And Some Have Greatness Thrust From Them

Unknown playwright Stanley Houghton wrote several excellent works, and might have achieved greatness if not for an early death. But in New English Review Dalrymple wonders if the rapidity of social change in the century since he wrote his plays makes them unintelligible to younger viewers:

But of course its emotional impact depends entirely upon the playgoers’ ability to understand and even empathise with the assumption that for an unmarried girl to spend a weekend with a man is a terrible scandal that will permanently damage or ruin her reputation. Without this premise, all the agonising will seem pointless, rather as arcane theological disputes of the fourth century AD seem to unbelievers. Suffice it to say that the prevailing sexual mores of 1912, when Hindle Wakes was written and first performed, were not those of a century later, to put it mildly; and though, allegedly, we live in a multicultural age, which in practice means that we like lots of different kinds of food, I am not sure that an age of Facebook and Twitter is one that it propitious to the grasping of outlooks other than one’s own. So absorbed are we in the vast continent of the present moment that we are increasingly unable to travel imaginatively to the foreign land of the past.

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