Harley Granville-Barker

Harley Granville-BarkerEnglish actor, producer, director, dramatist, and Shakespearean scholar Harley Granville-Barker was born on November 25, 1877, in London, England. At the age of 14, he first became involved in the theatre as an actor. In 1900, he joined the experimental Stage Society, and by 1904, he had landed the job of manager of the Court Theatre where he introduced the public to the plays of Henrik Ibsen, Maurice Maeterlinck, and George Bernard Shaw. He was especially well-known for his productions of Shakespeare which revolutionized the way the Bard's plays would be performed in the theatre with their naturally spoken dialogue. Granville-Barker also produced several of his own plays including The Voysey Inheritance (1905), Prunella (1906), Waste (1907), and The Madras House (1910).

The Voysey Inheritance, perhaps Granville-Barker's most important play, tells the story of Edward Voysey, a solicitor for a London law firm who discovers that his father, a lawyer in the firm, has been pulling money from his clients' trust funds in order to finance his extravagant lifestyle. Outraged, Edward announces his intent to quit the firm and go to the police, but his father calms him by promising to pay back the money he has stolen. Edward's father then proceeds to die, leaving the entire affair in his son's lap. The plot thickens when the father's clients attempt to withdraw their capital. A captivating study of turn-of-the-century morals, The Voysey Inheritance is populated with brilliantly drawn, realistic characters reminiscent of the plays of Granville-Barker's contemporary and friend, George Bernard Shaw.

During World War I, Granville-Barker served in the Red Cross, and after the war, he was elected President of the British Drama League. Shortly thereafter, however, he relocated to Paris, and in 1923 he began writing his famous Prefaces to Shakespeare (1927-48). Previously, most Shakespearean analysis had been from the viewpoint of the critic. Granville-Barker took a different approach. He looked at the plays from the practical perspective of the producer, and his writings would become a cornerstone of Shakespearean criticism. During this period, he also collaborated with his second wife on translations of several Spanish plays.

In 1940, Granville-Barker and his family fled to Spain. From there, they travelled to the United States where he worked for British Information Services and lectured at Harvard University. He returned to Paris in 1946 and died there later that same year, on August 31. Although often overlooked during his lifetime, Granville-Barker's plays have come to be recognized as masterpieces of early 20th century drama.

Granville-Barker's Plays  |  Other Works by Granville-Barker  |  Biographies/Studies


Granville-Barker's Plays

Other Works by Granville-Barker


Related Sites

Harley Granville Barker

British Theatre Index

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