STED #8: The Five Greatest Dramatists of History?
I was reading about Ibsen today. Here he is:
Now then, let me find the quote once more… Found it. Now let me try and get the book to stay open… Urgh. Argh. That’s the problem with paperbacks – very hard to keep open. I have the book between my half-crossed legs, delicately balanced, the page ready to fling back to the other side – so why am I typing about this instead of copying the quote out? Good idea, Adam.
Ibsen was the first Norwegian of modern times to lead the world in any of the arts; he is one of the five greatest dramatists of history.
Okay, so I probably could have just memorised that line. Anyway. The person who wrote this (as an introduction to ‘Hedda Gabler and Other Plays’), Una Ellis-Fermor, failed to specify exactly who the other three dramatists were. She mentioned Shakespeare, and, anyway, he’s the given on any list.
Ibsen. Shakespeare. Who on earth are the other three?
I assume Chekhov was probably one. Beckett definitely wasn’t, because this introduction was written in 1950, and I don’t think he’d done all his stuff back then, right? I’m guessing there’s maybe a Greek in there but I have no idea – maybe even two… I’d be most appreciative if someone could please illuminate for certain who the other three ‘greatest dramatists of history’ are. If only so I can study them.
Speaking of greatness, I was thinking about it today. Or rather, thinking about whether it is beneficial for an artist to know whether they will be great or not. This came about because I was watching an episode of Doctor Who (and spoiler alert here if you’re not watching it direct from Britain) and at the end of this week’s episode the Doctor took Vincent Van Gogh in his TARDIS to the future to see his works being exhibited at the Musee d’Orsay. Van Gogh received very little acclaim in his life, and died not knowing how great the world now thinks he is.
And so this made me think a bit – is it actually beneficial for an artist to know whether they will be great or not? Obviously, it’s not really possible to know anyway, but if you did, would it affect you? I would think that if I knew that I was destined not to be great, then I’d either give up now or not believe the prediction. On the other hand, if I knew that I was destined to be great, I’m not entirely sure that that would give me the motivation I needed to keep producing works of art. If you knew that you would produce greatness everytime you set out to do it, for instance… Well, it would almost rip all the motivation out of me, methinks. Indeed, it is the mystery that makes it so intriguing, I suppose. Hmm.
Anyway. Three other great dramatists. Who are they?