The Importance of Being Earnest is a classic comedy of manners in which two flippant young men, in order to impress their respected beloveds, pretend that their names are “Ernest,” which both young ladies believe confers magical qualities on the possessor. It was first performed for the public on February 14, 1895 at the St. James’ Theatre in London, and is regarded by many critics and scholars as being the wittiest play in the English language.
Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff discover the perils of love, assumed identities, and telling the truth in Oscar Wilde's classic play.
Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest is subtitled "A Trivial Comedy for Serious People," and has proved immensely popular since its first performance in 1895. The play certainly has its farcical and comic elements, such as the witty banter exchanged by the characters and the flippant attitude towards love and marriage that characterizes the action. However, the play also explores more serious themes through the central story of Jack Worthing's search for his identity.
The story is about Elinor and Marianne, two daughters of Mr Dashwood by his second wife. They have a younger sister, Margaret, and an older half-brother named John. When their father dies, the family estate passes to John, and the Dashwood women are left in reduced circumstances. The novel follows the Dashwood sisters to their new home, a cottage on a distant relative's property, where they experience both romance and heartbreak. The contrast between the sisters' characters is eventually resolved as they each find love and lasting happiness. Through the events in the novel, Elinor and Marianne encounter the sense and sensibility of life and love. In this dramatic reading, Volunteers lend their voices to bring Jane Austen's classic story to life.
Shaw, George Bernard
Pygmalion (1913) is a play by George Bernard Shaw based on the Greek myth of the same name. It tells the story of Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics (based on phonetician Henry Sweet), who makes a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering that he can successfully pass off a Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, as a refined society lady by teaching her how to speak with an upper class accent and training her in etiquette. In the process, Higgins and Doolittle grow close, but she ultimately rejects his domineering ways and declares she will marry Freddy Eynsford-Hill – a young, poor, gentleman. - The play was later the basis for the successful movie adaptation "My Fair Lady" with Audrey Hepburn as Eliza and Rex Harrison as Prof. Higgins.
The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, normally known simply as Doctor Faustus, is a play by Christopher Marlowe, based on the Faust story, in which a man sells his soul to the devil for power and knowledge. Doctor Faustus was first published in 1604, eleven years after Marlowe's death and at least twelve years after the first performance of the play.
Doyle, Arthur Conan, Sir
The Sign of the Four, the second of four novels featuring Sherlock Holmes, has a complex plot involving India, a stolen treasure, and a secret pact among four convicts and two corrupt prison guards. Some of Holmes's less savory habits are revealed, and Dr. Watson finds romance. In this dramatic reading, Volunteers bring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic characters to life.
The Seagull is the first of what are generally considered to be the four major plays by the Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov. The play was written in 1895 and first produced in 1896. It dramatises the romantic and artistic conflicts between four characters: the ingenue Nina, the fading leading lady Irina Arkadina, her son the experimental playwright Konstantin Treplyov, and the famous middlebrow story writer Trigorin. (Wikipedia)
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend; a highly successful scholar, but also dissatisfied with his life, and so makes a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust is a tragic play in two parts. It is Goethe's most famous work and considered by many to be one of the greatest works of German literature.
This first part of Faust is not divided into acts, but is structured as a sequence of scenes in a variety of settings. After a dedicatory poem and a prelude in the theatre, the actual plot begins with a prologue in Heaven and Scene 1 in Faust's study.
On the surface, this short play is a slice-of-life story about a murder investigation in the rural United States. However, it is also a story about the relationships between men and women, husbands and wives, and the often-overlooked "trifles" which can say so much about a person's life.
Inheritors, (1921) by American dramatist Susan Glaspell concerns the legacy of an idealistic farmer who wills his highly coveted midwest farmland to the establishment of a college (Act I.) Forty years later, when his granddaughter stands up for the rights of Hindu nationals to protest at the college her grandfather founded, she jeopardizes funding for the college itself and sets herself against her own uncle, president of the institution's trustees (Acts II and III.) Ultimately, she defies her family's wishes, and as a consequence is bound for prison herself (Act IV.) The play was a stirring defense of free speech and an individual's ability to stand for his or her own ideal during a time of aggressive anti-Communist politics in the US. Inheritors was first performed at Provincetown Playhouse in 1922, the last of Glaspell's plays presented there. It has been revived in New York City by Mirror Repertory in 1983 and Metropolitan Playhouse in 2005.
