Young Man Luther

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Invited Essay: Psychoanalytic Understanding of Religion. Journal article by Hans-Günter Heimbrock; International Journal for Psychology of Religion, Vol. 1, 1991, 76-77
Erikson's view of the ambivalence of religion is more impartial and differentiated than Freud's. Without deleting anything from Freud's critique of religion, Erikson freed the analysis of religious experiences and symbols from the dominance of regressive fixation on infantile phases not yet overcome.

Although Erikson did not write explicitly on the psychology of religion, his thought has contributed to the modern psychology of religion even though it has not yet been valued highly enough, particularly with regard to hermeneutics. Suggestive introductions were offered by Homans ( 1978 ) and Zock ( 1990 ). Erikson brings religion into formal discussion under two circumstances: when a particular configuration of conflict can also be identified as the psychodynamic core of religious symbols and when religion is implicated in the collective conditions -- ideas of value, world images, traditions, and so forth -- for development of individual identity. The first circumstance can be illustrated by an understanding of the Judeo-Christian symbol of Paradise as a recurrence of aspects of the oral phase ( Erikson, 1959) as well as by the link between everyday ritualization and the psychodynamics of religious rites ( Erikson, 1977). The second, complementary circumstance is represented in a particularly illuminating way in Erikson ( 1958 ) study of Luther. At the end of Young Man Luther, which was as revolutionary for psychohistory as it was for the psychoanalytic psychology of religion, Erikson outlined what in my opinion are the three central themes of the religious longing of human beings:

One of these is the simple and fervent wish for a hallucinatory sense of unity with a maternal matrix, and a supply of benevolently powerful substances; it is symbolized by the affirmative face of charity, graciously inclined, reassuring the faithful of the unconditional acceptance of those who will return to the bosom. In this symbol the split of autonomy is forever repaired; shame is healed by unconditional approval, doubt by the eternal presence of generous provision.

In the center of the second nostalgia is the paternal voice of guiding conscience, which puts an end to the simple paradise of childhood and provides a sanction for energetic action. It also warns of the inevitability of guilty entanglement, and threatens with the lightning of wrath. . . . At all cost, the Godhead must be forced to indicate that He Himself mercifully planned crime and punishment in order to assure salvation.

Finally, the glass shows the pure self itself, the unborn core of creation, the -- as it were, preparental -- center where God is pure nothing: ein lauter Nichts, in the words of Angelus Silesius. God is so designated in many ways in Eastern mysticism. (p. 264)

With the themes in this passage, Erikson also made comprehensible the specific expansion of the horizon that he provided for a psychoanalytic understanding of religion, which can be delineated in two regards. On the one hand, the selection and handling of religious themes are no longer first.

Erikson on Development in Adulthood: New Insights from the Unpublished Papers

Book by Carol Hren Hoare; Oxford University Press, 2002


Young Man Luther was Erikson's first full-fledged book to show identity issues as they were portrayed in Luther's young adult spiritual and intimacy


needs. It was also his first complete book on identity proper. When writing about Luther, Erikson was past his own young adulthood and could consider that stage at some distance from intimacy's requirements. Believing that good thinking, reflective writing, and the “peace” to do these arise from “inner space,” Erikson wrote most of the book away from his work environment. 37 He was on retreat from Riggs, a minisabbatical that marked several forks in his life: From then on, he saw far fewer patients, and his writing shifted thematically and methodologically. He moved from a form of writing in which he had illustrated developmental issues that were buttressed by clinical data to conceptual essays that he crafted for their ethical, historical, developmental, and teaching appeal. He took himself and his readers down a seer's pathway toward the end of adult life. The clinician was in retreat. The psychoanalytic writer with pressing historical and ethical messages increasingly took center stage. This helped him move decidedly into his own generative ethical years. Comparing his origin with his aims, he wrote:

That a stepson's negative identity is that of a bastard need only be acknowledged here in passing …(but) working between the established fields can mean avoiding the disciplines necessary for any one field; and being enamored with the aesthetic order of things, one may well come to avoid their ethical and political …implications. 38

By first elaborating Martin Luther's identity and then showing the power of militant, nonviolent resistance through the identity needs of a middle-aged Mahatma Gandhi, Erikson shifted permanently to “social and historical implications … possibly inspired by my great compatriot Kierkegaard's differentiation of the aesthetic and the ethical life.” 39 Luther was Erikson's first effort to extend beyond his own aesthetic stage as a psychoanalytic, developmental clinician and to move into his generative period of caring more deeply about his message and about the survival of his legacy of concepts.

