the people of Scotland
were to deal with her for us?
At the end Mary says,
I see how I came.
Back, back, each step the wrong way, and each sign followed
As you’d have me go, till the skein picks up and we stand
Face to face here.
At the moment of Mary’s discovery of her error in not first
marrying Bothwell she says,
No, for I think I ’ve been
At the top of what I ’ll have, and all the rest
Is going down.
I t ’s .as if a queen should stand
'High up, at the head of a stair— I see this now
As in a dream--and she in her dream should step
From level to level downward, all this while knowing
She should mount and not descend— till at last she walks
An outcast in the courtyard— bayed at by dogs
That were her hunters— walks there in harsh morning
And the dream’s done.
In Yalley Forge. Washington symbolizes the spirit of
Tench, Teague, and Alcock are typical pioneer
Tench is a typical Anderson mouthpiece, as for
[Governments] are all alike, and have one business, govern­
ments, and i t ’s to plunder.
This new one w e ’ve set up
seems to be less efficient than the old style
in its methods of plundering folk, but give them time;
they’ll learn to sink their teeth in what you’ve got
• ,
and take it from you.
A touch of fatalism is-found in these words of V/ashington:
The spirit of earth
moves over earth like flame and finds fresh home
when the o l d ’s burned out.
It stands over this m y country
in this dark year, and stands like a pillar of fire
I t ’s destined to win, this dream,
weak though we are. Even if we should fail,
i t ’s destined to win.
3-n Wingless Yictory. Mrs. McQ,uestion is somewhat sug­
gestive of Fate, as was Elizabeth in Mary of Scotland.
Nathaniel several times serves as a mouthpiece for Anderson,
as for example:
These sitters at home
that think their brain’s the only brain there is
and the rest’s all outer darkness! Sending out
your missionaries to civilizations so old
and wise they laugh at your Jesus-myth!
In The Masque of K i n g s , Rudolph, in a few instances,
echoes Anderson*s thought:
the kingdoms of the world, those past,
those present, those to come, and one and all,
ruled in whatever fashion, king or franchise,
dictatorship or bureaucrats, they’re run
by an inner ring, for profit.
The atmosphere of fatalism involved in the drama is that of
heredity and environmental circumstance.
In Gods of the Lightning, Macready and Capraro sym- .
bolide dreamers and reformers.
Suvorin symbolizes the hard­
ened criminal, the fruit of our criminal procedure.
is Anderson’s official mouthpiece.
He says,
The world is old, and it is owned by men who are hard.
Do you think you can win against them by a strike? Let
us change the government, you say. Bah!
They own this
government, they will buy any government you have.
tell you there is no government— there are only brigands
in power who fight for more power!
The fatalism is that of inescapable injustice.
Winterset. Mio and Miriamne symbolize the innocent
but tragic inheritance of violence from **brigand power.”
a tragedy of fate, Winterset is comparable in some degree to
Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck in its foreboding setting, the
masterful handling of the dialog, and the pervading atmosphere
of doom.
M i o ’s fate is in his inheritance.
In talking with
his friend Carr, Mio says,
Mio: This thing didn’t happen to you
They’ve left you your name
and whatever place you can take. For my heritage
they’ve left me one thing only, and that’s to be
m y father’s voice crying up out of the earth
and quicklime where they stuck him.
Then my mother—
..................... . . .Out of the house
and into the ground, you wife of a dead dog. Wait,
here’s some Romagna spawn left.
Something crawls here—
something they called a son. Why couldn’t he die
along with his mother? Well, ease him out of town,
ease him out, boys, and see you’re not too gentle.
He might come back. And, by their own living Jesus,
I will go back, and hang the carrion
around their necks that made it!
Maybe I can sleep then.
Or even live.
Carr: You have to try it?
Mio: Yes. It won’t let me alone. I ’ve
tried to live
and forget it— but I was birthmarked with hot iron
into the entrails.
I ’ve got to find out who did it
and make-them see it till it scalds their eyes
and make them admit it till their tongues are blistered
with saying how black they lied!
At the moment when Mio has discovered the true murderer he is
deterred from making the fact known to the world for fear of
hurting Miriamne.
He says:
The bright, ironical gods!'
What fun they have in heaven! When a man prays hard
for any gift, they give it, and then one more
to boot that makes it useless.
You might have picked
some other stranger to dance with*
Or chosen
some other evening to sit outside in the rain.
But no, it had to be this. All my life long
I ’ve wanted only one thing, to say to the world
and prove it: the man you killed was clean and true
and full of love as the twelve-year-old that stood
and taught in the temple.
I can say that now
and give m y proofs— and now you stick a girl’s face
between me and the rites I ’ve sworn the dead
shall have of me!
Esdras is Anderson*s mouthpiece.
Yet it’s true
the ground we walk on is impacted down
and hard with blood and bones of those who died
There*s not one title to land or life,
even your own, but was built on rape and murder,
back a few years.
It would take a fire indeed
to burn out all this error.
We ask a great deal of the world
at first— then less— and then less.
We ask for truth
and justice.
But this truth*s a thing unknown
in the lightest, smallest matter— and as for justice,
who has once seen it done?
In Key Largo, King symbolizes man* s questioning of the
d ’Alcala is Anderson’s mouthpiece who presents the
author’s philosophy of Evolutionary Progress.
It is K i n g ’s
fate that.escaping death in battle he must again choose between
death and licensed brigandage.
His conclusion of m a n ’s fate
is that progress and betterment of the race come when men
courageously fight and die for the good in which they believe.
Although most of Anderson’s characters are more or less
types, he has created a few living characters as Judge Gaunt,
Washington, and Queen Elizabeth.
There is one more point to be considered with regard
to the form of Mr. Anderson’s dramas and that is his use of
blank verse.
"Very seldom have m o d e m dramatists written in
blank verse.
In this respect, Mr. Anderson is rather unusual.
All his historical dramas, were written in verse as an experi­
Mr. Anderson wanted to see how poetic drama of today
would be received.
Then he tried a new experiment: he tried
to make tragic poetry out of the stuff of his own time, some­
thing that the great masters never attempted.
Key Largo are his best known examples of this.
Winterset and
Mr. Anderson is very much in earnest about the use
of poetry in modern drama.
He feels with Goethe that
Dramatic poetry is man*s greatest achievement on
his earth . . . and with the early Bernard Shaw that
the theatre is essentially a cathedral of the spirit,
devoted to the exaltation of men. . . . It is the
fashion, I know, to say that poetry is a matter of
content and emotion, not of form, but this is said in
an age of prose by prose writers who have not studied
the effect of form on content or who wish to believe
' there is no limit to the scope of the form they have
To me it is inescapable that prose is the
language of information and poetry the language of
emotion. . . . Under the strain of an emotion, the
ordinary prose of our stage breaks down into inarticu­
lateness, just as it does in life.11
Mr. Anderson feels that the theatre should be an in­
terpreter of life to men and a guide.
He says further,
It is incumbent on the dramatist to be a poet, and
incumbent on the poet to be prophet, dreamer, and in­
terpreter of the racial dream. . . . W e shall not al­
ways be as we are— but what we are to become depends
on what we dream and desire.
The theatre, more than
any other art, has the power to weld and determine
what the race dreams into what the race will become.1^
He believes our theatre is the one really living
American art.
It has size, vitality, and popular interest.
But it is still in the "awkward and self-conscious age, con­
cealing its dream by clowning, burlesquing the things it most
It needs the touch of a great poet to make the
transformation, a poet comparable to Aeschylus in
Maxwell Anderson, "A Prelude to Poetry in the
Theatre," Winterset. p. vl.
T V ,
p. ix.
Greece or Marlow in England. Without at least one such
we shall never have a great theatre in this country,
and he must come soon, for these chances d o n ’t endure
forever. I must add, lest I be misunderstood, that I
have not mistaken myself for this impending-phenomenon.1^
Winterest is largely in verse, and treats a contempo?rary tragic theme, which makes it more of an experiment
than I could wish, for the great masters themselves
never tried to make tragie poetry out of the stuff of
their own times. To do so is to attempt to establish
a new convention, one that may prove impossible of ac­
ceptance, but to which I was driven by the lively his­
torical sense of our day— a knowledge of period, costume,
and manners which almost shuts off the writer on his­
torical themes from contemporary comment. Whether or
not I have solved the problem in Winterset is probably
of little moment.
But it must be solved if we are to
have a great theatre in America. Our theatre has not
yet produced anything worthy to endure— and endurance,
though it may be a fallible test, is the only test of
excellence. MIn the opinion of this writer, Mr. Anderson’s use of
blank verse gives beauty, dignity, and effectiveness to his
Emotions find their fittest expression in rhythmi­
cal form.
That which is appealed to most in a tragedy is the
Prose drags the play down too close to the levels
of ordinary life.
To be inspiring, tragedy must be lifted
above the levels of common life; poetry is the means to that
Verse serves as a tragic relief taking away some
of the horror, gloom, and despair of the tragic spirit.
Melody makes possible the introduction of many artistic fea­
tures prose would not warrant.
Ibid_., p . r±.
Ibid., p. bci.
’’Then, too, through rhyme
and melody we seem to reach some universal chords of human
Rhyme is a common -heritage striking deep into
primeval and general instincts of mankind.
in nature.”
It is universal
Dramatic dialogue has two obvious ends, the telling
of the story and the disclosure of character.
But there is
another not so obvious; it must be made to stimulate our im­
agination and emotion— and here, mainly, comes in the need
for some artifice of form.
The most acceptable in poetry.
However, blank verse drama has certain restrictions which
must be met.
There must be a strong emotional tension pro­
duced by precedent events and a strict mental ordering of
what must be said in the brief time allotted.
