Three Plays: The Early Metaphysical Plays of Charles Williams

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Author:

Charles Williams (foreword by Arthur Livingston)

Title:

Three Plays: The Early Metaphysical Plays of Charles Williams

Publisher:

Wipf and Stock (first edition by Oxford University Press)

Publication Date:

August 11, 2009 (original edition published 1931)

Format:

Paperback

Length:

218 pages

OVERVIEW

While Charles Williams is perhaps best known today for his supernatural thrillers and for his association with C.S. Lewis, he was also a poet and playwright. Many of these plays were published at various times during Williams’ lifetime but those books are not easy to locate today. This book, originally published by Oxford University Press in 1931, collects three of Williams’ plays: The Witch, The Chaste Wanton and The Rites of the Passion. In between each play are included some of Williams’ Arthurian poems, which have not been collected in later books such as Taliessin through Logres.

It’s been said many times that Williams is a unique writer whose work is hard to categorize. Arthur Livingston notes in his foreword that these plays fit into the same general categories as plays written by Williams’ friends Dorothy Sayers (The Lady’s Not for Burning, Zeal of thy House) or T.S. Eliot (Murder in the Cathedral). However, Williams brings his particular touch to the material, so the comparison only goes so far. The book is also unusual since Williams included poems which Livingston notes don’t seem to be there for any particular reason, but are well worth reading themselves. This makes the book interesting, perhaps not as planned or polished as Williams’ later works, but well worth reading for its unique material. Scholars who specialize in Charles Williams will particularly appreciate having these plays republished almost 80 years after their original publication.

An eclectic but great collection of Charles Williams’ plays and poetry.

ASSESSMENT

Rating (1 to 5 stars)

5 stars

Suggested Audience

Readers seeking to read Charles Williams’ poetry and plays, particularly his lesser known work.

Christian Impact

Williams addresses various spiritual themes in these plays, particularly the third play which integrates several Anglican hymns within its text.

2 Responses to “Three Plays: The Early Metaphysical Plays of Charles Williams”

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds Reply March 22, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    A bit of a slip on someone’s part – “The Lady’s Not for Burning” is by Christopher Fry (Grevel Lindop has a couple vivid glimpses of Williams’s friendship with Fry in his biography of Williams). But I agree about the general context of the revival of verse drama (such as, at the Canterbury Festival from 1929 on). I have reprinted the Arthurian poems in my Boydell & Brewer edition in their Arthurian Poets series, together with other Arthurian poems Williams published before Taliessin through Logres, and a selection from the ones he did not publish.

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  1. | The Novels of Charles WilliamsEvangelical Church Library Association - March 11, 2022

    […] Williams was many things – a poet, a playwright, a lay theologian, a friend of C.S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers. To many today, he is perhaps […]

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