A Family-drama in three acts. Like many of Ibsen's better-known plays, Ghosts is a scathing commentary on 19th century morality.
Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts was first published in 1881 and staged in 1882, and like his earlier play A Doll's House, profoundly shocked his contemporaries. Dubbed "a dirty deed done in public" by one of its critics, the play focuses on (among other things) venereal disease, euthanasia, and incest. The original title literally means "the ones who return," and the play is about how we can deal with the awful legacy of the past.
An outbreak of plague in London forces a gentleman, Lovewit, to flee temporarily to the country, leaving his house under the sole charge of his butler, Jeremy. Jeremy uses the opportunity given to him to use the house as the headquarters for fraudulent acts. He transforms himself into 'Captain Face', and enlists the aid of Subtle, a fellow conman and Dol Common, a prostitute. In The Alchemist, Jonson unashamedly satirizes the follies, vanities and vices of mankind, most notably greed-induced credulity. People of all social classes are subject to Jonson's ruthless, satirical wit. He mocks human weakness and gullibility to advertising and to "miracle cures" with the character of Sir Epicure Mammon, who dreams of drinking the elixir of youth and enjoying fantastic sexual conquests. The Alchemist focuses on what happens when one human being seeks advantage over another. In a big city like London, this process of advantage-seeking is rife. The trio of con-artists - Subtle, Face and Dol - are self-deluding small-timers, ultimately undone by the same human weaknesses they exploit in their victims.
An Ideal Husband is an 1895 comedy by Oscar Wilde which revolves around blackmail and political corruption, and touches on the themes of public and private honor. The action is set in London, in "the present", and takes place within a single day. "Sooner or later," Wilde notes, "we shall all have to pay for what we do." But he adds that, "No one should be entirely judged by their past."
The play begins years after Oedipus has taken the throne of Thebes. The Theban chorus cries out to him for salvation from the plague sent by the gods in response to Laius's murder. Oedipus searches for the murderer, unaware that he himself is guilty of that crime.
The blind prophet Teiresias is called upon to aid the search, but, after his warning against following through with it, Oedipus oppugns him as the murderer, even though he is blind and aged. In response, an angry Tiresias tells Oedipus that he is looking for himself, causing the king to become enraged in incredulity. He then accuses the prophet of conspiring with Creon, Jocasta's brother, to overthrow him.
Oedipus calls for one of Laius's former servants, the only surviving witness of the murder, who fled the city when Oedipus became king in order to avoid being the one to reveal the truth. Soon a messenger from Corinth arrives to inform the king of the death of Polybus, whom Oedipus still believes to be his real father. At this point, the messenger informs him that he was in fact adopted and that his true parentage is unknown. In the subsequent discussions between Oedipus, Jocasta, the servant and the messenger, the second-mentioned surmises the truth and runs away in shame.
This is the second installment in Sophocles's Theban Plays that chronicles the tragic fates of Oedipus and his family. After fulfilling the prophecy that predicted he would kill his father and marry his mother, Oedipus blinds himself and leaves Thebes, to wander in the wilderness accompanied by his daughters Antigone and Ismene.
This is the final installment in Sophocles's Theban Plays, following Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. Oedipus's daughter Antigone deliberately breaks the laws of Thebes when she buries her brother's body and is sentenced to death. She clashes with Creon, the King of Thebes, over what constitutes justice and morality: the laws of the state or the laws of the individual.
Hedda Gabler is a play first published in 1890 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. In it, Hedda Gabler, daughter of an aristocratic General, has just returned from her honeymoon with George Tesman, an aspiring young academic, reliable but not brilliant, who has combined research with their honeymoon. The reappearance of Tesman's academic rival, Eilert Lovborg, throws their lives into disarray.
The Proposal is a one act comic farce by Anton Chekhov. In Chekhov's Russia, marriage was a means of economic stability for most people. They married to gain wealth and possessions. In this play, the concept of marriage is being satirized to show the real purpose of marriage - materialistic gain rather than true love.