There must be
some redundancy to suggest spontaneous talk, and the drama­
tist must slyly add a little information wherever needed, for
the benefit of the audience.
Besides, all dramatic talk
must be tuned to concert pitch.
It must be the pitch at
which the attention of the audience can be captured and held.
The actor*s speeches must be so written that not only the
sound but the sense— even though the sound of a word or two
should go wrong on the way— will travel easily and effectively.
The audience must not only be made to hear but to listen, to
want to hear; to feel also and imagine.
p. 86.
They have somehow to
Allardyee Nicoll:,- An Introduction to Dramatic Theory.
be transported out of themselves and their own world into the
imagined world of the play; and in every sort of drama and
theatre the chief means to this is the magic of the spoken
The dramatist must convey clear meaning and stimulate
emotion too.
The second act of Winterset. especially M i o ’s talk
with Gaunt, and the mock trial, also in Act III M i o ’s and
Miriamne’s last conversation have real poetic quality.
is high emotional tension produc-ed by precedent events; there
is mental ordering of what must be said in brief time; there
is the effect of spontaneity; in the court scene clear mean­
ing is conveyed and emotion stimulated too.
It must be ad­
mitted, however, that sound and sense do not travel so easily
as they might.
There is, too often, a heaviness of language,
a verbosity, that causes Mr. Anderson’s verse to drag.
he does secure and sustain, through long speeches accompanied
by little action a surprising degree of emotional tension.
Such examples as these show the emotional intensity of the
content and the artistry of the verse form:
Mio: Will you tell me how a m a n ’s
to live, and face his life, if he can’t believe
that truth’s like a fire,
and will burn through and be seen
though it takes all the years there are?
While I stand up and have breath in my lungs
I shall be one flame of that fire;
i t ’s all the life I have.
Gaunt: Would I have chosen
to rack myself with other m e n ’s despairs,
Stop my ears, harden my heart, and listen only
to the voice of law and light, if I had hoped
some private gain for serving? In all my years
on the bench of a long-established commonwealth
not once has m y decision been in question
save in this case. Not once before or since.
For' hope of heaven or place on earth, or power
or gold, no man has had my voice, nor will
while I still keep the trust that’s laid on me
to sentence and define.
Mio: Then why are you here?
Gaunt: My record’s clean.
I've kept it so. But suppose
with the best intent; among the myriad tongues
that come to testify, I had missed m y way
and followed a perjured tale to a lethal end
till a man was forsworn to death? Could I rest or
while there was doubt of this,
even while there was question in a layman’s mind?
For always, night and day,
there lies on my brain like a weight, the admonition:
see truly, let nothing sway you; among all functions
there’s but one godlike, to judge.
Then see to it
you judge as a god would judge, with clarity,
with truth, with what mercy is found consonant
with order and law.
Throughout the range of Mr. Anderson’s dramas one can
trace a most interesting change of attitude which reflects
the author’s growing and maturing outlook on life as a result
of his own experiences.
The first period is manifestly youth­
ful and buoyant and rather cocksure in spirit.
The rebel
escapes punishment, as he is not fighting the established
social order; rather, he is harmless, or his activity falls
in line with the interests of those in power.
Dramas that
come in this group are What Price Glory? First Flight, The
Buccaneer, Saturday’s Children, and Outside Looking I n .
-J-n ^ h a~k Price Glory? we find Captain Flagg and Sergeant
Quirt to be hardened professional soldiers, men who loved a
fight, much liquor, and quarreling rivalry over available
When he is on leave of absence, Flagg shows what kind
of private citizen he would be, by his wretched drunkenness
and disorderly conduct.
But when he is sober, he is a good
leader of men and a good organizer.
As he loves a fight, the
changing scene, and the thrill of danger, and as brawling,
drunkenness, and loose living are condoned in warfare, Flagg
and Quirt are in line with the established social order.
Though Flagg may have mental reservations regarding the value
and purpose of war, yet in the main he is in sympathy with it.
The story is one of boisterous rivalry and conquest, which,
though darkened now and then by the social import of war,
maintains to the end its roistering attitude.
The "heroes are
of a brigand spirit, and share with.the brigands in power.
In First Flight Andrew Jackson is the gay young brigand,
who, because of his ambitious political aspirations, allied
himself with the central Federal government and the state
government of North Carolina, rather than with the Franklin
Free State people who wanted to withdraw from the Union.
this backwoods district to which Jackson had been sent as the
prosecuting attorney, Andy had to show a clever mind in de­
bating with the rebellious buckskins, and even resorted to a
duel in which he killed one of the leaders of the Free Staters,
the other leader being incapacitated by hard drinking of corn
As the neighborhood was no longer safe for Andy, he
slipped away on horseback to the county seat of North Carolina,
where as the government agent he would be secure.
However, on
the way he stopped for a moonlight hour with a charming fron­
tier wench that he had met at the gathering, but either afraid
to carry out his plan or shamed by the. protestations of love
by the girl’s real suitor, he took his departure with the
words: ’’But I ’m at the loose end of cheatin’.
And if I leave
ye now, ye’ll belong to me always— above me white and shining
Goodbye, Charity.”
In this play the protagonist
had offered affront to this pioneer district in two ways, but
he escaped punishment by his wits and by his alliance with a
larger national and state government.
The spirit throughout
is one of buoyant, cocksure youthfulness.
Captain Morgan, the buccaneer protagonist of The
Buccaneer, plays hide-and-seek for a while with his British
Majesty’s laws regarding piracy, though he finally is trium­
phant as his buccaneering activities are in line with the em­
pire building aim of the British government.
The Buccaneer
is a romantic, lightly historical comedy which treats piracy
somewhat in operetta style.
It presents a colorful period
and the striking personality of Captain Morgan, as he raids
Panama, and after a protracted siege, wins the interest of the
beautiful Lady Elizabeth.
VJhen taken to England on trial for
piracy, Morgan received, as the boldest and most successful
of the king's privateers, knighthood, command of a fleet, and
the position of governor of Jamaica.
As a successful brigand
he was rewarded and honored by the brigands in power.
conclusion of: the story is unexpected and amusing.
After the
knighting ceremony, one of the other men, indignant with Morgan
for his rough manners, challenged him to a duel, which he an­
swered by challenging them and all present to go as volunteers
with him to Jamaica.
To his astonishment, the only one to ac­
cept his challenge was the Lady Elizabeth, who counter­
challenged with the words "Lady Elizabeth Morgan!"
Though the three plays differ in their political
significance, they are identical in their attitude toward
women, of "love ’em and leave ’em.”
They suggest the delight­
fulness and essential unimportance of woman in a m a n ’s life.
This jolly attitude is vastly comforting to the male; but a
little old-fashioned nowadays, and difficult to put in prac­
The play, The Buccaneer, just escapes the theme, due
to the fact that the Lady Elizabeth Neville declines to be
left at the final curtain.
In Saturday*s Children, though Bobby and Rims rebel
against their cramped financial state and resulting loss of
romance, they find a practically satisfactory adjustment, and
one which does not clash with the existing social order, by
Bobby getting a job and Rims assuming once more the role of
the lover.
Outside Looking In pictures hoboes, the buccaneers of
the road.
In this play is sounded the first warning of the
many protagonists to follow who would clash with the estab­
lished order.
a freight car.
A group of hoboes are making their way north on
This alone is a vagrancy offense according to
the laws secured and enforced by the rich companies.
In ad­
dition, these men shielded a murderess and her accomplice who
were escaping to Canada to begin life over again.
the men are not caught in any open rebellion, and as they as­
sert that the murderess had fallen into the river and drowned,
the men are merely taken to the county jail to be held for
further questioning.
Claiming to be Little Red, Oklahoma is
taken as an accessory.
The story ends with the girl and her
lover escaping and the men being held for questioning.
conclusion is indefinite,
so the ending could be tragic or it
could be neutral, the hoboes merely being held for a while by
their common enemy, the law.
The second period in Mr. Anderson’s changing reaction
to life is reflected in the dramas Gypsy, Gods of the Light­
n i n g , Elizabeth the Queen, Night over T a o s , Mary of Scotland,
Valley Forge, Winterset, The Wingless Victory, and The Masque
of Kings.
These dramas are rebellious and stormy;
some of
them, like Gods of the Lightning, Winterset, Valley Forge,
The Wingless Victory, and The Masque of Kings, reflect the
author’s own rebellion against the established social order.
Like him, the rebel heroes fight the established order.
is considerable diversity in the types of conflict portrayed,
ranging from unfaithfulness in marriage, through injustice
and intolerance in the courts, passive indifference of the
courts to active and open brigandage (Winterset), rebellion
against the established political order, intrigue and doublecrossing for the sake of power, as exemplified in Mary of
Scotland, Valley Forge, and The Masque of Kings, and religious
and racial intolerance.
In each case, the rebel hero is
furiously denunciatory of the social evil or injustice he is
opposing, fiercely assails the established order, and in all
Galley Forget meets destruction as a consequence.
tion is a logical outcome of opposition to the established
order, judging from much of human history, but for effective­
ness it must serve some good purpose and help to bring about
better conditions.
The plays of this period do not show any
such worthy purposefulness, and reflect the author’s pessim­
istic attitude toward all attempts at reform.
In Gypsy, the protagonist, Ellen, is a rebel against
her own nature.
She despises herself for her inconstancy and
longs to be different; but she lacks the moral stamina to
withstand temptation, or the inspiration of religion to for­
tify her.
Her instinctive impulses rule her.
According to
the first version of Gypsy she ended her despair with suicide.
The second version closed with her being checked in a suicidal
attempt by a phone call from another man.
