Courtroom Dramas on the Stage Vol. I

Courtroom Dramas on the Stage Vol. IWhile many books have been published about courtroom fiction in film and on television, the topic of stage courtrooms has been largely ignored. This endeavor aims to fill the void.

More than fifty plays are scrutinized and analyzed. The first stage trial on record appears in The Danaid Tetralogy (463 B.C.) by Aeschylus, in which 49 young women are accused of murdering their grooms, their cousins, on their wedding night to avoid incestuous marriage. In Aeschylus’s The Oresteia (458 B.C.), the accused, Orestes, had slashed his mother’s throat for killing her husband — his father. The god Apollo serves as the defense attorney while the Furies, ancient Greek’s divinities of retribution, perform as the prosecutors.

In the Middle Ages, between 1450 and 1500, anonymous playwrights wrote trial dramas about Joseph and Mary, Pilate and Herod, and women accused of adultery. In the Elizabethan era, England’s royal courts inflicted justice in the plays of Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, and Ben Jonson. Spanish theater presented trial scenes in dramas by Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Pedro Calderón. The French were not far behind with Le Cid (1637 by Pierre Corneille, The Litigants (1668) by Jean Racine, and Socrates (1760) by Voltaire. America joined the fray with plays by William Dunlap, Germany with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, England with Lord Byron, and Russia with Nikolai Gogol.

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Europe was flooded with trial plays. Notable were

Leo Tolstoy’s The Living Corpse (Russia, 1900), Alexander Bisson’s Madame X (France, 1908), and John Galsworthy’s Justice (England, 1910). The strand continued with playwrights of the main stream penning dramas populated with judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors, witnesses, and the accused, often charged with murder in the first degree.

Veteran mystery writers Gaston Leroux, Edgar Wallace, and Agatha Christie mixed their ink with blood when concocting courtroom melodramas. Some creatures of the night, supernatural (Dracula, the Werewolf) and real-life (Lizzie Borden, Jack the Ripper), found themselves entangled with the law. The best-known musicals that incorporated trial scenes include Can Can (1953), Chicago (1975), Sweeney Todd (1979), Les Miserables (1985), and Ragtime (1997).

The entries are presented chronologically. Each includes a plot synopsis, production data, opinions by critics and scholars, as well as biographical sketches of playwrights and key actors-directors. Volume 1 of 2.

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BearManor Media Courtroom Dramas on the Stage Vol. I
Pages: 532 ISBN 13: 979-8887711348 Binding: hardcover, paperback.
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