The Cherry Orchard is Russian playwright Anton Chekhov's last play. It premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre 17 January 1904 in a production directed by Constantin Stanislavski. Chekhov intended this play as a comedy and it does contain some elements of farce; however, Stanislavski insisted on directing the play as a tragedy. Since this initial production, directors have had to contend with the dual nature of this play.
The play concerns an aristocratic Russian woman and her family as they return to the family's estate (which includes a large and well-known cherry orchard) just before it is auctioned to pay the mortgage. The story presents themes of cultural futility — both the futility of the aristocracy to maintain its status and the futility of the bourgeoisie to find meaning in its newfound materialism. In reflecting the socio-economic forces at work in Russia at the turn of the 20th century, including the rise of the middle class after the abolition of serfdom in the mid-19th century and the sinking of the aristocracy, the play reflects forces at work around the globe in that period.
Shaw, George Bernard
Don Juan in Hell is an excerpt (Act 3, Scene 2) from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. It is often performed as a stand-alone play. In it, three characters from Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Don Juan, Dona Ana, and the statue of the Commendatore, Dona Ana’s father) meet in Hell and, joined by the Devil, have a philosophical debate on a variety of subjects, including Heaven and Hell, men, women and marriage. In the end, they all decide where they will spend eternity.
Othello is the story of a cross-cultural romance between the title character, a noble moor who is a general in the Venetian army, and Desdemona, a beautiful and virtuous Venetian lady. The newly-married couple fall prey to the machinations of Iago, Othello's jealous ensign, who plots to destroy their union.
Doyle, Arthur Conan, Sir
The Hound of the Baskervilles is the third of four crime novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialised in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it is set largely on Dartmoor in Devon in England's West Country and tells the story of an attempted murder inspired by the legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound.
Shaw, George Bernard
The story centers on the relationship between Mrs Kitty Warren, a rich woman, described by the author as "on the whole, a genial and fairly presentable old blackguard of a woman" and her daughter, Vivie. Mrs Warren is a middle-aged woman whose Cambridge-educated daughter, Vivie, is horrified to discover the sinister way her mother acquired her fortune.
Christopher "Kit" Marlowe (baptised 26 February 1564?30 May 1593) was an English dramatist, poet, and translator of the Elizabethan era. The foremost Elizabethan tragedian before William Shakespeare, he is known for his magnificent blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his own untimely death.
The Jew of Malta (1589) is an original story of religious conflict, intrigue, and revenge, set against a backdrop of the struggle for supremacy between Spain and the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean. The Jew of Malta is considered to have been a major influence on William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.
The play contains a prologue in which the character Machiavel, a Senecan ghost based on Niccolò Machiavelli, introduces "the tragedy of a Jew."
Sophocles' play dramatizes the aftermath of Agamemnon's murder by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. His daughter Electra is hungry for revenge and longs for the return of her brother Orestes to help her achieve her ends.
Schiller's tragedy depicts the final days of Mary, Queen of Scots, who has been imprisoned by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, because of her potential claim on the English throne. The action of the play revolves around an attempt to rescue Mary from prison and Elizabeth's indecision over whether or not to have her executed. The 1801 translation is by Joseph Mellish, a friend of Schiller's.
Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder, first published in 1892, is about architect Halvard Solness, who despite personal tragedy (including the death of his two sons) has risen to the top of his profession. He has succeeded partly through ruthless competition and exploitation and partly through a seeming ability to force his will on others. His unhappy wife Aline mourns for their lost life, and resents his interest in various young women, including his bookkeeper Kaia Fosli. Solness disregards the ambitions of other architects, including Knut Brovik and his son Ragnar, and seeks solace in the advice of family physician and friend Dr. Herdal. With the entrance of Hilda Wangel, a young woman whom he met as a child ten years ago, his life acquires a new focal point, one that will mean the end of him.