Revived by the
thought of a new adventure, she plans with him a week-end trip.
The conclusion, as in Outside Looking In, is not decisive.
She may or she may not, some other day, carry out her suicidal
However, her rebellion against her prevailing vice is
not very convincing.
The only thing she ever did about the
matter was to talk about it to each of her men friends and to
warn them against herself.
Nevertheless, it is a good study
in mental perversion, and shows some insight into abnormal
psychology on the part of the author.
In Gods of the Lightning Mac and Capraro are I.W.W.
agitators who seek to foment strikes among the mill men.
such they incur the enmity of the mill owners and are marked
As a result, when the paymaster at the mill is robbed
and murdered, they are accused, condemned, and executed, even
though another man, Suvorin, confesses to the murder.
this play the author expresses his own rage and scorn for
justice gone astray.
.IQ Winterset Mr. Anderson carried further the theme
of Gods of the Lightning.
After Mio had discovered who the
true murderers were in the Romagna case, he lingered to talk
to Miriamne, and through her loving insight, gained a new
meaning and purpose for life.
But by his reopening the
Romagna case he incurred the animosity of the murderer and
was killed while trying to escape.
In this instance, the
protagonist falls heir to his father’s verdict, and in the
words of Carr, "The State can't afford to admit it was wrong,
you see.
Not when there’s been that much of a row kicked up
over it.
So for all practical purposes the State was right
and your father robbed the pay roll.”
When he brought the
murder of Shadow to the notice of the police, they gave the
matter only perfunctory attention, considering him somewhat
unbalanced by his father’s fate.
Then Mio, by his hesitation
and delay, was caught in the gangsters' trap, and the police,
who had been so active to break up a little innocent street
dancing, were nowhere to be found when Mio and then Miriamne
were shot to death in the street, these tragedies suggesting
to the reader the passive attitude of the law.
Whereas, in
Gods of the Lightning, the law had been the brigand in power,
ruthless and terrible, here in Wlnterset the law is passive,
and the innocent inheritor of the former tragedy, in seeking
justice, is killed by the same murderous gang that had escaped
Here it is outlawed brigandage flourishing under pas­
sive law.
Night over Taos Montoya is the rebel against en­
croaching democratic government and the loss of his patriarchal
He holds them off for a time and might possibly, with
the full cooperation of his sons and his people, have held
back the Americans for a longer period.
But he learns that
his elder son is negotiating to betray the house of Taos into
the hands of the Americans in return for certain private and
personal gains.
Also Montoya discovers that his younger son
is the lover of Diana, the girl Montoya is planning to marry.
In his fury he kills the elder son and is going to kill the
younger, but is stayed by his nobles who assure him that
Felipe is the one member of the house of Taos that the people
unreservedly follow and fight for.
Felipe not only loves
Diana, but is also a believer in democracy and freedom of op­
Montoya finally realizes that he belongs to the
old order that is irrevocably passing, that Felipe and Diana
represent the new order that will take its place, and chooses
to die rather than to be a lingering shadow of the past in a
new age.
Valley Forge deals with the rebel of the new age of
democracy in conflict with the old kings and colonial govern­
Here the protagonist ;has not only- to deal with the
English army, but also to outwit and circumvent a traitorous
Continental Congress that was likely at any time to betray him
and his men into the hands of the enemy.
Here the conclusion
is indecisive, with Washington refusing to surrender to Howe,
although his men are starving and in rags, although the
Congress is not to be trusted.
With a valiant faith in
eventual victory Washington speaks:
For myself, I ’d have died
within if I ’d surrendered.
The spirit of earth
moves over earth like flame and finds fresh home
when the o l d ’s burned out.
It stands over this my country
in this dark year, and stands like a pillar of firej.
to show us an uncouth clan, unread, harsh-spoken,
but followers of dream, a dream that men
should walk upright, masterless, doff a hat to none,
and choose their godsI Even if we should fall,
i t ’s destined to win!
The suggestion is implicit in these words that, the new order
will win, but men have died to bring it about, and more will
die before it is achieved.
In Elizabeth the Queen Essex is the rebel who would
take Elizabeth’s throne from her.
Outwitted by her and taken
prisoner he has considerable time to think, and to evaluate •
Elizabeth and himself as rulers.
He comes to the conclusion
that Elizabeth will govern England better than he would, for
being a woman she would not be attracted to military glory,
but rather would bring peace, happiness, and security to the
Knowing his own weakness for being first wherever
he is, and that should he be restored to power he will inevir■ta&ly try to seize the throne, and that he would very likely be
successful, he chooses to die, thus leaving Elizabeth in in­
disputable possession of the throne.
He preferred to die
rather than to be subject to her, yet for the sake of England
and for her, he preferred that Elizabeth should rule.
clashed with the established order, yet rather than to over-throw that order he chose to die.
In Mary of Scotland we have the story of a queen caught
in the toils of a vast and subtle intrigue, who, through her
own lack of insight and judgment, through following her heart
rather than her head, is beguiled to her doom.
When she at
last realizes that it has been Elizabeth*s hand all the while,
she imperiously refuses to abdicate the Scottish throne,
maintaining that though she should always be captive, her son
should rule afjer her, and that her eventual triumph would far
exceed that of Elizabeth,
Mary: And suppose indeed you won
Within our life-time, still looking down from the
And up from men around us, God’s spies that watch
The fall of great and little, they will find you
I will wait for that, wait longer than a life,
Till men and the times unscroll you, study the
You play, and laugh, as I shall laugh, being known
Your better, haunted by your demon, driven
To death or exile by you, unjustly. Why,
When a l l ’s done, i t ’s m y name I care for, m y name
and heart,
To keep them clean. Win now, take your triumph
For I ’ll win-men’s hearts in the end--though the
sifting takes
This hundred years— or a thousand.
The Wingless Yictory involves the hopeless marriage of
an East Indian princess to the son of a Puritan family of old
Believing that Nathaniel’s people would show to her
the Christlike spirit of lesus, Oparre came trustfully with
Nathaniel to Boston to live.
Although his brother and mother
allow them to live in the house on account of certain debts
they owe Nathaniel, Oparre soon learns that she and her chil­
dren are outcasts in this alien land.
At last Nathaniel’s
brother takes his revenge by offering him his choice: to be
hailed before the court for piracy or to send his wife away.
Nathaniel asks Oparre to go, saying that when he can he will
When she understands what he asks she turns on him
and his people, throwing their religion in their teeth, spurn­
ing her husband, and claiming once more as her own the gods
of blood and bronze.
She apparently acquiesces to her hus­
band’s plan of sailing on the vessel at anchor in the harbor,
and with her children goes aboard for the night.
A few hours
later Nathaniel comes to her to tell her he will go with her,
though it means everlasting ostracism.
When he tries to tell
her of his love and final decision, he discovers to his horror
that she and the children have drunk; of the black hemlock,
that the children and the nurse are dead and Oparre is dying.
In this play the princess Oparre revolts against the ostracism
caused by the intermarriage of the two races, and commits,
suicide rather than to accept for herself and her daughters
the fate of pariahs..
•The Masque of Kings presents the inner conflict of
Prince Rudolph of Austria regarding his succession to the
He despises the autocratic rule of his father, yet
knows that in order to maintain his own throne he, too, will
have to be autocratic, submerging the freedom and just privi­
leges of his people in the ever-present necessity for absolute
The outward struggle is with his father, Emperor Joseph,
who fears that Rudolph will foment rebellion and take the
throne from him or try to institute democratic reforms.
this reason he keeps constant watch of Rudolph and his move­
ments, even employing a girl spy to worm her way into
Rudolph’s confidence.
However, she and Rudolph come to love
each other and she ceases to be a spy.
Because Mary, the
girl, is to be taken away from him Rudolph does lead a rebel­
lion and takes his father prisoner, intending to rule auto­
cratically as had his father. .Taking advantage of Rudolph’s
love for Mary, Joseph shows his son a black diary which records
M a r y ’s employment as a spy.
In bitter and overwhelming
disappointment Rudolph restores his father’s authority and
goes to Mayerling, ostensibly for hunting.
to him and asserts her undying love.
There Mary comes
He admits he will have
to give her up when he becomes the emperor.
?i?hen he tells
her she will soon find another love and will forget him, she
Yes, but now I ’d rather be a statue to my love,
a statue in a forest, lost and unseen,
cold, too, and white, and hardly once remembered,
but changeless just the same.— Oh, but I ’ll go I
When feet are made for dancing they must dance
unless the heart stops.
A few moments later Mary commits suicide and becomes ”a statue
to her love.”
lust then Emperor Joseph and his wife come in
to offer Rudolph some part in the government.
After making
M a r y ’s death known to his parents and having prophesied the
downfall of the Hapsburgs, Rudolph withdraws to the death
chamber and he, too, commits suicide.
This play is another study in abnormal psychology.
Hounded and hampered at every turn by his father, married to
a girl he did not want, and deprived of a divorce from her by
the pope, his love for Mary made to look ridiculous by the
revelation of her spy activities, her self-imposed death, and
his opposition to becoming an autocratic ruler like his father,
all led him to choose suicide as a means of escape.
himself he had not the resources to face the situation with
hope and courage.
Neither had Anderson.
The next two dramas mark a third period in Mr.
Anderson*s approach to life.
evasive period.
It is a disillusioned and
The hero wins, but he evades the issue at
Reflecting Mr. Anderson’s own attitude, the rebel
hero grasps the injustice implicit in the situation, realizes
his own helplessness to change or remove it, and so by an
amusing fantasy, escapes reality, finding success and happi­
ness through idealistic illusion.
The writing is character­
ized by a poetic idealistic haze, artistic but unreal.
one play pixies have an important part in the hero’s success;
in the other a magic time wagon is the essential device.
plays of this period are High Tor and The Star Wagon.
Tor is decidedly artistic and charmingly fanciful; The Star
Wagon is largely prose, but is fundamentally unreal and
High Tor is a fantasy, charming in some ways like.A
Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The romantic charm of the Indian’s
prayer at the beginning, his remarks at the close, the old
Dutch legend and the pixie people who played their part in
that memorable night delight the reader and linger in the
Though Van Van Dorn is a rebel against the commer-
cialistic spirit, scorning the idea of selling High Tor to a
gravel company, and jeering at the idea of working, preferring
to take his holidays now, yet the rebellion is humorous
The numerous ludicrous devices by which the
representatives of the gravel company are held up to ridicule
for their chicanery and the series of amusing misfortunes that
come to them upon the mountain which finally lead to their
changing their original offer from f700 to f50,000 are most
entertaining reading, but utterly improbable.
Van Van Dorn
not only shows up the grafting machinations of the gravel
company, but succeeds in making a fortune from the evening's
The pixies take leave of the mountain, and
the old Indian says,
There is nothing made, . . .
and will be nothing made by these new men,
high tower, or cut, or buildings by a lake
that will not make good ruins.
Why, when the race is gone, or looks aside
only a little while, the white stone darkens,
the wounds close, and the roofs fall, and the walls
give way to rains.
Nothing is made by men
but makes, in the end, good ruins.
Van: Well, that’s something.
But I can hardly wait.
The author's thought is that all men's labors end in death and
The idea is implicit in the Dutch legend, High Tor,
and the Indian mound.
Though the author laughs at the greed
of commerce, he feels that all endeavor is futile, and, in
the end, "makes good ruins."
Here the struggle is humorous
and the protagonist wins sweepstakes, by means of supernatural
aid, but that success in itself is futile and passing, and
with Van Van Dorn the author "can hardly wait" to see our
present civilization passing.
In the opinion of the writer
Mr. Anderson evades the issue of graft by making his play a
fantasy and by his fatalistic conclusion which makes no en­
deavor of any lasting importance.
The Star Wagon is another fantasy, though of an en­
tirely different nature.
Both the question of commercial in­
justice and that of penurious marriage are happily adjusted
by means of a time machine, whereby Stephen, Martha, Duffy,
and Eanus are transported back in time to 1902.
They all
start their lives over again and this time live it the way
they have often thought would have been a better way.
and Martha marry for money, but they are not happy.
wife is faithless and much more interested in Duffy; secretly
Stephen longs for Martha.
They all become involved in a dis­
honest enterprise that threatens to ruin them.
ing had money has not brought them happiness.
Somehow, hav­
At last, in
desperation, Stephen and Hanus get out the time machine and
return them all to the present, which now looks entirely satis­
factory and agreeable.
Duffy sees his way to give Stephen and
Hanus a fairer financial arrangement, and Martha is satisfied
with her marriage.
The play is interesting chiefly for the amusing repro­
duction of scenes and activities of forty years ago: the cos­
tumes, the bicycle shop, the ancient model of an automobile,
the choir practice and the picnic.
Also the sentimental idea
of retracing o n e ’s life appeals to many people.
But again,
the means by which the happy ending is achieved is entirely
fanciful, and if there were such a thing as a time machine,
the author's conclusion is mere speculation.
Though he sug­
gests two social questions, the author laughs them off with
a light
and amusing little story, though the idea of a time
is by no means an original one.
However, the senti­
mental idealism involved in the story makes it one of
Anderson's most popular plays.
Mr. Anderson's last play, Key Largo, suggests a fourth
attitude toward life.
From the fatalistic hopelessness of
the second period, the evasive fantasies of the third serving
as a transitional period, he comes to the conclusion of evolu­
progress by means of vicarious sacrifice.
The hero
who had
suffered loss of faith in there being any good gained
by fighting for a moral principle finally regains his faith
with the realization that the upward trend of the human race
depends upon courage.and self-sacrifice for the common good,
and a faith in the aspirations of humanity that even tran­
scends death.
In this period, represented by Key Largo. the
hero once more faces a bad social situation, but unlike the
heroes of the transitional period he does not evade it by
fantasy, and unlike the heroes of the second period he is not
mockingly annihilated.
Instead, by his' clever scheming and
brave self-sacrifice he helps to right a social wrong.
characterization shows a new and definitely positive social
outlook in Mr. Anderson's plays.
Key Largo is the tragedy of a man, who, faced for the
second time with the alternative of defending and dying for
what he believed in, or of living an empty existence in which'
he and everyone else despised him, chose to die and to justify
his love for Alegre and her love for him, at the same time
making possible the escape of the two innocent Indians.
King dies he says,
Is this dying, Alegre?
Then it's more enviable than the Everglades,
to fight where you can win, in a narrow room,
and to win dying.
Here the conflict is an inner one for King: Is the de­
sire for existence the fundamental end of life, or must one
die for honor, faith, and decency?
The outward struggle is
with an outlawed brigand's band actively protected by a rep­
resentative of the law.
King solves his mental perplexity,
and with his death frees Alegre, her father, and the Indians.
The conflict is somewhat like that of Winterset, but
the, concluding philosophy is more hopeful.
dies for no reason at all.
In Winterset Mio
lust as he has discovered a beau­
tiful meaning in life, he and Miriamne are blotted out of ex­
istence by murderers.
In Key Largo, King, by his death,
fights for what he believes in and thereby regains soul hap­
piness, saves Alegre and her father from a most miserable
situation, and frees two innocent vagrants.
Though his death
is not absolutely necessary, though it is a great injustice,
the play, in contrast to Gods of the Lightning and Winterset
is not one of bitterness or hopelessness; right triumphs and
good is established.
The hopelessness so characteristic of Mr. Anderson’s
middle and some of his later dramas is due to his feeling that
in matters of daily and yearly living we have a few, often
fallible, rules of thumb to guide us, ’’but on all larger ques­
tions the darkness and silence about us is complete.”-1- There
is no tangible hope; life is a blind struggle.
In such trage­
dies as Gods of the Lightning, The Wingless Victory, The
Masque of Kings, though his heroes strive to find a light, a
way, their efforts end in futility and darkness.
In Winterset
Mio begins to see the light of idealistic love, but he is cut
off before he can realize it.
In Key Largo, however, Mr.
Anderson finds through King that though the struggle with fate
may be futile for the individual, it is essential to the evo­
lutionary growth and development of the human race, that it is
instinct in the race to make itself better and wiser than it
Yet ’’His conclusion lacks that comforting tone of final­
ity with which the Bible declares that whoever shall lose his
life shall save it— one of its most profound p a r a d o x e s . ”2
Maxwell Anderson, ’’Whatever Hope We Have,” The Es­
sence of Tragedy and Other Footnotes and Papers, p. 19.
2 Leta Clews Cromwell, "The Theater,” Forum, 103:32,
January, 1940.
Though Mr. Anderson does not claim any belief in a Transcend­
ing Mind, he asserts the freedom of the individual to make
his own decisions.
Every other freedom in this world is restricted, but
the individual mind is free according to its strength
and desire.
The mind has. no master save the master it
And each must make his choices, now as always, with­
out sufficient knowledge and without sufficient wisdom,
without certainty of our origin, without certainty of
what undiscovered forces lie beyond known scientific data,
without certainty of the meaning of life, if it has a
meaning, and without an inkling of our racial d e s t i n y . ^
Still Mr. Anderson feels that there is an occasional
prophetic voice, an occasional gleam of scientific light which
may make us doubt that we are utterly alone and completely
From the beginning of time men have insisted, despite
the darkness and silence about them, that they had a destiny
to fulfil— "that they were part of a gigantic scheme which was
understood somewhere, though they themselves might never under­
stand it."^
The idealism of children and young men, the say­
ings of such teachers as Christ and Buddha, the hieroglyphics
of the masters of the great arts, and the discoveries of pure
science reveal new powers and new goals for the eternal drama.
Every great philosopher or artist has turned away from what
man is toward whatever seems to him most godlike that man m a y
3 Anderson, op. cit., p. 19.
^ Loc. cit.
Whether he speaks in the parables of the New Testa­
ment or the complex musical symbols of Bach and Beethoven,
the message is always to the effect that men are not es­
sentially as they are but as they imagine and as they
wish to be. . . . The artist’s faith is simply a faith
in the human race and its gradual acquisition of wisdom.'
For his own creed Mr. Anderson accepts the creed of
He makes his spiritual code from his knowledge
of great music,
great poetry,
and great plastic and graphic
arts, "including with these, not above them, such wisdom as
the 'Sermon on the Mount' and the last chapter of
The test of a man's inspiration for me is . . . its
continuing effect on the minds of men over a period of
The world we live in is given meaning and
dignity, is made an endurable habitation, by the great
spirits who have preceded us and set down their records
of nobility or torture or defeat in blazons and symbols
which we can understand.
I accept these not only as
prophecy, but as direct motivation toward some far goal
of racial aspiration.°
He who meditates with Plato or "climbs the steep and tragic
stairway of symphonic music," is certain to be better for the
he is.
The nobler a man's interests the better citizen
Mr. Anderson feels that there have been a few mountain
peaks of achievement in the progress of the human race since
the time of Homer as evidenced in the age of Pericles, the
^ Anderson, loc. cit.
^ Ibid., p. 21.
centuries of Dante and Michelangelo, the reign of Elizabeth
in England; surely it must be "our hope as a nation that
either in pure art or in pure science we may arrive at our
own peak of achievement, and earn a place in human history by
making one more climb above the clouds. *’7
Yet mere scientific advance without purpose is an ad­
vance toward "the waterless mirage and the cosmic scavengers.”
Even in our disillusioned era, . . . we find, that men
cling to what central verities they can rescue or manu­
facture , because without a core of belief neither man
nor nation has courage to go on. . . .
It is a practi­
cal, demonstrable fact which all men realize as they add
to their years. We must have a personal, a national,
and a racial faith, or we are dry bones in a death val­
ley, waiting for the word that will bring us life . . .
the national culture is the sum of personal culture. . .
and the lack of culture is an assurance that we shall
not even be remembered.®
According to Mr. Anderson, a love of truth and justice is
bound up in men with a belief in their destiny; and the be­
lief in their destiny is of one piece with national and inter­
national culture.
The glimpse of the godlike in man occasion­
ally manifested in a work of art or prophecy is the vital
spark in a world that would otherwise stand stock still "or
slip backward down the grade, devoid of motive power.”
For national growth and unity the artist's vision is
the essential lodestone without which there is no co­
A nation is not a nation until it has a culture
7 Ibid., PP. 22-23.
8 Ibid., P. 23.
which, deserves and receives affection and reverence from
the people themselves. . . . what we need now to draw us
together and make us a nation is a flowering of the na­
tional arts, a flowering of the old forms in this new
soil, a renaissance of our own.
This is not immortality, of course.
So far as I know
there is no immortality.
But the arts make the longest
reach toward permanence, create the most enduring monu­
ments, project the farthest, widest, deepest influence of
which human prescience and effort are capable . . . .
And there is only one condition that makes possible a
Bach, an Aeschulus, or a Michelangelo— it is a national
interest in and enthusiasm for the art he practices.9
It is evident from the foregoing quotation that the only im­
mortality that Mr. Anderson can believe in is the relative
immortality of the "hieroglyphics** of art.
Having considered the formal expression of Mr.
Anderson1s philosophy as set forth in the essay "Whatever Hope
We Have," we shall now consider the indirect expression of his
philosophic ideas through his plays.
In each of his more im­
portant dramas there is a character who serves particularly as
a mouthpiece for the author, generally a Jew or a foreigner.
•We shall consider some of their speeches.
In Winterset we are
given somewhat of Anderson's cosmic conception, through the
speeches of the old Jew, Esdras:
The days go by like film,
like a long written scroll, a figured veil
unrolling out of darkness into fire
and utterly consumed.
And on this veil,
running in sounds and symbols of men* s minds
reflected back, life flickers and is shadow
going toward flame.
Only what men can see
exists in that shadow.
9 Ibid., p. 26.
Concerning crime Esdras says:
Yes, if you hold with the world that only
those who die suddenly should he revenged.
But those whose hearts are cancered, drop by drop
in small ways, little by little, till they’ve borne
all they can bear, and die— these deaths will' go
unpunished now as always. When w e ’re young
we have faith in what is seen, but when w e ’re old
we know that what is seen is traced in air
and built on water.
There’s no guilt under heaven,
just as there’s no heaven, till men believe it—
no earth, till men have seen it, and have a word
to say this is the earth.
Esdras’s last speech expresses uncertainty, yet aspiration:
On this star,
in this hard star-adventure, knowing not
what the fires mean to right and left, nor whether
a meaning was intended or presumed,
man can stand up, and look out blind, and say:
in all these turning lights I find no clue,
only a masterless night, and in my blood
no certain answer, yet is m y mind my own,
yet is my heart a cry toward something dim
in distance, which is higher than I am
and makes me emperor of the endless dark
even in seeking!
In this last speech Mr. Anderson expresses the view that each
one chooses for himselfj no m a n ’s life is ready-made for him.
You must choose without sufficient knowledge and wisdom.
same idea is presented again in runic rhymes by the old herb
woman in The Star-Wagon:
What a man asks
that he shall h a v e ; the bitter will be sweet
upon his tongue, the sweet bitter.
and you shall have, and that’s your punishment,
along with your reward.
In Key Largo we have a full expression of Mr. Anderson’s
matured philosophy.
Key Largo explores the deep significance
underlying a contemporary situation.
largeness of theme.
It has importance and
When one has lost all faiths, nothing re­
mains except the instinct of self-preservation,
But there are many who cannot emotionally accept the
conclusions \^hich to their intellects seem ineluctable.
What, then, is the meaning of this emotional protest?
Is it merely the consequence of an emotional lag, a sort
of racial adolescence, part of the growing pains of the
human race, and hence destined to disappear as completely
as the sense of guilt which our ancestors felt when they
first broke some now-meaningless taboo? Or does it mean
that honor, and faith, and decency and heroism do mean
something, despite the fact that their sanctions are not
discoverable in nature— -their function not defineable by
the intellect?
No contemporary problem is more fundamental than the
one which can be stated in these general terms, nor is
any more suited to dramatic treatment, since what is re­
quired for its most effective statement is not a pseudo
answer in terms of a formulated creed, but an exploration
in terms of emotional effects; and this is what Mr.
Anderson has striven for.10
The question of whether or not faith, honor, and right
have a meaning worth dying for is discussed in the prelude by
King and Victor.
Victor: But right does win in the end.
King: Only if you believe whoever wins
is right in the end.
Because we're losing here—
and dying here. . . .
. . . . I ’m beginning to wonder
.‘if a cause is sacred when it's lost.
Did we volunteer
to die in a lost cause?
Victor: W h a t ’s gone? What's changed
since yesterday?
King: Our cause is lost, that's all.
Maybe because there isn't any God
Joseph W. Krutch, "Key Largo," Nation, 149:656,
December 9, 1939.
and nobody cares who wins.
Anyway if you win
you never get what you fight for, never get
the least approximation of the thing
you were sold on when you enlisted.
No, you find
instead that you were fighting to impose
some monstrous, bloody injustice, some revenge
that would end in another war. . . .
Why sit here
and get yourself murdered?
. . . I know what I live by, and 1*11 die by it.
It's more important than living.
If it's like all the other faiths I've ever known
it's nothing you can put your finger on,
or say in words, or put any trust in, and so
i t ’s nothing.
A pocket of air under the vest.
That's why it can't be stated.
I have to believe
there's something in the world that isn't evil—
that would rather die than accept injustice— something
positive for good— that can't be killed—
or I'll die inside. And now that the sky's found
a man has to be his own god for himself—
has to prove to himself that a man can die
for what he believes— if ever the time comes to him
when he's asked to choose, and it just so happens
it's up to me tonight.— And I stay here.
Why should we die here for a dead cause, for a symbol,
on these empty ramparts, where there's nothing to win,
even if you could win it?
Then I'll know there’s something in the race
of men, because even I had it, that hates injustice
more than it wants to live.— Because even I had it—
and I ’m no hero.--And that means the Hitlers
and the Mussolinis always lose in the end—
force loses in the long run, and the spirit wins,
whatever spirit, is. Anyway it’s the thing
that says it's better to sit here with the moon
and hold them off while I can. If I went with you
I'd never know whether the race was turning d,
down again, to the dinosaurs— this way
I keep my faith.
In myself and what men are.
And in what we may b e .
At the close of the play when King is faced again with
the question of dying he says that it is better to live, even
if it means reverting to the primitive life of the forest, for
there is no sure faith, no nobility and greatness that w o n ’t
give way if you test it often enough, no love that w o n ’t dry
up in the end if the drought lasts long enough.
if this,were true, why would one live?
Alegre asks
King answers that it
is instinct to eat and sleep and breed and if necessary, to
in the forest.
In despair, Alegre calls on
her father
to answer King, ’’for if it were true one couldn’tlive!”
d ’Alcala: Why, girl, w e ’re all alone,
here on the surface of a turning sphere
of hearth and water, cutting a great circle
round the sun, just as the sun itself
cuts a great circle round the central hub
of some great constellation, which in turn
wheels round another. Where this voyage started
we don’t know, nor where it will end, nor whether
it has a meaning, nor whether there is good
or evil, whether man has a destiny
or happened here by chemical accident—
all this we never know.
And that’s our challenge—
to find ourselves in this desert of dead light-years,
blind, all of us, in a kingdom of the blind,
living by appetite in a fragile shell
of dust and water; yet to take this dust
and water and our range of appetites
and build them toward some vision of a god
of beauty and unselfishness and truth—
could we ask better of the mud we are
than to accept the challenge, and look up
and search for god-head? If it's true we came
from the sea-water— and children in the womb
wear gills a certain time in memory
of that first origin— we've come a long way;
so far there’s no predicting what we'll be
before we end.
It may be women help
this progress choosing out the men who seem
a fractional step beyond sheer appetite-and it may be that’s sacred, though m y values
are hardly Biblical— and perhaps men help
by setting themselves forever, even to the death,
against cruelty and arbitrary power,
for that's the beast--the ancient, belly-foot beast
from which we came, which is strong within us yet,
and tries to drag us back down.
And where are we going?
To a conquest of all there is, whatever there is
among the suns and stars.
King: And what if it’s empty—
what if the whole thing's empty here in space
like a vast merry-go-round of eyeless gods
turning without resistance. . . .
no meaning anywhere, nothing? Then if man gets up
and makes himself a god, and walks alone
among these limitless tensions of the sky,
and finds that he's eternally alone,
and can mean nothing, then what was the useof it,
why climb so high, and set ourselves apart
to look out on a place of skulls?
d'Alcala: Now you want to know
what will come of us all, and I don't know that.
d ’Alcala:
Over and over again the human race
climbs up out of the mud, and looks around,
and finds that i t ’s alone here; and the knowledge
hits it like a blight— and down it goes
into the mud again.
