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Adult fiction: Plays

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Lady Windermere's Fan

Author: Oscar Wilde

Publisher:

First published in 1893, this four-act play is a satire of marriage. Lady Windermere hears hints that her husband. has been giving money to an attractive and mysterious woman, a Mrs. Erlynne. Lady Windermere loves her husband utterly and believed that this love was reciprocated. However, she begins to doubt their love, and is incensed when her husband insists that she must invite Mrs. Erlynne to a ball Lady Windermere is holding that night. She is so furious that she proclaims if the woman comes into her home she will smack her across the face with the fan her husband gave her that morning. The fan becomes a symbol of her mistrust for her husband, and later on, her precarious honour. It's a tightly-written play, where each character comments on a type of personality and each has a purpose. No character is flat or stale, and everything comes together like a dance at the end. There's a twist that is rather easy to guess, but it's still an excellent play and well worth reading if you enjoy clever dialogue and witty banter. It is famous for the line: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

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Macbeth

Author: William Shakespeare

Publisher: Penguin Books (2005)

Referred to by superstitious actors as 'the Scottish play', William Shakespeare's Macbeth is a tragedy whose appalling earthly crimes have lasting supernatural repercussions. Promised a golden future as ruler of Scotland by three sinister witches, and spurred on by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan to ensure his ambitions come true. But he soon learns the meaning of terror - killing once, he must kill again and again, and the dead return to haunt him. A story of war, witchcraft and bloodshed, Macbeth also depicts the relationship between husbands and wives, and the risks they are prepared to take to achieve their desires.

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Misalliance

Author: George Bernard Shaw

Publisher:

Written the first decade of the twentieth century, "Misalliance" is a sort of continuation of another of Shaw's play, "Getting Married". Set over the course of an afternoon, this play furthers Shaw's opinion that divorce should be an easily attainable thing.

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Mrs. Warren's Profession

Author: George Bernard Shaw

Publisher:

Read the controversial play that caused an international sensation when it was first performed. George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession takes a frank and matter-of-fact look at the world's oldest profession and makes an explicit link between the second-class citizenship that has been foisted upon women for thousands of years and the persistence of prostitution as an occupation.

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Road

Author: Jim Cartwright

Publisher: Bloomsbury (1986)

In the course of one wild night, the drunken guide Scullery conducts a tour of his derelict Lancashire road. Jim Cartwright's theatrical debut, Road was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre and is now considered a modern classic.

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Romeo And Juliet

Author: William Shakespeare

Publisher:

A young man and woman meet by chance and fall instantly in love. But their families are bitter enemies,and in order to be together the two lovers must be prepared to risk everything. Set in a city torn apart by feuds and gang warfare, Romeo and Juliet is a dazzling combination of passion and hatred, bawdy comedy and high tragedy. This is undoubtedly the greatest love story ever written, spawning a host of imitators on stage and screen, including Leonard Bernstein's smash musical West Side Story, Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet filmed in 1968, and Baz Luhrmann's postmodern film version Romeo + Juliet. The tragic feud between "Two households, both alike in dignity/In fair Verona", the Montagues and Capulets, which ultimately kills the two young "star-crossed lovers" and their "death-marked love" creates issues which have fascinated subsequent generations. The play deals with issues of intergenerational and familial conflict, as well as the power of language and the compelling relationship between sex and death, all of which makes it an incredibly modern play. It is also an early example of Shakespeare fusing poetry with dramatic action, as he moves from Romeo's lyrical account of Juliet--"she doth teach the torches to burn bright!" to the bustle and action of a 16th-century household (the play contains more scenes of ordinary working people than any of Shakespeare's other works). It also represents an experimental attempt to fuse comedy with tragedy. Up to the third act, the play proceeds along the lines of a classic romantic comedy. The turning point comes with the death of one of Shakespeare's finest early dramatic creations--Romeo's sexually ambivalent friend Mercutio, whose "plague o' both your houses" begins the play's descent into tragedy, "For never was a story of more woe/Than this of Juliet and her Romeo".

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Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead

Author: Tom Stoppard

Publisher: Faber & Faber (1973)

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a play which, as it were, takes place in the wings of Hamlet, and finds both humour and poignancy in the situation of the ill-fated attendant lords.

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She Stoops To Conquer

Author: Oliver Goldsmith

Publisher:

'She Stoops to Conquer,' by Oliver Goldsmith, is a rollicking satire on the British caste system, seen through the mischief, mayhem, and mistaken identities of the characters in the book. In view of its satirizing the slavish devotion to French fashions, Goldsmith's plot is very similar to Marivaux's 'The Game of love and chance': two fathers arrange a marriage for their children; this paternal decree is severely shaken by disguises, misrecognitions and counter-plots. In summary, the play consists of characters staging dramas to get their way, which are spoiled by other dramas, e.g. Mr. Hardcastle decides his daughter will marry a man she never met and arranges their meeting; Tony tells this prospective husband, Marlow, and his friend Hastings, that the gentleman's house they seek is a tavern; Kate disguises herself as a barmaid to woo the diffident Marlow. The best comedy here comes from characters mistaking the social context, as when Marlow treats his host and future father-in-law as a pesky inn-keeper. Significantly, in this over-cultured milieu, most of the spanners in the works are thrown by the illiterate Tony. Goldsmith's benevolently cynical view of his century encompasses all its familiar tropes - the carousing squire rake; the social mobility; the marketplace of marriage; the refined bawdiness; the hints at the incipient decline of the aristocracy, the wars turned into legend from a safe distance.

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Tamburlane The Great

Author: Christopher Marlowe

Publisher:

Tamburlaine the Great is the name of a play in two parts by Christopher Marlowe. It is loosely based on the life of the Central Asian emperor, Timur 'the lame'. The play is a milestone in Elizabethan public drama; it marks a turning away from the clumsy language and loose plotting of the earlier Tudor dramatists, and a new interest in fresh and vivid language, memorable action, and intellectual complexity. Along with Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, it may be considered the first popular success of London's public stage. Marlowe, generally considered the greatest of the University Wits, influenced playwrights well into the Jacobean period, and echoes of Tamburlaine's bombast and ambition can be found in English plays all the way to the Puritan closing of the theaters in 1642.

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Tamburlane The Great - Part 2

Author: Christopher Marlowe

Publisher:

Tamburlaine the Great is the name of a play in two parts by Christopher Marlowe. It is loosely based on the life of the Central Asian emperor, Timur 'the lame'. The play is a milestone in Elizabethan public drama; it marks a turning away from the clumsy language and loose plotting of the earlier Tudor dramatists, and a new interest in fresh and vivid language, memorable action, and intellectual complexity. Along with Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, it may be considered the first popular success of London's public stage. Marlowe, generally considered the greatest of the University Wits, influenced playwrights well into the Jacobean period, and echoes of Tamburlaine's bombast and ambition can be found in English plays all the way to the Puritan closing of the theaters in 1642.

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