Richard III is an early history play probably written and performed around 1592-93. It is the culmination of Shakespeare's earlier three plays about Henry VI, and chronicles the bloody career of Richard, Duke of Gloucester. As the play opens, the Wars of the Roses are over, King Edward IV (Richard's brother) is on the throne, and all is ostensibly well. The problem? Richard wants to be king - and he'll stop at nothing to realize his ambition.
Geography and Plays is a 1922 collection of Gertrude Stein's "word portraits," or stream-of-consciousness writings. These stream-of-consciousness experiments, rhythmical essays or "portraits", were designed to evoke "the excitingness of pure being" and can be seen as literature's answer to Cubism, plasticity, and collage. Although the book has been described as "a marvellous and painstaking achievement in setting down approximately 80,000 words which mean nothing at all," it is considered to be one of Stein's seminal works.
Shaw, George Bernard
The Doctor's Dilemma is about Dr. Colenso Ridgeon, who has recently been knighted because of a miraculous new treatment he developed for tuberculosis. As his friends arrive to congratulate him on his success, he is visited by two figures who present him with a difficult decision. He has room for one more patient in his clinic; should he give it to Louis Dubedat, a brilliant but absolutely immoral artist, or Dr. Blenkinsop, a poor and rather ordinary physician who is a truly good person? Dr. Ridgeon's dilemma is heightened when he falls for Jennifer Dubedat, the artist's wife, who is innocent of her husband's profligacy.
Barrie, J. M.
From the author of Peter Pan:
Lord Loam, a British peer, considers class divisions to be artificial. He promotes his views during tea-parties where servants mingle with his aristocratic guests, to the embarrassment of all. Crichton, his butler, particularly disapproves of this.
Loam, his family, a maid, and Crichton are shipwrecked on a deserted tropical island. The resourceful Crichton is the only one of the party with any practical knowledge. Eventually, social roles are reversed, and Crichton becomes the governor. (Intro from Wikipedia and TriciaG)
August Strindberg's naturalistic one-act drama has only three characters: Julie, a passionate young noblewoman; Jean, her father's ambitious valet; and Kristin, the cook, who is also Jean's fiancee. The play is set on Midsummer Eve, when everyone is reveling, and Julie and Jean get a bit too intimate - with tragic results.
When We Dead Awaken (1899) is the last play by Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen. Dreamlike and highly symbolic, the play charts the dissolution of sculptor Arnold Rubek's marriage to Maia, her flirtation with Ulfheim, and his involvement with the mysterious Irene, his former model. The tensions rise between the characters as they climb higher and higher into the Norwegian mountains.
A one-act play. Eccentric (crazy?) Captain Hagberd has been waiting for years for his son to come home from the sea. He has scrimped and saved, outfitting a house for Harry to inherit upon his return, which will be in only "one day more." He has also planned that Harry will marry Bessie, the repressed maiden next door. Note: The recording was done outside, so there will be some ambient noise (airplanes, lawn mowers, birds, children... etc).
Henrik Ibsen's 1894 play Little Eyolf tells the story of the Allmers family: the father, Alfred, his wife Rita, their crippled nine-year-old son Eyolf, and Alfred's sister Asta. As the play begins, Alfred has just gotten back from a trip to the mountains, and resolves to spend more time with his son, rather than on intellectual pursuits. Asta is romantically pursued by Borgheim, an engineer, while the cracks in Alfred and Rita's marriage gradually reveal themselves. The family receives a visit from the Rat-Wife, and are never the same again.
Ferdinand is an army major and son of President von Walter, a high-ranking noble in a German duke's court, while Luise Miller is the daughter of a middle-class musician. The couple fall in love with each other, but both their fathers tell them to end their affair. The President instead wants to expand his own influence by marrying Ferdinand to Lady Milford, the duke's mistress, but Ferdinand rebels against his father's plan and tries to persuade Luise to elope with him.
Nicolai (anglicised Nicholas in this translation) Ivanov, a middle-aged public servant, is unhappy. His wife Anna, disinherited by her family after converting from Judaism, is dying of tuberculosis. He is deeply in debt. And his best friend’s daughter is infatuated with him. Comedy and tragedy ensue in truly Chekhovian fashion. An example of the young Chekhov’s maturing style, Ivanov is an early harbinger of themes that would recur throughout his work.
