Harley Greenville Barker, like Galsworthy wrote such realistic plays on social problems as waste and the Madras House. In these plays a dominant social problem for the theme, but Granville Barker differs from Galsworthy in his attempt to analyze the sentiments and passions of his characters. There were other realistic plays such as Mansfield’s The Tragedy of Man which is tragic in its imparted Haskin’s The Return of the Prodigal. But perhaps the best of contemporary realistic tragedies is J.M. Synge’s Riders to the sea which is a play grant in its majestic simplicity. This also began the trend of one act realistic dramas.
Another dramatist, Shaw writing a drama on the theme of Mrs. Warren’s profession would have offered much pathos and plenty of sentimentalism. Shaw declares that sentimentalism itself lies at the root of evil. In Arms and the man the chocolate soldier becomes the hero and in Candida the heroine decides to stay with the weaker man who is not the effeminate aesthetic young poet but the vigorous and self opinionated preacher. In Caesar and Cleopatra, Cleopatra as a kittenish girl tyrannized over by an old nurse, and Caesar himself is a puzzled gentleman. In Man and Superman the woman is revealed as the huntress and Don Juan Janner is her poor victim. In this most famous of Shaw’s play Janner is ultimately captured and Ann marries him even as he protests that he is not a happy man, the play is also full of fantastic elements for Janner and Straker land in hell, where Janner becomes Don Juan, the preacher of the intellectual philosophy of life.
Another dramatist who shows people in unreal situation is Sir Jame Barrie. In the Admirable Crichton the playwright takes what seems to be a fairly normal aristocratic household and imagines them on a desert island. Lord Loam is the symbol of the ‘family and Crichton’, the impeccable butler. In the desert Lord Loan and his aristocratic relatives prunes themselves completely incapable of dealing with the new situation. Crichton alone shows himself capable of imentiveness. He performs everything and in doing these he becomes the aristocratic and the others accept him as the master.
The first half of the 20th century even in the midst of the trend towards realism developed a new kind of verse drama. Stephen Phillips began to write poetic tragedies such as Herod and Ulysses. The effect of Japanese no plays may be traced in Mansfield’s the faithful which is full of lyrical imagination. Yeats furthered the cause of poetic drama with his heroic cycle of Cuchulain and Conchubar in On Baile’s Strand. In Deirdre King Cochubar lures back Deirdre and her husband with a promise of forgiveness but treacherously murders him. Lascelles Abercrombie wrote such poetic plays as The End of the World and phoenix which are unlike Yeat’s plays, associated with common reality.
It is however T S Eliot who really marks the climax of the resurgent poetic drama. His study of the martyrdom of St. Thomas a Becket at the instigation of Henry II is more than a historical play. The struggle between church and state reflects the conflict between the spiritual and the temporal that becomes part of human experience.It is really stunning production of The Murder in the Cathedral. The family reunion is a study of complex psychologies. The confidential clerk presents the need for self knowledge, for openness of understanding and for commitment of the will. Christopher Fry who wrote The Boy with a Cart and Venus observed and Auden who wrote The Dog Beneath the skin are the other contemporary verse dramatists.