Poetic theater, in today’s world, is a risky business. T. S. Eliot tried it, and before him Auden and Isherwood. But who reads their plays nowadays? Christopher Fry was the last to have an ephemeral success with it, but his vogue, indeed his reputation, is justly over. In the early twentieth century, the Britishers Lascelles Abercrombie, Gordon Bottomley, and John Drinkwater practiced it with modest success, but they are, even with their nontheatrical verse, well forgotten by now. Abercrombie and Fitch may have made it in a quite different field, but by today even Fitch has disappeared.

“Concerning [Hardy’s] The Dynasts opinions have not yet crystallized,” opined A Literary History of England in 1967, but by now they have pretty much crystallized into a No. Yeats’s verse plays may eke out a precarious existence in academia, but elsewhere they have joined the...


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