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John Whiting Biography

(1917–63), A Penny for a Song, Saint's Day, Look Back in Anger, Marching Song

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick White (Patrick Victor Martindale White) Biography to David Wojahn Biography

British playwright, born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, the son of an army captain, educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London; he worked as an actor in London and the regions before becoming a dramatist. His first play, A Penny for a Song (1951), is a slight comedy about English eccentrics awaiting a Napoleonic invasion; his next play, Saint's Day, was more substantial and proved more controversial when it was staged the same year. A nightmarish portrait of a strange, paranoid poet and his family, it may now be seen as a precursor, less social in its emphasis, of the break with drawing-room drama that was to occur with the arrival of Look Back in Anger in 1956. Whiting's later plays include the intellectually intricate Marching Song (1954), about a general accused of war crimes, and a forceful adaptation of Aldous Huxley's study of religious hysteria, The Devils (1961); but none matched the imaginative power of Saint's Day. He served as drama critic of the London Magazine until he was disabled by the cancer which eventually killed him.

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