Beginning with Luther, we can see a change in Erikson's level of thinking, as well as an altered focus of thought. With this period, Erikson showed his climb up the metacognitive and historical ladder. Childhood and Society was “written for psychiatrists (and) social workers … Gandhi's Truth … (was) for people interested in history (and) … the emergence of nonviolence.” 40 By the closing chapters of Toys and Reasons, Erikson had moved up cognitively yet again to “shared visions … shared nightmares” and worldviews. 41 In his always broader and higher metaperspective, he expanded his vista.

At the time he wrote Luther, Erikson was in the middle of his sixth decade of life and, as such, was increasingly considering the meaning of life. The book served many purposes for Erikson personally; thus we cannot simplify its meaning to him. Principally, its writing was his vehicle for finding his voice, for coming to grips with his upbringing, and for understanding where he stood on issues of faith. 42 With Luther, Erikson considered the meaning to him of eternity, of the spiritual, and of the way religious institu-


tions required reformation. He began to consider in earnest the human's personal transcendence of the physical boundaries of life. In this fresh terrain of border thinking, Erikson showed the meaning of his own generativity as he moved toward the end of life. As others before and after him, Erikson journeyed from absorption in himself and his discipline, content, and methods to panhuman concerns—from aesthetics through ethics to spiritual introspection. Through Luther, Erikson fully joined the problems and issues of adulthood. In this, he believed he had had little choice. Referring here to Darwin, Erikson was autobiographical:

It is enough to have persisted, with the naiveté of genius, in the dissolution of one of the prejudices on which the security and the familiarity of the contemporary image of man is built. But a creative man has no choice. He may come across his supreme task almost accidentally. But once the issue is joined, his task proves to be at the same time intimately related to his most personal conflicts, to his superior selective perception, and to the stubbornness of his one-way will. 43

Thus, with Luther, Erikson launched a two-pronged effort that continued throughout the rest of his writing years. These were his efforts to understand and more completely portray what it means to be an adult who develops through the conflicts of one life and its times. This is the adult who, through the context and content of his or her changing adulthood, comes to a heightened, introspective self-understanding and a better understanding and care of others. In his analyses, Erikson illustrated how the society-infused adult influences one microcosm of time and space. His related aim was to broaden the reach of his perspectives on developmental ethics. In large-scale psychohistories about Luther and Gandhi, and through briefer sketches of Einstein, Freud, and Jesus, Erikson's concerns about the intermingled issues of insight, prejudice, ethics, and spirituality come through. He showed these against the border at which one adult life joins other lives responsibly and against the fringe of life at which adults face issues of nonexistence.

Erikson's Young Man Luther sparked near-instant interest in Freudian applications to history and led to a beginning tide of inquiry and theory that inspired the formation of psychohistorical conferences and journals. That tide has ebbed somewhat, chased back by apt criticisms of some historians' reductionistic and simplistic misuses of psychoanalytic concepts. But Luther led irreversibly to two major happenings.

First, historians and social scientists in this country changed their prisms to look more to the ways in which adults of different eras consistently thought, felt, and were motivated to behave, how they supported self and family, and how they adapted to the opportunities and burdens, inclusions and exclusions, of respective positions in their social structures. Persons, and the relativity of their views and needs, were now better visualized against where, when, and how history and society serendipitously lodged them. This


is “historical relativity” to Erikson. To historians and social scientists alike, place, time, and the prevailing views and values of different eras came to assume new prominence. By the mid-1990s, thoughtful scholars had become wary about taking contemporary notions, knowledge, understandings, and difficulties and casting them backward through time to interpret and reconstruct history through latter-day lenses.

