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Edward Bond (Thomas Edward Bond) Biography

(1934– ), (Thomas Edward Bond), The Pope's Wedding, Saved, Narrow Road to the Deep North

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Edward Bond (Thomas Edward Bond) Biography to Bridge

British dramatist, born in north London, the son of a labourer, and educated at a secondary modern school. After National Service in the army and a series of dead-end jobs, he wrote The Pope's Wedding, a portrait of a frustrated, inarticulate, and finally murderous country labourer; it was given a Sunday-night performance at the Royal Court Theatre in 1962. His next play, Saved, another tale of alienation and violence, this time among the urban young, caused great controversy on its first production in 1966. It was banned by the censor, presented under club conditions by the Royal Court, and attacked by many critics, mainly because of a scene in which hooligans stoned to death a baby in its pram. Other provocative plays followed, prime among them Narrow Road to the Deep North (1968), about local tyranny and British imperialism in nineteenth-century Japan; Early Morning (1968), a surreal comedy set in Victorian high places, and including a love affair between the Queen and Florence Nightingale; Lear (1971) a rewriting of Shakespeare's tragedy from a modern socialist stance; The Sea (1973), a black comedy set in a coastal community ruled by an imperious lady-of-the-manor; Bingo (1973), a contentiously conceived play about the last days of Shakespeare; The Fool (1975), which follows the poet John Clare into the madhouse and which, in Bond's view, illustrates the fate of the principled artist in an unjust society; The Woman (1978), about the aftermath of the Trojan War; The Bundle (1978), a tale of oppression and resistance, again set in nineteenth-century Japan; The Worlds (1979), an apologia for working-class terrorism, this time set in contemporary Britain; Restoration (1981), a dark comedy about corruption in the seventeenth century; The War Plays (1986), about power politics, militarism, and the likely effect of the H-bomb; and Jackets (1990), another highly sceptical look at the army and its pretensions. Bond's work, at first obliquely, then more directly, and recently bluntly and crudely, has continued to offer fierce indictments of a capitalist system and a ruling class he believes to be unalterably corrupt and corrupting. Indeed, he has come to believe that almost any means of overturning what he sees as institutionalized injustice must itself be just. Accordingly, he has described himself as a revolutionary socialist and his drama as ‘rational theatre’, dividing it into ‘question plays’ and ‘answer plays’. His earlier, more questioning efforts were notable for the violent effects with which he illustrated his antiestablishment thinking; his later one have tended to be less horrific, but also less vital and more doctrinaire. In each case, he has often set the action in relatively remote times and places, thus creating vivid and unusual effects, but not always making his work more credible as a comment on the contemporary world. At his best, however, he combines incisiveness of characterization, lucidity of dialogue, a powerful immediacy of event, and imaginative size and scope. Bond is also a notable essayist, and has written prefaces to several of his plays which explore the implications of his socialist views with an articulacy and passion which can become dogmatic.

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