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Christopher Fry (Christopher Harris Fry) Biography

(1907–2005), (Christopher Harris Fry), The Boy with a Cart, The Firstborn, A Sleep of Prisoners

British poet and playwright, born in Bristol, the son of a Church of England lay preacher, educated at Bedford Modern School. He later adopted the name of his mother's Quaker family and served in a non-combatant unit in the Second World War. He was a schoolmaster, an actor, and a producer before writing a dramatic tale about St Cuthman, The Boy with a Cart, in 1938. Much of his subsequent work—for instance, his play about Moses, The Firstborn (1948), and the pacifist A Sleep of Prisoners (1951)—has an overt religious bent, aiming to evoke, in his words, ‘a world which has deeps and shadows of mystery, in which God is anything but a sleeping partner’. All his plays reflect his belief that people have ‘domesticated the enormous miracle’ and failed to notice that reality is ‘wildly, perilously, incomprehensibly fantastic’; these include The Lady's Not for Burning (1949) and four ‘seasonal’ comedies: A Phoenix Too Frequent (1946), about the spring-like love that develops between a young widow and a despairing soldier; the autumnal Venus Observed (1950); the wintry The Dark is Light Enough (1954); and, belatedly representing summer, a play about renewal and reconciliation in post-war Siena, A Yard of Sun (1970). Throughout his career Fry has expressed his essential optimism in elaborately and sometimes playfully metaphoric verse and, with the more restrained T. S. Eliot, was hailed as a leader of a renaissance of poetic drama: a claim and a trend that did not, however, survive the arrival of ‘kitchen sink drama’ in 1956. He has also written screenplays, notably for Ben Hur, and translated drama by Rostand, Anouilh, and Giradoux.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Samuel Foote Biography to Furioso