Tag Archives: drama

The Algonquin Wits: George S. Kaufman

“Kaufman was seldom open to outside suggestions concerning his work, especially from persons he didn’t know. One self-appointed critic, on being snubbed by G.S.K. remarked, ‘Perhaps you don’t know who I am?’

‘That’s only part of it,’ said Kaufman.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.


Kyoka (Izumi Kyoka, 1873-1939) Japanese fiction writer and playwright, known for his many tales of the bizarre, grotesque, and supernatural. One of the most distinctive Japanese stylists, Kyoka rejected the modernist trends of Meiji literary movements such as shizenshugi, which promoted a tedious confessionalism, and sought inspiration in traditional motifs and sources. His work thus recalls the nativism of Ueda Akinari and foreshadows the neotraditionalist writing of Tanizaki Jun’ichiro. The unorthodox quality of Kyoka’s writing has also been seen as symptomatic of a well-documented psychopathology, including  mother fixation and assorted obsessive-compulsive disorders.

One of Japan’s greatest authors, Kyoka has been little translated—in part owing to his notoriously difficult, labyrinthine prose style. Translations include the short stories Koya hijiri (1900; tr The Saint of Mount Koya, 1956) and Sannin mekura no hanashi (1912; tr A Tale of Three Who Were Blind, 1956). Kyoka was also a playwright, and many of his works were performed for the popular Shimpa stage.

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

A Man for All Seasons

A Man for All Seasons: A play (1960), later a film (1967), by Robert Bolt (1924-95) about the Tudor statesmen Sir Thomas More and his opposition to Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon. The title was derived by Bolt from a description of More by his contemporary Robert Whittington (c. 1480 – c. 1530), who wrote:

 ‘More is a man of angel’s wit and singular learning; I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes; and sometimes of as sad a gravity: as how say: a man for all seasons.’

Vulgaria (1521)

 Whittington in turn borrowed the tag from Erasmus, a friend of More’s, who had described More in his preface to In Praise of Folly (1509) with the words omnium horarum hominem (‘a man for all hours’).”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Cultural Literacy: Shylock

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Shakespearean character Shylock, from The Merchant of Venice.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

7 Supreme Works of Shakespeare

Henry IV * Hamlet * Measure for Measure * Othello * King Lear * Macbeth * Antony and Cleopatra

‘Just as there are seven wonders of the world and seven deadly sins, so there are (in my opinion) seven supreme peaks achieved by Shakespeare,’ wrote Giuseppi de Lampedusa, author of The Leopard. He also added that, ‘If I was told all the works of Shakespeare had to perish except one that I could select, I would first try to kill the monster who made the suggestion; if I failed, I would then try and kill myself: and if I could not manage even this, well then I would choose Measure for Measure,’”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Book of Answers: What Is A Moor?

“What is a Moor? The Moors were the mixed Arab and Berber conquerors of Spain in the eighth century. In literature, the most famous member of this ethnic group is Othello, the Moor of Venice (c. 1604).”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Book of Answers: The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window

Where was The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window? In the 1964 play of the same name by Lorraine Hansberry, it was located in Greenwich Village, New York City.

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.