Siddhesh Joshi (Editor)

Eric Bentley

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Years active  1938-Present
Name  Eric Bentley

Role  Critic
Ex-spouse  Maja Tschernjakow
Eric Bentley graphics8nytimescomimages20061112artsBentl

Full Name  Eric Russell Bentley
Born  September 14, 1916 (age 99) (1916-09-14) Bolton, Lancashire, England
Occupation  Theater critic, scholar, playwright, musician
Known for  The Playwright As Thinker (book), The Life of the Drama (book), What Is Theatre? (book), Thirty Years of Treason (editor; book), Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been (play)
Albums  Songs of Hanns Eisler
Education  Yale University (1941), University of Oxford
Awards  Obie Award for Special Citations
Books  Life of the Drama, The Playwright as Thinker, The Brecht‑Eisler Song Book, Bentley on Brecht, What is Theatre?: Incorpora
Similar People  Frank Wedekind, George Bernard Shaw, A R Gurney, Carlo Goldoni, George II of Great Britain

Spotlight - Eric Bentley

Eric Russell Bentley (born September 14, 1916) is a British-born American critic, playwright, singer, editor and translator. In 1998, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and is a member of the New York Theater Hall of Fame in recognition of his many years of cabaret performances.


Theater talk john cullum and critic playwright eric bentley


Born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, Bentley attended Oxford University, receiving his degree in 1938, and subsequently attended Yale University (B.Litt, 1939 and PhD., 1941), where he received the John Addison Porter Prize.

Beginning in 1953, Bentley taught at Columbia University and simultaneously was a theatre critic for The New Republic. Known for his blunt style of theatre criticism, Bentley incurred the wrath of playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, both of whom threatened to sue him for his unfavorable reviews of their work. From 1960–1961, Bentley was the Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard University.

Bentley is considered one of the preeminent experts on Bertolt Brecht, whom he met at UCLA as a young man and whose works he has translated extensively. He edited the Grove Press issue of Brecht's work, and recorded two albums of Brecht's songs for Folkways Records, most of which had never before been recorded in English.

In 1968, he signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.

Bentley was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1969. That same year, he declared his homosexuality. In an interview in the New York Times on November 12, 2006, he claimed he was married twice before coming out at age 53, at which time he left his post as the Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature at Columbia to concentrate on writing. He has cited his homosexuality as an influence on his theater work, especially his play Lord Alfred's Lover, based on the life of Oscar Wilde. He won a Robert Chesley Award in 2007.

Bentley became an American citizen in 1948, and currently lives in New York City. He turned 100 in September 2016.


He has written many critical books, including A Century of Hero-Worship, The Playwright as Thinker, Bernard Shaw, What Is Theatre?, The Life of the Drama, Theatre of War, Brecht Commentaries, and Thinking About the Playwright. In addition, he edited The Importance of Scrutiny (1964), a collection of pieces from Scrutiny: A Quarterly Review, the noted critical periodical, and Thirty Years of Treason: Excerpts from Hearings Before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, 1938–1968 (1971). His most-produced play, 1972's Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been: The Investigations of Show-Business by the Un-American Activities Committee 1947–1958, was based on the transcripts collected in Thirty Years of Treason.

Critical works

  • 1944 A Century of Hero Worship
  • 1946 The Playwright As Thinker
  • 1947 Bernard Shaw
  • 1953 In Search of Theater
  • 1956 What Is Theatre?
  • 1964 The Life of the Drama
  • 1971 Thirty Years of Treason
  • 1972 Theater of War
  • 1981 Brecht Commentaries
  • 1987 Thinking About The Playwright
  • Discography

    Recordings by Bentley:

  • 1961 Bertolt Brecht before the Committee on Un-American Activities: An Historical Encounter Folkways Records
  • 1963 "A Man's A Man" by Bertolt Brecht Folkways Records
  • 1964 Songs of Hanns Eisler Folkways Records
  • 1965 Bentley on Brecht: Songs and Poems of Bertolt Brecht Folkways Records
  • 1965 Bertolt Brecht's The Exception and the Rule Folkways Records
  • 1968 The Elephant Calf and Small Comments on Large Themes Folkways Records
  • 1968 Bentley on Biermann: Songs and Poems of Wolf Biermann Folkways Records
  • 1970 Eric Bentley Sings The Queen of 42nd Street Folkways Records
  • Dramatic works

  • A Time To Live & A Time To Die (1967) published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been: The Investigations of Show-Business by the Un-American Activities Committee 1947–1958 (1972)
  • Lord Alfred's Lover (1979) Collected in Monstrous Martyrdoms (1985)
  • H for Hamlet (1985?)
  • German Requiem Collected in Monstrous Martyrdoms (1985)
  • Round One published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • Round Two published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • The Sternheim Trilogy containing The Underpants, The Snob, & 1913, published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
  • References

    Eric Bentley Wikipedia