Second, for Erikson personally, the publication of Young Man Luther heralded dramatic changes. Writing Luther, he edged along the catwalk on which psychology and history meet but cannot be known firsthand. Although he had ventured there before, psychohistory now became his concentration, a focused way to show how adult psyches intertwine with their own history, with history proper, and with a tendency to preordain parts of the future through identity images, visions, ideas, and plans. Erikson's Luther and his concepts about ego identity and its problems opened a pathway to original work. It also helped him drive toward depicting the entire life span. Erikson tackled a great part of this plan by showing how unique, charismatic leaders reverberate against their own psychological needs and against the demands and deprivations of their special social and historical eras. Instead of crumbling before ego-thwarting, oppressive conditions, the young man whom Erikson found in Luther and the middle-aged man whom he uncovered in Gandhi rode their egos and identity needs to change history.

Luther, published just before Erikson brought his clinical work at Riggs to a close, gave Erikson notoriety and exposure to a different audience, that of historians and theologians. It was his favorite among the books he wrote. 44 But with the dangerous territory of psychohistory, he furthered his distance from traditional psychoanalysis and advanced his own decline in mainstream psychoanalytic circles. By stretching beyond known data, first in Luther and later in Gandhi, he opened himself to excoriating criticism. Marking his departure from contemporary clinical work in this way, Erikson furthered his marginality yet again as he had done in his youth, even as he simultaneously advanced scholarship about what some—Luther, Gandhi—had to do in order to gain their identities. More conceptually borderline now than ever, the spotlight he had once cast onto society and culture, forcing a view to these as both internal and external to the person's psyche, was now directed backward in the hopes that this light would then show the way forward. This spotlight onto the comparatively recent historical past began a fresh view of the developing adult as a biopsychosocialhistorical human. It became Erikson's lens into portraying the historically, culturally relative adult, an image of the highly abstract, cognitively developed person who lives in history yet knows the self as residing in one era in the total flow of time. Erikson's previous triple bookkeeping of the biopsychosocial person thus evolved into a quadruple ledger. He included the adult self in historical time and context, as well as within his or her very contemporary psyche, soma, and culture.


Peacock, D. Keith. Harold Pinter and the New British Theatre. Westport, Connecticut London: Greenwood Press, 1997.
5 Caught in the Past: The Memory Plays and After
By the beginning of the 1970s, Pinter was spoken of as Britain's leading dramatist, while the other members of the advance guard of the New British Theatre--John Osborne, Arnold Wesker, John Arden, Ann Jellicoe, and Shelagh Delaney--for various reasons no longer held sway. Even by the mid-1960s it had become evident that Osborne was not, as was first thought, a political radical, but was essentially conservative in outlook and nostalgic for the perceived certainties of Edwardian England. It also became apparent that his plays were more concerned with emotional relationships than with social change. His dissidents--Porter, Luther, Rice, Maitland, and Holyoake--conveyed pain and rage, not an ideologically based argument. After Luther ( 1964), which was basically a realistic biographical play cloaked in the then fashionable and much misunderstood Brechtian epic form, the protesting voice that had characterized his lessons in feeling became increasingly petulant and less embodied in dramatic action. This was most evident in A Sense of Detachment ( 1972), in which there was no imaginative setting or plot, and the characters, abetted by actors planted throughout the theatre, spent much of their time abusing the audience, critics, and society in general. In a stage direction that appears just over halfway through the play one of the actors on stage "surveys the audience and addresses them [sic]--if there is still any left" 1 (my italics). In fact, during a performance of the play at the Royal Court Theatre, missiles were thrown at the actors. In 1976, during the National Theatre's production of Osborne Watch It Come Down, members of the audience shouted and walked out. The play is set in a converted country railway station, inhabited by a representative selection of contemporary artists--a film director, a painter, a biographer, and a novelist--who, with their partners, have opted out of degenerate English society. The countryside they inhabit is, however, also home to "Beef barons, pig and veal
concentration camps, Bentleys and pony traps and wellies . . . the one last surviving colony" 2 ; while the wife of one of the characters is taking their dog for a walk, the animal is shot by the local landlord. Unfortunately the group has brought its society's violence with it, and at the end of Act One Sally attacks her husband, the film director Ben, and "they kick and tear at each other, clothes tearing and splitting" (42). At the end of the play the barbarian society they have tried to escape catches up with them and the station is shot to pieces by "yobbos." Like England, it is all coming down. After Watch It Come Down Osborne wrote only two more plays for the stage--in 1988 a version of Strindberg's Father and in 1990 Déjà Vu, a rather mechanical and very disappointing revisiting of the characters of Look Back in Anger thirty-four years on.
British Realist Theatre: The New Wave in Its Context 1956-1965

