Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Essential plays for theologians

Here’s our next essential list by Kim Fabricius:

Another list. And why not? Lists are as old as biblical genealogies and as contemporary as baseball statistics. Lists enthuse people, send them back to basic texts, start discussions, spark alternative suggestions, and invite us to new encounters.

But perhaps a list of plays is particularly appropriate in our current theological context. Tom Wright’s paradigm of the Bible as an unfinished dramatic script has been widely discussed and deployed, particularly in the field of (virtue) ethics. But then, long ago, didn’t Calvin speak of creation as the theatre of God’s glory, and doesn’t God call us all to improvise in the plot of his divine comedy?

One more thing: my terms of engagement. I have gone for a historical spread; I have limited each playwright to one play; and, when in doubt, I have used the venerable technique of flipping a coin. And—to get my retaliation in first!—Euripides lost the toss to Aristophanes, while Ben Jonson (1572/73-1637), The Alchemist, John Millington Synge (1871-1909), The Playboy of the Western World, and Tennessee Williams (1911-83), The Night of the Iguana, went out at the director’s last cut. Oh, and please, no hassles about King Lear! With Shakespeare, it’s a win-win (or is it lose-lose?) situation.

Finally, thanks to everyone in advance for telling me wherever else I’ve got it egregiously wrong!

1. Aeschylus (525-245 BCE): the Oresteia
2. Sophocles (496-406 BCE): Antigone
3. Aristophanes (c.448-380 BCE): The Frogs
4. The York Mystery Cycle (from 14th century)
5. Christopher Marlowe (1564-93): Dr. Faustus
6. William Shakespeare (1564-1616): King Lear
7. John Milton (1608-74): Samson Agonistes
8. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832): Faust
9. Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906): The Master Builder
10. August Strindberg (1849-1912): Miss Julie
11. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950): Man and Superman
12. Anton Chekov (1860-1904): The Cherry Orchard
13. Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936): Six Characters in Search of an Author
14. Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953): Long Day’s Journey into Night
15. T. S. Eliot (1888-1965): Murder in the Cathedral
16. Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956): Mother Courage
17. Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80): No Exit
18. Samuel Beckett (1906-89): Waiting for Godot
19. Arthur Miller (1915-2005): The Crucible
20. Harold Pinter (1930- ): The Caretaker

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