Jerome, Jerome K.
A comic look at the curious habits and customs of the inhabitants of 'Stage Land'. Dedicated to 'that highly respectable but unnecessarily retiring individual, of whom we hear so much but see so little, "the earnest student of drama"
Clarence and Emmeline Mumford are in for a real treat when they take in the young, outspoken Miss Louise Derrick as their guest. Shedding a light on class struggles in the Victorian era, The Paying Guest offers a look at just what "proper society" expects.
Upton Sinclair is best known for his novel The Jungle, an expose of the meatpacking industry. He was also a playwright whose works for the stage reflected the same progressive viewpoints found in his other writing. In The Machine, published as part of Sinclair's 1912 collection Plays of Protest, Socialist activists show a rich man's daughter the truth about the society in which she has been raised.
A mysterious young widow arrives at Wildfell Hall, an Elizabethan mansion which has been empty for many years, with her young son. She lives there under an assumed name, Helen Graham, and very soon finds herself the victim of local slander. Refusing to believe anything scandalous about her, Gilbert Markham discovers her dark secrets. In her diary Helen writes about her husband's physical and moral decline through alcohol and the world of debauchery and cruelty from which she has fled. This passionate novel of betrayal is set within a moral framework tempered by Anne's optimistic belief in universal salvation. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is mainly considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels. May Sinclair, in 1913, said that the slamming of Helen's bedroom door against her husband reverberated throughout Victorian England. In escaping from her husband, she violates not only social conventions, but also English law.
John Webster's bloody Jacobean tragedy exposes the decadence of the Italian court. The virtuous Duchess of Malfi, a young widow, secretly marries her steward Antonio, and is subsequently persecuted by her brothers: the sexually obsessed and eventually mad Ferdinand, and the corrupt Cardinal.
Euripides' tragedy focuses on the disintegration of the relationship between Jason, the hero who captured the Golden Fleece, and Medea, the sorceress who returned with him to Corinth and had two sons with him. As the play opens, Jason plans to marry the daughter of King Creon, and the lovesick Medea plots how to take her revenge.
Agnes Grey is the daughter of a minister, whose family comes to financial ruin. Desperate to earn money to care for herself, she takes one of the few jobs allowed to respectable women in the early Victorian era, as a governess to the children of the wealthy. In working with two different families, the Bloomfields and the Murrays, she comes to learn about the troubles that face a young woman who must try to rein in unruly, spoiled children for a living, and about the ability of wealth and status to destroy social values. After her father's death, Agnes opens a small school with her mother and finds happiness with a man who loves her for herself.
Shaw, George Bernard
George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara focuses on the family of aristocratic Lady Britomart Undershaft and her estranged husband Andrew, a millionaire armaments manufacturer. Their daughters Sarah and Barbara are both engaged to be married, and Lady Britomart decides to ask Andrew for monetary support. Barbara is a Major in the Salvation Army, and agrees to let her father visit the mission in the East End of London where she works. In exchange, she agrees to visit his munitions factory. The conflict between Barbara's philanthropic idealism and her father's hard-headed capitalism clash when he decides he wants to fund the Salvation Army. Shaw's comedy, as always, delves into political and social issues of the period, and provides a roster of finely- and humorously-drawn characters.
“The Sun to me is dark
And silent as the Moon,
When she deserts the night
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.”
Milton composes his last extended work as a tragedy according to the classical Unities of Time, Place and Action. Nevertheless it “never was intended for the stage” and is here declaimed by a single reader.
Samson the blinded captive, in company with the Chorus of friends and countrymen, receives his visitors on their varying missions and through them his violent story is vividly recalled. Then he is summoned to give a final demonstration of God-given strength to entertain the Philistines, his captors. Famously – and of course, offstage – his performance brings the house down.
The Awakening of Spring is the German dramatist Frank Wedekind's first major play and a seminal work in the modern history of theatre. It is the source material for the contemporary rock musical Spring Awakening. The play criticises the sexually-oppressive culture of fin de siècle Germany and offers a vivid dramatisation of the erotic fantasies that it breeds. Due to the nature of its content, the play has often been banned.
This book tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures.