Authors: David Hare

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English playwright

Author Works


Inside Out, pr. 1968 (with Tony Bicat; adaptation of Franz Kafka’s diaries)

How Brophy Made Good, pr. 1969

What Happened to Blake?, pr. 1970

Slag, pr. 1970

The Rules of the Game, pr. 1971 (adaptation of Luigi Pirandello’s play)

Lay By, pr. 1971 (with Howard Brenton, Brian Clark, Trevor Griffiths, Stephen Poliakoff, Hugh Stoddart, and Snoo Wilson)

Deathsheads, pr. 1971

England’s Ireland, pr. 1972 (with others)

The Great Exhibition, pr., pb. 1972

Brassneck, pr. 1973 (with Brenton)

Knuckle, pr., pb. 1974

Fanshen, pr. 1975 (adaptation of William Hinton’s book Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village)

Teeth ’n’ Smiles, pr. 1975 (music by Nick Bicat, lyrics by Tony Bicat)

Plenty, pr., pb. 1978

A Map of the World, pr., pb. 1983

Pravda: A Fleet Street Comedy, pr., pb. 1985 (with Brenton)

The Bay at Nice, pr., pb. 1986

Wrecked Eggs, pr., pb. 1986

The Secret Rapture, pr., pb. 1988

Racing Demon, pr., pb. 1990

Murmuring Judges, pr. 1991

The Absence of War, pr., pb. 1993

Ivanov, pr. 1995 (adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s play)

Mother Courage and Her Children, pr., pb. 1995 (adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder)

Skylight, pr., pb. 1995

Plays, pb. 1996-1997 (2 volumes)

Amy’s View, pr. 1997

The Blue Room, pr., pb. 1998 (adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde)

The Judas Kiss, pr., pb. 1998

Via Dolorosa, pb. 1998

My Zinc Bed, pr., pb. 2000

Platonov, pr., pb. 2001 (adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s play)

The Breath of Life, pr. 2002


Plenty, 1985 (adaptation of his play)

Wetherby, 1985

Paris by Night, 1988

Strapless, 1989

Damage, 1992

The Secret Rapture, 1994 (adaptation of the play)

The Hours, 2002 (adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s novel)


Man Above Men, 1973

Licking Hitler, 1978

Dreams of Leaving, 1980

Saigon: Year of the Cat, 1983

Heading Home, 1991


Writing Left-Handed, 1991

Asking Around: Background to the David Hare Trilogy, 1993

Acting Up: A Diary, 1999


David Hare is one of England’s most important playwrights of the latter quarter of the twentieth century. The son of Clifford and Nancy Gilmour Hare, he has spoken feelingly of the sacrifices his sailor father made to send him to the good British public school, Lancing. Hare went on to earn an M.A. with honors in English from Jesus College at Cambridge University in 1968. His first interest in the theater as a profession began while he was at the university, although it was his family’s hope that he might become an accountant.{$I[AN]9810001168}{$I[A]Hare, David}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Hare, David}{$I[tim]1947;Hare, David}

After college Hare, together with Howard Brenton and Snoo Wilson, formed a traveling company of players appropriately called the Portable Theatre. Between 1968 and 1971 he was on the road, living hand-to-mouth with the band of young actors and producing plays by hopeful, unestablished playwrights. In addition to helping to manage the company, Hare was involved as a director and, eventually, a writer. During this time he also established a connection with the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square, Chelsea, which has a long tradition as the center for drama of social importance and artistic experimentation. His work for that company as a literary manager anticipated an important aspect of his later work in the theater.

The idea that drama is a form of casual entertainment has been assailed constantly in Europe since the last half of the nineteenth century. Critics such as Émile Zola, and, more significantly, playwrights such as Henrik Ibsen have demanded a social, sometimes a political role for the theater and have often achieved it with great success. The Royal Court Theatre has often been the venue for British examples of serious drama, indeed, any kind of drama that attempted to examine the hypocrisies, the immorality, the evils of modern society. George Bernard Shaw’s work was originally produced at the Royal Court, and after World War II the new wave of socially critical drama, which was called the kitchen-sink school of drama and led by John Osborne, became associated with this theater. Hare is a second-generation representative of the movement, which included Osborne, Arnold Wesker, John Arden, and Harold Pinter.

In 1970 Hare married Margaret Matheson, and they had three children before divorcing in 1980. For a time he was the resident dramatist at the Royal Court, and in 1973 he took the same position with the Nottingham Playhouse. Slag, his play about three young women determined to make a life of their own without men, won the 1970 Evening Standard award as work of “the most promising playwright” of the year and revealed one of Hare’s continuing interests: the nature of the female experience.

Another strong interest is the more general problem of social and political corruption, and Hare has pursued that theme rigorously. Brassneck, one of his collaborations with a contemporary, Howard Brenton, with whom he started to work in the Portable Theatre days, explored the corruption of postwar politics and business in a Midlands town. It was, mischievously, the first production by Richard Eyre (who became the head of the National Theatre in 1988) as the new director of the Nottingham Playhouse, which is located in one of the Midlands cities. Yet the inclination of socially committed theater has always been to make art that disturbs while it entertains.