Over and over again we have a hope
and make a religion of it— and follow it up
till w e ’re out on the topmost limb of the tallest
alone with our stars— and we don’t dare to be there,
and climb back down again.
It may be that the blight’s on the race once more—
that they’re all afraid— and fight their way to the
But it won't end in the dark.
Our destiny's
the other way. There'll be a race of men
who can face even the stars without despair,
and think without going mad.
As King talks with Alegre and learns that he has lost her love
because he fled from the fight in Spain, that to her he is
dead, he realizes that a living mental death is worse than
the death of the body, that "though the animal is not evil,
because he lives by instinct alone, man by being given reason
becomes evil when he lives the life of instinct unhindered
13 S
by a realization of anything higher than that instinct.
. . . I came a long way to get it,
and tried to stay away, but now I have it
and 1*11 know what to do.
And yet it’s unfair somehow.
Alegre: Is it unfair?
King: It doesn't come to us all.
It comes to many
in certain generations, comes to only a few
in others; and it says, if you want to live
you must die now— this instant— or the food
you eat will rot- at your lips, and the lips you
will turn to stone, and the very ground you tread
will curl up under your footsteps like a snake
and hiss behind you.— Yet if you’re chosen out,
or choose yourself, and go out to die, you die
forever after, and that's farther away
than one can say in light-years;— and the thing
you die for is as far away as that.
and so in the last analysis one dies
because it's part of the bargain he takes on
when he agrees to live.— A man must die
for what he believes— if he's unfortunate
enough to have to face it in his time—
and if he won't then he'll end up believing
in nothing at all— and that’s death, too.
^ Grenville Yernon, "The Stage," The Commonweal,
31:39, December 8, 1939*
It is apparent from this survey of Mr. Anderson's
dramas that he has a wide field of interest in social ques­
tions of his day.
The fields of predominating interest are
those of intrigue and greed ,in government, and injustice in
the courts; but he has spoken out definitely concerning racial
and religious intolerance, war, and commercial greed.
In Key
Largo he turned away from attacks on the social order to a
questioning of life, a philosophical study that may be the be­
ginning of a new field of dramatic interest to be developed in
the future as extensively as have been the social questions
here discussed.
His social dramas have been decidedly thought-
provoking and have aroused considerable public discussion.
cause of their negative attitude they have repelled many, yet
they have been a stimulant to critical thought and social anal­
The natural groups into which Mr. Anderson’s dramas fall
indicate his changing attitudes as he has matured.
In his
first group of dramas the heroes assume illegitimate privileges
and powers, but escape punishment as they are not in direct op­
position to the established order.
In the second group his
heroes are in open rebellion against the established order and
are annihilated.
The third group is transitional.
denounce certain faults in the social order, but the
The heroes
outcome is idealistically evasive.
In the fourth period, sug­
gested by the last drama, Key Largo, the conflict is philo­
sophical and the outcome decisive.
Throughout all Mr. Anderson*s dramas until Key Largo
there had been a marked shift in the last act from the funda­
mental social question involved to a merely personal interest
on the part of the hero.
In the mind of this writer this was
due to Mr. Anderson's gloomy outlook on life that prevented
his seeing any solution to the problem involved.
This shift
destroyed the dramatic unity of his plays and nullified to a
large extent his influence as a social critic.
However, the
conclusions Mr. Anderson has reached regarding the essential
form of a drama as evidenced in the essay The Essence of
Tragedy and in the drama Key Largo, that the hero must change
both in himself and in his action for the better, indicate
that he has solved, in the main, his prevailing weakness.
Key Largo he carried throughout the same fundamental problem
and solved it effectively in the last act.
This solution is
evidence of a more hopeful philosophic outlook.
The tragic flaw in the hero is the common form of con­
flict in Mr. Anderson’s plays, though in Gods of the Lightning
and The Wingless Yictory the tragic flaw is in the forces of
However, in a few of his dramas there are both
kinds of conflict, as in Night Over Taos and Yalley Forge.
Examples of tragic flaws in the heroes are these: an overweening
desire to rule; a headstrong, impulsive nature that brooks no
opposition, yet lacks the discretion essential to success; a
ruler who belongs to the passing order; a character who gains
a new conception of life at a crucial moment and cannot adjust
fast enough to escape disaster; and loss of faith (illustrated
in three dramas: Valley Forge, The Masque of Kings, and Key
The following are some of the flaws involved in cir­
cumstances: graft in government; graft in the courts; racial
and religious intolerance.
Other characteristics of Mr. Anderson’s dramatic form
are symbolism in characters that represent certain types, or
even classes of society— for example, reformers, politicians,
the old order and the new, the typical soldier, the questioner
of life; characters who serve as mouthpieces to voice Mr.
Anderson’s opinions— for example, Suvorin, Old Sol, and
d ’Alcala; and the spirit of fatalism that characterizes most
of his later works.
Mr. Anderson’s use of blank verse is somewhat of an in­
He feels that American drama will never
art until it achieves great poetic drama.
In his opinion the
poet must be the prophet, dreamer, and interpreter of the
racial dream.
Mr. Anderson is justified in using poetic form
for his tragedies as emotions find their fittest expression in
rhythmical form, poetry raises drama above the levels of real
life, verse serves as a tragic relief, and through rhyme and
melody we seem to reach some -universal chords of human feeling.
Mr. Anderson’s philosophy as set forth in the essay
"Whatever Hope We Have" is that of evolutionary progress.
t h a t ‘we can he sure of is the freedom of the mind,.though the
choices it makes must he without knowledge.
The artist has
faith in the human race and its gradual acquisition of wis­
Mr. Anderson accepts the creed of the artist.
The world
is given meaning and dignity hy the great spirits who precede
us and set down their records.
These act as direct motivation
toward some far goal of racial aspiration.
We cling to central
Without a core of belief neither man nor nation has
the courage to go on.
Love of truth and justice is hound up
with m a n ’s belief in his destiny.
Those who lose faith in
truth and justice and no longer try for them are traitors to
their race and to themselves.
So far as we know there is no
immortality other than that of art.
Only one condition makes
possible a great artist— national interest in and enthusiasm
for the art he practices.
Having found something constructive to believe in,
some foundation for hope, and seeing as he does the enduring
quality of great works of art such as Bach’s music and the
great symphonies, the art of the Middle Ages, and the litera­
ture of Renaissance England, perhaps he will eventually dis­
cover for himself the spiritual inspiration and peace that
originally motivated those great works of art, and may, to
some degree, realize for his age his dream of the great poet
who transforms the drama into a national art of power and
Anderson, Maxwell, White Desert. Not in print.
Produced by Brock Pemberton, Princess Theater, New York.
October IB, 1923.
Anderson, Maxwell, and Laurence Stallings, Three American
Plays. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1926.' "
"What Price Glory.” Produced by Arthur Hopkins, Plymouth
Theater, New York, September 3, 1924.
"First Flight," Produced by Arthur Hopkins, Plymouth
Theater, New York, September 17, 1925.
"The Buccaneer," Produced by Arthur Hopkins, Plymouth
Theater, New York, October 2, 1925.
Anderson, Maxwell, Outside Looking I n . New York: Longmans,
Green and Company, 1927.
Produced by Macgowan, Jones and O'Neill, Greenwich Village
Theater, New York, September 7, 1925.
________ , Saturday*s Children. New York: Longmans, Green and
Company, 1927.
Produced by Actor's Theater, Inc., and Booth Theater,
New York, January 2<5, 1927*
Anderson, Maxwell, and Harold Nickerson, Gods of the Lightning.
New York: Longmans, Green and Company, 1930,
Produced by Hamilton MacFadden and Kellog Gary, Little
Theater, New York, October 24, 1928.
Anderson, Maxwell,
Gypsy. Not in print.
Produced by Richard Herndon, Klaw Theater, New York,
January 14, 1928.
________ , Elizabeth the Queen. New York: Longmans, Green and
Company, 1930.
Produced by Theater Guild, Inc., Guild Theater, New York,
November 3, 1930.
________ , Night over Taos. New York: Samuel French, Ltd., 1932.
Produced by Group Theater, Inc., Forty-Eighth Street Theater,
New York, March 9, 1932.
Anderson, Maxwell, Both Your Houses. New York: Samuel French,
Ltd., 1933.
Produced by Theater Guild, Inc., Royale Theater, New York,
March 6, 1933•
_________, Mary of Scotland. New York: Doubleday, Doran and
Company, 1933.
Produced by Theater Guild, Inc., Alvin Theater, New York,
November 27, 1933.
, Valley Forge. Washington, D.C.: Anderson House,
Produced by Theater Guild, Inc., Guild Theater, New York,
December 10, 1934.
_____ , Winterset. Washington, D.C. : Anderson House, 1935.
Produced by Guthrie McClintic, Martin Beck Theater, New
York, September 25, 1935*
_________, The Wingless Victory, Washington, D.C.: Anderson
House, 1936"."
Produced by Katherine Cornell, Empire Theater, New York,
December 23, 1936.
_______ _, High T o r . Washington, B.C.: Anderson House, 1937.
Produced by Guthrie McClintic, Martin Beck Theater, New
York, January 9, 1937.
_________, The Masque of Kings. Washington, D.C.: Anderson
House, 193F^
Produced by Theater Guild, Inc., Shubert Theater, New
York, February 8, 1937.
, The Star Wagon. Washington, D.C.: Anderson House,
Produced by Guthrie McClintic, Empire Theater, New York,
September 29, 1937.
, Key .Largo. Washington, D.C.: Anderson House, 1939.
Produced by Playwrights Company, Inc., English Theatre,
Indianapolis, Indiana, October 30, 1939.
, The Essence of Tragedy and Other Footnotes and
Papers. Washington, D .07: Anderson House, 1939.
Anderson, John, American Theater.
New York: The Dial Press,
Cramer, Carl, "Maxwell Anderson, Poet and Champion," Theater
Arts Monthly. 17:4.37-44.6 , June, 1933.
Flexner, Eleanor, American Playwrights, 1918-1938.
Simon and Schuster, 1931T.
New York:
Kunitz, Stanley Jasspon, Living.Authors. Dilly Tante, editor;
New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1931.
Loggins, Vernon, I Hear America.
Company, 1937.
New York: Thomas Y. Crowell
Mantle, Robert Burns, American Playwrights of Today.
York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1929.
________ , Contemporary American Playwrights.
Mead and Company, 1938.
New York: Dodd,
Moses, M. J . , and J. M. Brown, The American Theater, 17521934. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1934.
Nathan, George J . , Morning After, the First Night.
Alfred A. Knopf, 1938.
New York:
Sedgwick, Ruth W . , "Maxwell Anderson," Stage, 14:32-33,
October, 1936.
Stevenson, Philip, "Maxwell Anderson: Thursday’s Child,"
New Theater Magazine, 3:5-7, 25-27, September, 1936.
Whitman, Charles Huntington, Representative Modern Dramas.
New York: Macmillan Company, 1936.
Zabel, Morton Dauwen, editor, Literary Opinion in America.
New York: Harper Brothers, 1937.
Three American Plays.
Footner, Hulbert, "Three American Plays,w Saturday Review
of Literature, 3:4-17, December 11, 192FI
Gilder, Rosamond, "Fighting Men,” Theater Arts Monthly,
10:868, December, 1926.
What Price Glory.
Caldwell, C., "Dramatic Notes," Outlook, 138:439-4-4-1,
November 19, 1924.
Clark, Bv H . , "What Price Glory," Drama, 15:4, October,
'Drama," Literary Digest, 83:30-31, October 4, 1924.
"Drama," Literary Digest, 84:30^31, January 10, 1925.
"Theater," Living A g e , 324:68, January 3, 1925.
Young, Stark, "Modern Drama," New Republic, 40:160-161,
October 15, 1924.
First Flight.
Krutch, J. W . , "Drama Review," Nation, 121:390, October
7, 1925.
Nathan, G. J . , "Dramatic Criticism," American Mercury,
6:376-377, November, 1925.
The Buccaneer.
Krutchi J. W . , "Drama Review," Nation, 121:469, October
21, 1925.
Outside'Looking I n .
Benchley, R . , "Drama," Life, 86:20, September 24, 1925.
Young, Stark, "Outside Looking In," New Rebublic, 44:123124, September 23, 1925.
Saturday1s Children.
Benchley, R . , "Drama,” Life, 89:19, February 17, 1927.
Carb, D . , "Theater," Vogue, 69:132, April 1, 1927.
"Drama," New Statesman, 7:155, February 3, 1934.
Krutchi J. W . , "Drama Review,” Nation, 124:194, February
16, 1927.
Nathan, George Jean, "Dramatic Criticism," American
Mercury, 10:503, April, 1927.
"Saturday1s Children," Theater W o r l d , 21:66, February,
Saturday Review, 157:155, February 3, 1934.
Young, S . , "Modern Drama," New Republic, 49:357, February
16, 1927.
Gods of the Lightning.
Benchley, R . , "Drama,” L i f e , 92:14, November 9, 1928.
Carb, D . , "Theater," V o g u e , 72:99, December 8, 1928.
Clark, B. H . , "Gods of the Lightning," Drama,1 19:101.
January, 1929.
"Drama Review," Dial, S6 js80-82, January, 1929.
Krutch, J. W . , "Drama Review," The Nation, 127:528,
November 14, 1928.
Littell, R . , "Broadway in Review," Theater Arts Monthly,
13:10-13, January, 1929.
Young, S., "Modern Drama,” New Republic, 56:326- 327,
November 7, 1928.
Benchley, R . , "Drama," Life, 93:23, February 1, 1929.
Bellamy, F. R . , "Drama Notes," Outlook, 151:171, January
30, 1929.
Krutch, J. W . , "Drama Review," Nation, 128:168, February
6, 1929.
Skinner, Richard Dana, "Gypsy," Commonweal, 9:168,
February 6, 1929.
Elizabeth the Queen.
Chatfield, Taylor 0., "Dramatic Notes,” Life, 96:14,
November 21, 1930.
Clark, B. H . , "Elizabeth the Q.ueen." Dr a m a , 21:11-12,
December, 1930.
"Drama,” Literary Digest, 107:17-18, November 22, 1930.
"Elizabeth the Queen," Commonweal, 13:76, November 19,
Eustis,E., "Broadway in Review,” Theater Arts Monthly,
53:66, January, 1931.
Fergusson, J . , "Critical Review," Bookman, 72:628,
February, 1931.
Leonard, B . , "Drama," Life, 96:14, November 21, 1930.
Nathan, G. J . , "Criticism," Vanity Fair, 35:31, January
31, 1930.
"Stage,” Collier’s, 87:10, February 7, 1931.
Van Doren, Mark, "Drama Review," Nation, 131:562,
November 19, 1930. .
Night over Taos.
Carb, D., "Theater,” Vogue, 79:32, April, 1932.
Eustis, E . , "Broadway Review,” Theater Arts Monthly,
16:360-362, May, 1932.
Hammond, Percy, "Drama,” New York Tribune, March 10,
1932, p. 8.
Krutch, J. W . , "Drama Review," Nation, 134:378, March 30,
"Maxwell Anderson," Stage. 9:32-35, May, 1932.
"Night over Taos," Theater Guild Monthly* 9:3, April,
Young, S., "Modern Drama," New Republic, 70:181-182,
March 30, 1932.
Washington Merry-Go-Round.
Bakshy, A., "Drama Review,” Nation, 135:466, November 9,
Lorentz,.?., "Maxwell Anderson," Vanity P a i r , 39:46,
December, 1932.
, "Maxwell Anderson," Vanity Fair, 40:45, July,
Both Your Houses.
’Drama,” Literary Digest, 115:14-15, March 25, 1933.
Krutch, J. W . , "Drama Review," Nation, 136:355-356,
March 29, 1933.
Nathan, G. J . , "Maxwell Anderson," Vanity Fair,
40:60, May, 1933.
Carb, D., "Theater," Vogue, 81:84, May 1, 1933.
Eustis, E . , "Pulitzer Prize Play," Theater Arts
Monthly, 17:338-339, 405-406, May, June, 1933.
McKlean, K . , "Both Your Houses," Stage, 10:6, 10-11,
16-17, April, 1933.
Skinner, R. D . , "Both Your Houses," Commonweal,
17:582, March 22, 1933.
________ , "Pulitzer Award for Both Your Houses,"
Commonweal, 18:73, May 19, 1933.
"Stage," News W e e k , 1:29,‘ March 18, 1 9 3 3 . ’
"Stage," Time, 21:4, March 13, 1930.
Young, S., "Modern Drama," New Republic, 74:188,
March 29, 1933.
Mary of Scotland.
Krutch, J. W . , "Drama Review," Nation, 137:688, 69Q,
December 13, 1933.
’Mary of Scotland," Commonweal, 19:189-190, December
15, 1933.
"Mary of Scotland," Review of Reviews, 89:39,
February, 1934.
"Mary of Scotland," Stage, 11:10-11, December, 1933*
"Mary of Scotland," T i m e , 22:48-49, December 4, 1933.
Young,;, Stark, "Modern Drama," New Republic, 77:130131, December 13, 1933.
Benet, R . , "Mary of Scotland," Saturday Review of
Literature, 10:496," February 17, 1934.
Goodrich, L. B . , "Mary of Scotland," Players' Monthly,
10:343, May-June, 1934.
Cramer, C., "Maxwell Anderson," Theater Arts Monthly,
17:437-446, June, 1933.
Isaacs, Edith, J. R . , "Mary of Scotland," Theater Arts
Monthly, 18:2, 14-18, January, 1934.
Reed, E., "Playwrights Afield," Theater Arts Monthly,
18:389, 453, May-June, 1934.
"Mary of Scotland,” Vanity Fair, 42:44, April, 1934.
So Red the Rose.
"Stage," News W e e k , 6:27-28, November 30, 1935.
"Stage," Review of Literature, 120:26, November 23, 1935.
"Stage," T i m e ,
26:40, December 2, 1935*
Van Doren, M . , "Drama Review," Nation, 141:724, December
18, 1935.
Valley Forge.
"Drama,” Literary Digest, 118:22, December 22, 1934.
Eustis, E . , "Broadway in Review," Theater Arts Monthly,
19:200, March, 1935.
Isaacs, Edith J. R . , "Valley Forge," Theater Arts Monthly,
19:94-96, February, 1935.
Nathan, G. I . , "Valley Forge," Vanity Fair, 43:37-38, ■
February, 1935*
"Stage," News W e e k , 4:24, December 22, 1934.
"Stage," Time, 24:46-48, December 10, 1934.
"Valley F o r g e C o m m o n w e a l , 21:264, December 28, 1934.
Young, Stark, "Modern Drama,” New Republic, 81:196,
December 26, 1934*
"Winterset," Commonweal, 22:585, October 11, 1935.
"Drama,” Literary Digest, 120:20, October 5, 1935.
Isaacs, Edith I. R . , "Broadway in Review,” Theater
Arts Monthly, 19:806, 816-820, November, 1935.
Krutch, J, W . , "Drama in Review,” Nation, 141:420,
638, October 9, December 4 , 1935.
