Arthur Wing Pinero

Arthur Wing PineroBorn on May 24, 1855, in London, to Portuguese parents, Arthur Wing Pinero studied law before turning to the theatre at the age of 19 to pursue a career as an actor. He served a five year apprenticeship with Sir Henry Irving's company, during which time he took up writing. His first major success, The Magistrate (1885), is a farce about a woman named Agatha who has lied about her age in order to marry her second husband, the honest magistrate, Mr. Poskett. Not only has she shaved five years off her own age, but she has also shaved five years off the age of a son from her first marriage, making him fourteen instead of nineteen. The fact that the young lad has taken to flirting, drinking, and gambling, of course, complicates matters and makes for an enjoyable comedy.

But Pinero was not happy writing only farces. One of his early attempts at tragedy was The Profligate (1887) in which a man takes poison after he realizes that his marriage has failed. Unfortunately for Pinero, the public was not ready for such a gloomy ending, and he was forced to rewrite it, resulting in a much happier outcome. In the years that followed, however, English theatre-goers were exposed to the likes of social dramatists such as Henrik Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw. Feeling that the public was now ready to receive his tragic offerings, Pinero composed The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1893), the tragic story of a "woman with a past" who tries to make herself into a "respectable" member of society. Although the play raised protests from conservatives because of its subject matter, it scored a box-office hit and brought Pinero the recognition he desired as a serious social dramatist. Shaw, however, labeled him as "a humble and somewhat belated follower of the novelists of the middle of the nineteenth century," and although his tragedies did help to pave the way for "social" drama, they have since come to be considered second-rate by most critics. His farces, however, are still widely appreciated.

Pinero continued to write plays for the rest of his life, but after 1910, his popularity began to decline. Other plays include The Schoolmistress (1886), Dandy Dick (1887), Sweet Lavender (1888), The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith (1895), Trelawny of the Wells (1898), The Gay Lord Quex (1899), Iris (1901), and Mid-Channel (1909). He died on November 23, 1934, in London.

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Pinero's Plays  |  Biographies/Studies


Pinero's Plays


Related Sites

Arthur Wing Pinero

Arthur Wing Pinero

Pinero: Monologues

British Theatre Index

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