Playwrights such as Osborne, Wesker, Arden, and Pinter have very clearly recognizable styles, not only in their language but in their structures and tonalities as well. Hare is much more chameleon-like and may, at first glance, seem to be doing only one thing when he is, in fact, doing considerably more. His first success in the West End (London’s version of Broadway), Knuckle, was affectionately dedicated to the mystery writer Ross Macdonald and is written in the style of the murder-mystery genre, but it is also about family loyalties, dishonesty in the stock market and real estate businesses, and love. In Plenty the question of post-World War II values is tied to the problem of individual integrity and the tragic breakdown of a woman who acted nobly during the war as an Allied agent in occupied France. In A Map of the World Hare turns his attention to a worldwide problem of the West’s view of underdeveloped countries. Pravda, again a collaboration with Brenton, is a play of enormous energy, sufficient to explore the excesses of press barons and toady journalists, and The Secret Rapture again explores the relations between women and, on a wider scale, the heartlessness of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s new Great Britain, with its emphasis upon profits at all costs.

Having established himself as a successful playwright, Hare went on to write for television productions. Licking Hitler he wrote and directed himself for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1978. Saigon: Year of the Cat he wrote for Thames television in 1983. In 1985 his film Wetherby, which he wrote and directed, earned the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival and received international critical acclaim. Hare also wrote a screenplay adaptation of one of his most successful plays, Plenty, for a major motion picture released by Twentieth Century Fox, starring Meryl Streep, Charles Dance, and Sir John Gielgud. By the mid-1980’s Hare had established himself as a multifaceted writer and director of international scope and importance. In 2002, his screenplay for The Hours was nominated for a Golden Globe award, among many other awards, while the film itself, widely praised for its masterful adaptation of what had been regarded as an unfilmable novel, won for Best Motion Picture-Drama.

Hare does not expect agreement with his plays. Indeed, it might be difficult, from play to play, to say exactly where he stands. What is certain is his commitment, as a writer (and as a director), to exploring the ignorance, the greed, and the viciousness of the late twentieth century world as he sees it. Ibsen once refused the praise of the late nineteenth century women’s movement for his play A Doll’s House (1879), saying that he was not interested in women as such but in the problem of all individuals caught in social pretensions and preconceptions who are trying to free themselves. Hare has something of a similar ambition: to make his audiences think and to drive them (as he says) mad with argument. He does not believe that drama can make a real change; it can only bring the need for change to the public’s attention.

BibliographyBrown, John R., ed. Modern British Dramatists: New Perspectives. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984. An attempt to put the dramatist in the historical context of postwar theater.Chambers, Colin, and Mike Prior. Playwrights’ Progress: Patterns of Postwar British Drama. Oxford, England: Amber Lane Press, 1987. Offers a critical look at David Hare and characterizes his social criticism as somewhat out-of-date.Dean, Joan Fitzgerald. David Hare. Boston: Twayne, 1990. Survey of Hare’s work up to The Secret Rapture, including films and plays for television. Provides background information about British political and social concerns as the context for Hare’s work for the benefit of American readers, and tracks the expanding scope of Hare’s plays. Includes a chronology and extensive bibliography.Donesky, Finlay. David Hare: Moral and Historical Perspectives. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Often contentious survey places Hare’s plays in the social context of England and demonstrates how his characters move from identification with a moral consensus developed during World War II to a concern with spiritual issues during the ascendancy of Prime Minister Thatcher. Praises Hare for his sensitivity to the personal dimension and his ability to dramatize simultaneously a specific and universal moral perspective but is inclined to debunk Hare’s reputation as a spokesperson for left-wing political dissent.Hayman, Ronald. British Theatre Since 1955: A Reassessment. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979. Hayman covers Hare’s early career; the influence of Raymond Williams, the Marxist don under whom Hare studied at Jesus College; the Portable Theatre; the Royal Court; and a number of plays, from Teeth ‘n’ Smiles to Plenty. An appendix surveys the plays produced year by year from 1955 to 1978. Chapter 3, “The Politics of Hatred,” concentrates on Hare’s work.Homden, Carol. The Plays of David Hare. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. A consideration of Hare’s work from the 1970’s to the 1990’s trilogy. Rejecting a strictly linear chronological approach, the plays and screenplays are discussed in overlapping strands, with particular attention to key themes in Hare’s work, particularly his relationship with both the political left and the political right, and to the development of a “theatre of juxtaposition.”Oliva, Judy Lee. David Hare: Theatricalizing Politics. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1990. Includes textual analyses of more than twenty plays, television scripts, and feature films, addressing both literary and performance issues. Chapters are divided into “Individual Concerns,” “National Concerns,” and “International Concerns,” with special attention to how the plays’ components produce Hare’s perspective on social and political issues. Illustrated with photographs from productions directed by Hare, this study also includes a 1989 interview with the playwright.Pattie, David. “The Common Good: The Hare Trilogy.” Modern Drama 42, no. 3 (1999): 363-374. An analysis of Hare’s trilogy, Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges, and The Absence of War, concluding that Hare’s depiction of the effects of Thatcherite policies on British institutions are not adequately accounted for.Zeifman, Hersh, ed. David Hare: A Casebook. Reprint. New York: Garland, 2001. A collection of essays by theater scholars largely on specific plays, plus an interview with Hare conducted in 1991. Topics discussed include the role of women in Hare’s plays, relationship between his films and his work in theater, and the language of Hare’s drama.
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