The Summing Up, XXXIV

Now I need to know more about Maugham’s plays to really get this chapter; it’s not about playwriting, it’s about drama plays getting rid of verse and going to prose and thereby getting rid of a sense of unreality. Maugham thinks plays—including drama—should have a “free rendering” of reality and not try to do too much what they can’t do. Otherwise drama plays will die out. It’s getting worse as he’s writing in the thirties because of sound movies. Dramatists are trying to pace themselves off film, which can’t be done on stage. I assume this practice has gotten better over the years, as there are still successful (and good) dramatic plays. And lame adaptations of them to film. Maugham description of how verse works in plays is so good I wish I’d had it in middle school or whenever I read my first Shakespeare. This chapter isn’t about him, it’s just about a subject he cares about. At the end of the chapter he gets to comedies and how critics need to stop demanding realism in comedy. “The laugh,” Maugham writes, “must be sought for its own sake.” He’s right.

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