Book by Stephen Lacey; Routledge, 1995


One sign of the breaking up of the moment of Working-Class Realism was the reappearance of history plays. By the mid-sixties, plays that were set wholly in the past constituted a significant proportion of new work on the London stage. Some of these plays were written/produced by writers/companies that were associated with the New Wave; Osborne’s Luther (1961), Arden’s Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance (1959) and Armstrong’s Last Goodnight (1964), Theatre Workshop’s Oh What a Lovely War (1963), and Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons (1960)—these are the most relevant examples. Set in a defined period of history—and therefore not ‘contemporary’ in the sense in which it was normally used—these plays, and their productions, were connected to the opening out of the realist stage, with an extensive, episodic narrative, a movement beyond the ‘domestic’ situations of the earlier plays, and with conventions of performance that were anti-naturalistic, frequently drawing on popular genres.

This renewed interest in history may be seen as a rejection—or at least a superseding—of the early concerns of the New Wave. There was a sense, for example, that to write history plays was to have ‘grown up’, and to have connected with legitimate drama. Writing on Luther, Michael Foot commended Osborne for having written a play that stepped ‘with such assurance from his crowded bed-sitting rooms and sleazy music halls on to the stage of world history’ (Page 1988:31). This kind of judgement not only erects a hierarchy, in which the local concerns of contemporary realism are seen to be less important—because less ambitious or far-reaching— than the ‘universal’ themes of history, but also blurs the degree to which plays about history are connected to the present, if only implicitly. In fact, the relationship between past and present in the history plays of this period is often complex and varied; indeed, in some senses, many of them are not ‘history’ plays at all.

One recurrent point of reference in the discussion of history plays was Brecht, who provided one of the main European models of a serious and committed historical drama. Brecht and the


Berliner Ensemble visited Britain in August of 1956. The company brought three productions, Mother Courage, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Trumpets and Drums, which were generally met by a contradictory response from the West End audience, attracting ‘much attention but not much critical acclaim’ (Elsom 1976:113). However, the visit did have an impact on British theatre practitioners and critics, erecting a set of criteria against which political/ historical drama could be judged. Both Milne (in Encore) and Tynan (in the Observer) compared Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons unfavourably to Brecht’s plays in general, and Galileo in particular. Tynan also used Galileo as a point of reference for his review of Luther, a play which was also seen more generally in relation to a Brechtian dramaturgy.

The influence of Brecht (and his company) was, and continues to be, complex and to stretch beyond the practice of playwrighting. With its emphasis on a permanent working group, on collective effort, and the value of the ensemble as a means of organising a company, the Berliner was a clear alternative to the ethic of the star system and the half-hearted amateurism that was one of the most persistent criticisms of British theatre. Devine visited the Berliner in East Berlin in 1955 and was clearly impressed by both the professionalism and the ‘artistic dedication’ in what he saw there. ‘The group appears to function in a natural and unneurotic manner’, he noted, linking the fact that it was an ensemble to a ‘strong artistic conception’ (Devine 1970:16). What Devine saw in the Berliner was the fulfilment of his ambitions for the English Stage Company; a theatre heavily supported by the State, with a permanent company, a strong professionalism, a clear artistic policy (although Devine did not share this) and a popular audience.

