Authors: Edward Bond

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English playwright

Author Works


The Pope’s Wedding, pr. 1962

Saved, pr. 1965

Early Morning, pr., pb. 1968

Narrow Road to the Deep North, pr., pb. 1968

Black Mass, pr. 1970

Lear, pr. 1971

Passion, pr., pb. 1971

Bingo: Scenes of Money and Death, pr. 1973

The Sea, pr., pb. 1973

The Fool, pr. 1975

A-A-America!, pr., pb. 1976

Stone, pr., pb. 1976

We Come to the River, pr., pb. 1976 (music by Hans Werner Henze)

Plays, pb. 1977-1998 (6 volumes)

The Bundle: Or, New Narrow Road to the Deep North, pr., pb. 1978

The Woman, pr. 1978

The Worlds, pr. 1979

The Cat, pr. 1980 (opera libretto; music by Henze; pb. 1983 as The English Cat)

Restoration, pr., pb. 1981 (music by Nick Bicat)

Derek, pr. 1982

Summer, pr., pb. 1982

The English Cat, pb. 1983 (opera libretto; music by Henze)

Red, Black, and Ignorant, pr. 1984

The War Plays: A Trilogy, pr., pb. 1985 (includes Red, Black, and Ignorant, The Tin Can People, and Great Peace)

Human Cannon, pb. 1985

Jackets, pr. 1989

In the Company of Men, pr. 1989

September, pr., pb. 1990

Lulu: A Monster Tragedy, pr., pb. 1992

Olly’s Prison, pb. 1993

Tuesday, pr., pb. 1993

Coffee, pb. 1995

At the Inland Sea: A Play for Young People, pr. 1996

Eleven Vests, pr., pb. 1997

The Crime of the Twenty-first Century, pb. 1999

Chair, pr. 2000 (radio play)

The Children, pr., pb. 2000

Have I None, pr., pb. 2000


Blow Up, 1967 (with Michelangelo Antonioni; adaptation of Julio Cortázar’s short story “Las babas del diablo”)

Laughter in the Dark, 1969 (adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel)

Nicholas and Alexandra, 1971 (with James Goldman)

Walkabout, 1971.


Theatre Poems and Songs, 1978

Poems, 1978-1985, 1987


Edward Bond Letters, 1994-2001 (5 volumes)

The Hidden Plot: Notes on Theatre and the State, 2000

Selections from the Notebooks of Edward Bond, 2000-2001 (2 volumes; volume 1, 1959-1980; volume 2, 1980-1995)


Edward Bond, one of the most controversial figures in drama, gained a reputation as a political activist with carefully articulated social and theatrical theories. One of four children, Bond was the son of working-class laborers. During World War II, he was evacuated to Cornwall. Upon his return to London, he attended a secondary school until he was fifteen, when he was asked to leave. Bond credited this event, and his entire background, with “the making” of his political consciousness. In 1948, he was deeply affected by a production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which convinced him that he wanted to write for the theater.{$I[AN]9810001387}{$I[A]Bond, Edward}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Bond, Edward}{$I[tim]1934;Bond, Edward}

After leaving school, Bond worked at odd jobs until he was drafted in 1953. Being in the military served as a catalyst for his beginning to write seriously, and when he returned to civilian life two years later Bond found a favorable climate for new writers. The English Stage Company, located at the Royal Court, was formed in 1956 as a writers’ theater. Bond’s first play, The Pope’s Wedding, was performed there in December, 1962.

After 1966, Bond was able to live by his writing. In 1971, he married Elisabeth Pablé. His plays have won a number of awards, including the George Devine Award and the George Whiting Award in 1968. Bond was given an honorary doctorate from Yale University in 1977.

Bond gained both notoriety and acclaim with Saved in 1965. On stage, a baby is stoned to death by working-class youths who are totally disenfranchised and numbed by the society in which they live. The play was banned for its violence and earthy language, but Bond insisted that these qualities were integral to depicting the lives of these individuals. His view that “people are not born violent” but become so as a result of a capitalistic, technological society forms the premise for his entire canon.

The techniques that Bond developed for exploring his ideas are varied and reveal an extensive knowledge of such writers as Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, and Karl Marx. In Bond’s later plays, he attempted to render his Socialist vision less obliquely and to establish his exploration of social problems more clearly in the present. In The Worlds, strikers and terrorists are pitted against Trench, a cynical, corrupt capitalist; the main problem centers on the uses of violence and whether violence can ever be condoned. Bond suggests that the end can justify the means. Red, Black, and Ignorant is a blunt attack on the barbarism of a civilization that enforces its values by threats of nuclear annihilation.