, "Drama Review*" Nation, 142:484-485, April
15, 1936.
Nathan, C. jr., "Winterset," Vanity Fair,1 45:39,
December, 1935.
Van Doren, M . , "Drama Review,” Nation, 143:741-742,
December 19, 1936.
Young, S., "Modern Drama," New Republic, 84:420,
October 16, 1935.
________ , "Modern Drama," New Republic, 85:257,
January 8, 1936.
"Drama," Literary Digest, 122:22, November 28, 1936.
Farma, W. 1., "Winterset,** Players* Magazine, 12:2,
13, January, February, 193o.
Ferguson, 0., "Modern Drama," New Republic, 89:328329, January 13, 1937.
"Stage," News W e e k , 6:32-33, October 5, 1935.
"Stage," News Week, 8:20, December 5, 1936.
"Stage," T i m e , 26:38, 40, October 7, 1935.
"Stage," Time, 28:25, December 14, 1936.
The Wingless Victory,
Isaacs, Edith J. R , , "The Wingless Victory," Theater
Arts Monthly, 21:89-91, 93-94, February, 1937.
Kruteh, J. W . , "Drama Review," Nation, 144:53,
January.9, 1937.
"Stage," Forum, 97:354, June, 1937.
"Wingless Victory," Commonweal, 25:304, January 8,
"The Wingless Victory," Scholastic, 30:19, February
13, 1937.
"The Wingless Victory," Scribner*s Monthly, 101:69-70,
March, 1937.
Benet, S. V., "The Wingless Victory," Stage, 14:38-39,
January, 1937.
Carb, D. C . , "Theater," Vogue, 89:64, February 1, 1937.
"Production at Empire Theater," New Republic. 89:411,
February 3, 1937.
"Stage," Time , 29:29, January 4, 1937.
High Tor.
"High Tor," Scribner*s Magazine, 101:65-66, June, 1937.
Isaacs, Edith J. R. , "Broadway in Review," Theater
Arts Monthly, 21:175-179, March, 1937.
Vernon, Grenville, "High Tor," Commonweal, 25:388, ’
January, 1937.
, "High Tor," Commonweal, 132:132, May 28,
Wilson, Edmund, "Modern Drama," New Republic, 90:295,
April 14, 1937.
, "Modern Drama," New Republic, 91:193, June,
23, 1937.
Young, Stark, "Modern Drama," New Republic, 89:411,
February 3, 1937*
Colum, M. M . , "Maxwell Anderson’s ’High Tor,’" Forum,
97:353, June, 1937.
"Drama," Literary Digest, 123:21, January 23, 1937.
Nathan, G. J . , "Drama," Saturday Review of Literature,
15:19, January 30, 1937.
Nichols, Lewis, "Theater," New York Times, May 16,
1937, P. 22.
"Stage," T i m e , 29:47, January 18, 1937.
"Stage," News W e e k , 9:47, January 18, 1937.
The Masque of Kings.
Krutch, J. W . , "Drama Review," Nation, 144:221-222,
February 20, 1937.
Nathan, G. J. , "Drama,11 Saturday Review of Literature,
15:23, March 13, 1937.
Vernon, Grenville, "The Masque of Kings," Commonweal,
25;502, F e b r u a r y ^ , ' T 9 3 7 7 ------ ---------------Review:
"Drama," Literary Digest, 123:23-24, February 20, 1937.
"Theater,” Forum, 97:353, June, 1937.
Green, E. M . , "The Masque of Kings,” Theater World, '
27:185, April, 1937.
Isaacs, Edith J, R . , "Broadway in Review," Theater
Arts Monthly, 21:260-261, April, 1937.
Nichols, Lewis, New York Times, May 16, 1937, p. 22.
"Stage,” News W e e k , 9:24, February 20, 1937.
"Stage,” Time, 29:39, February 15, 1937.
Wilson, Edmund, "Modern Drama,” New Republic, 90:111,
March 3, 1937.
, "Modern Drama,” New Republic, 91:193. June
23, 1937.
The Star W a g o n .
Krutch, J. _W. , "Drama Review," Nation, 145:411,
October 16, 1937.
Nathan, G. J. "Stage," Newsweek, 10:27, October 11,
. 1937.
"The Star Wagon,” Commonweal, 26:580, October 18,
Broun, Heywood, "Modern Drama," New Republic, 93:225,
December 29, 1937.
Gabriel, G. W. , "The Star W a g o n ,” Stage, 15:55-57,
November, 1937.
Green, E. M . , “The Star Wagon," Theater World, 28:236,
November, 1937.
Goldberg, I., "The Star TWagon," One-Act Play Magazine,
1:857, January, 1938.
Isaacs, Edith J. R . , "Broadway in Review,” Theater
Arts Monthly, 21:834-, 838, 841, November, 1937.
"Stage,” T i m e , '30:52-53, October 11, 1937.
Tolmey, Allene, "Theater," Vogue, 90:90, November 1,
Young, Stark, "Modern Drama,” New Republic, 92:302,
October 20, 1937.
Key Largo.
Cromwell, Leta Clews, "The Theatre," Forum, 103:32,
January, 1940.
Vernon, Grenville, "The Stage and Screen,” Commonweal,
31:163, December 8, 1939.
Wyatt, Euphemia,•"The Drama," Catholic World, 150:467468, January, 1940.
Young, Stark, "Full of the Moon," New Republic,"101:
230, December 13, 1939.
Gilder, Rosamond, "Tragedy and Tinsel," Theatre Arts
Monthly, 24:81, February, 1940.
Krutch, Joseph Wood, "Key Largo," Nation, 149:656, December 9, 193o.
Morton, Frederick, "Playwright’s Craft,” Theatre Arts
Monthly, 23:612, August, 1939.
In the essay, ”Yes, by the Eternal,” written for a
magazine by that name, in answer to a criticism by Mr. Max
Eastman, Mr. Anderson states his opinion of what relation
poetry has to the effort to solve problems of life.
Eastman had said he had been prophesying and hoping for an
imaginative rebirth in this country which would include a re­
establishment of the poetic theatre.
But the poetic theatre
he wants is a special kind of poetic theatre, one which will
throw its influence behind "the intelligent, which is to say
the practical scientific-— which is to say the real— effort to
solve the problems of life on this planet."
The italics are Mr. Eastman’s.
And the italics leave
no doubt that Mr. Eastman is asking not only for a new kind of
poetic theatre, but a new kind of poetry as well.
from Mr. Anderson:
Never in the history of the world has poetry of any
excellence thrown its weight toward the practical or sci­
entific reorganization of the affairs of men.
Poetry is
just as unfit for that business as for making up the ac­
counts of a brokerage house. As for plays, even a play
in prose loses its franchise over an audience the moment
it begins to discuss the blueprints for an almost perfect
Mr. Eastman was asking for something immediately con­
structive, scientifically and practically constructive.
Anderson feels that he will never get it in poetry either on or
1 Maxwell Anderson, ”Yes by the Eternal,” The Essence
of Tragedy and Other Pootnotes and Papers t pp. 49-50.
off the stage, because a concrete constructive policy in the
affairs of our planet has never yet called forth great poetry,
and "by its very nature, cannot invoke great poetry, or any
poetry at all."
using language."
As Mr. Eastman says, "Poetry is a way of
But, as Mr. Anderson says,
It is a way of using language that impels the user
powerfully toward emotional utterance, impels him away
from the small change of political economy and toward
whatever vision he may be able to formulate of human
destiny. . . .
[Poetry] is indulged in by dreamers, and
not by practical men,, yet wherever the practical men have
gone in search of truth or wealth they have found a few
errant dreamers ahead of them.
The poet is usually long
dead by the time he, but he does in­
herit it.
The great poetry of Greece, of Italy, and of England
is nearly all as mystic a concept and as prophetic in
tone as the Old Testament itself. Prophetic with the eye
on the distant horizon, not the excavation in the fore­
Over and over again the poet, over-occupied with
the horizon, steps, still singing, into the excavation
for a new edifice, and is walled into the foundation
quite unheeded.
Over and over again his musical cry is
remembered when the building is ruined and effaced; often
there is little known of an entire civilization save the
words of an obscure singer long ago buried under the fal­
len walls of a lost and forgotten political order.
And if we examine these musical cries for their mean­
ing we find that the writers of epic, of lyric, and dramatic
verse are alike in having no pressing plans for the race.
The writers of epics celebrate the youth, the hope, the
victory, the disillusion and the defeat of men; the writers
of lyrics are always young, and their constant themee'is the
anguish of youth in its first contact with reality and in­
evitable despair; the authors of tragedy offer the largest
hope for mankind which I can discern in the great poetry
of the earth, a hope that man is greater than his clay,
that the spirit of man may rise superior to physical de­
feat and death.
The theme of tragedy has always been vic­
tory in defeat, a m a n ’s conquest of himself in the face of
The last act of a tragedy contains the m o ­
ment when the wheel of a m a n ’s fate carries him simultaneously
to spiritual realization and to the end of his life.
message of tragedy is simply that men are better than
they think they a r e , and this message needs to be said
over and over again in every tongue lest the race lose
faith in itself entirely. . . .
What savage disciplines, what devotion to the arts and
sciences, what birth and death of races and race morali­
ties must intervene between us and that far consummation
[of honesty, unselfishness, and unbroken peace], no man
can guess or estimate.
But when the race gets there, if
it does, the poets will still be ahead of it, examining a
still more distant future.
For what the poets are always
asking for, visioning, and projecting is man as he must
and will be, man a step above and beyond his present, man
as he may be glimpsed on some horizon of dream, a little
nearer what he himself wishes to become.2
2 Ibid., pp. 50-53*
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