Other plays have included In the Company of Men, set in the world of big business and high finance, and the experimental and surreal Coffee, a play about the holocaust scenario of Babi Yar in the Ukraine. In The Children, a disturbed mother sends her son on a bizarre errand, with fatal consequences. In Have I None, the setting is a ruined city in the postnuclear world of 2077. The postnuclear holocaust play At the Inland Sea, written for young people, uses the vocabulary of folktale to form a story told to save someone’s life.

Bond demanded much of the theater; he saw it as a medium of communication that can and should reach the people, severing itself from its clearly patrician roots in the process. According to the critic David Hirst, Bond’s technique includes the manipulation of particular dramatic genres that are representative of the ideas of their time; in Restoration, for example, he draws on the genre of comedy of manners, in The Woman, on fifth century Greek tragedy. These dramatic strategies allow Bond to express the complexity of his ideas.

In his plays, Bond has constantly turned to crucial periods in history to examine the social, ethical, and political roots of present situations in order to alter them. As he developed his dramatic skills and political philosophy, he moved from depicting the problems of society, as in Saved, to demonstrating how these problems can be solved, as in The Worlds.

Bond became one of the leading writers of political theater. He stressed throughout his career the need “to make the analysis of politics part of the aesthetic experience.” His plays have been acclaimed by many critics, but sometimes their literariness has made them inaccessible to audiences. As he aged, however, Bond’s writing became increasingly poetic and mythological and took on a resonant power marking him as one of the great modern British playwrights.

BibliographyCoult, Tony. The Plays of Edward Bond. London: Methuen, 1978. An early and important study of Bond’s work. The book is designed as a companion critical reader to Bond’s plays, with a valuable introductory essay. Coult takes a thematic approach, concentrating on Narrow Road to the Deep North, Lear, Bingo, and The Sea. Supplemented by a chronology.Hay, Malcolm, and Philip Roberts. Bond: A Study of His Plays. London: Methuen, 1980. This study places Bond in a distinct scholarly category in which he is compared with his contemporaries. The chapters are arranged by plays, with a chronological list, a strong introductory essay, and two sections of production stills.Hay, Malcolm, and Philip Roberts. Edward Bond: A Companion to His Plays. Rev. ed. London: Methuen, 1985. A companion volume to the preceding title, it includes a chronology, a bibliography, a section on Bond on his own plays, and plays in production.Hirst, David L. Edward Bond. London: Macmillan, 1985. Contains three main sections: techniques of subversion, tragedy and comedy, and epic theater, including Lear and The Bundle. Hirst likens Bond to George Bernard Shaw, in that both seek a method of building a new world out of the ruins of the old. A good introduction.Lappin, Lou. The Art and Politics of Edward Bond. New York: Peter Lang, 1987. The book analyzes Bond’s drama in relation to his left-wing political viewpoint.Mangan, Michael. Edward Bond. Plymouth, England: Northcote House, 1998. An excellent introduction to Bond, done with his active cooperation. It stresses the interrelatedness of all of his plays, and the recurrence of certain themes, images, and characters.Peacock, D. Keith. Radical Stages: Alternative History in Modern British Drama. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. In a chapter on Bond’s historical allegories, and in his introductory essay, Peacock finds Bond’s “alternative and …iconoclastic interpretation of history” at the center of his art. Strong critical discussion of Bingo (on William Shakespeare) and The Fool (on the Romantic poet John Clare). Usable general bibliography.Roberts, Phillip, ed. Bond on Fik. London: Methuen, 1985. An extremely valuable collection of resources relating to the plays, up to The Tin Can People, including reviews, excerpts from letters, interviews, and good play synopses.Scharine, Richard. The Plays of Edward Bond. London: Associated University Presses, 1976. A strong study of Bond as a revolutionary. The first chapter, an introduction to Bond, and the last, a summary of themes and techniques, bracket six chapters on specific plays and one on “incidental dramatic works.”Spencer, Jenny. Dramatic Strategies in the Plays of Edward Bond. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1992. An insightful and well-theorized study that deals with the “poetic materialism” of Bond’s work up to The War Plays.Stuart, Ian. “Answering to the Dead: Edward Bond’s Jackets, 1989-1990.” New Theatre Quarterly 7 (May, 1991): 171-183. Examines the theory and practice of “theater events” and “theater acting” and discusses a specific acting style necessary to realize Bond’s plays, exploring the work in progress. The New Theatre Quarterly and its predecessor, Theatre Quarterly, began concentrating on the development of Bond’s career in 1972.
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