What was missing from British Brechtianism in the late fifties was a clear engagement with Brecht’s politics. 4 The idea of Brecht as a committed artist was an attractive one. The editors of The Encore

4 That this was not an inevitable process, but rather one that was specific to British theatrical and intellectual formations in the period, is apparent when the British response is compared with that of a group of French intellectuals who were encountering Brecht at about the same time. Roland Barthes, for example, responded to very different themes in Brecht’s work. In an article written in 1956, Barthes considered the implications of Brecht’s thinking in the fields of sociology, ideology, semiology and morality, arguing that ‘A knowledge of Brecht, consideration of Brecht—in short, Brechtian criticism—is by definition to cover the basic issues of our time’ (Barthes 1979:25).


Reader argued that ‘there was no question about the pervasive all-infecting influence of Bertolt Brecht’, and that To be Brechtian was to be politically concerned, theatrically bold and artistically disciplined’ (Marowitz et al. 1970:135); there is little doubt that it was really the latter two qualities that were most influential—and, to illustrate the paradoxical nature of the appropriation of Brecht, they were not the exclusive properties of a ‘Brechtian’ theatre.

The marginalisation of Brecht’s politics was a result of both the difficulty of finding a coherent politics within the New Wave itself, and of the persistence of a Cold War rhetoric that automatically coloured perceptions of Brecht’s relationship with the East German government (a relationship that was not without its paradoxes). Mathers has argued that Encore’ s interest in Brecht was ‘almost exclusively centred on certain aesthetic criteria, on the “technical elements of alienation”’ (Mathers 1975:81). And although Encore did not have a particular ‘line’ on Brecht, or anyone else, it is certainly the case that Brecht was appreciated mainly as a ‘professional’ and to the degree to which he could be used to contribute to, and shape, debates that had already been established. On the one hand, this led to an emphasis on Brecht as a poet (Ernest Bornemann lionised him as a ‘lyric poet’ whose gifts ‘transformed everything he touched’; Bornemann 1970:141). On the other, Brecht’s name became a shorthand for a general anti-naturalism, particularly in performance. Lindsay Anderson, for example, commended Avis Bunnage’s performance in A Taste of Honey as ‘real Brechtian playing’ (Anderson 1970b:80).

The influence of Brecht on most British history plays did not proceed, therefore, from a similar politics but tended to focus on particular narrative techniques. Like Brecht’s plays, A Man for All Seasons and Luther use a particular period of history, and are written in an episodic manner, with a narrative of self-contained actions that appears to fracture the strict temporal unity and cause and effect logic of the three-act drama. Both use a form of narration; A Man has a recurrent character, the Common Man, who gives a view of the events of the play, whilst in Luther each scene is announced by the figure of a knight. However, these connections are at best superficial and at worst misleading, not least because ‘history’ is largely absent from both of these plays.

The comparison with Brecht threw up the degree to which the precise contours of another historical period and society were the


subject of the plays, even when the ultimate lessons to be learnt were about contemporary Britain. Brecht’s history plays, notably Galileo and Mother Courage, set the main narratives within a carefully drawn historical context, one which is defined in terms of the social and political processes that govern the relationships between his characters. For Tynan, this was precisely what was missing from A Man.

Mr Bolt is primarily absorbed in the state of More’s conscience, not in the state of More’s England or More’s Europe. …Brecht, on the other hand, though he gives us an intimate study of Galileo’s conscience, takes pains to relate it at every turn to Galileo’s world and to the universe at large.

(Tynan 1984:287-8)

Gascoine, in a generally favourable review, observed a similar lack in Luther : ‘The play offers no analysis of the causes of the Reformation, no explanation of Luther’s magnetism, nor even the picture of an age’ (Page 1988:29).

Both Luther and A Man, in fact, show quite marked and unexpected connections to the earlier, more intensive naturalism— and in Osborne’s case, to the intensive form of his own earlier plays. Both centre on a dominating central protagonist, who is constructed as a psychologically rounded individual, pitted against a ‘society’ that is outside him. This was emphasised in production with the casting in the central roles of charismatic actors, Paul Scofield (More) and Albert Finney (Luther), and was perfectly compatible with an episodic scene structure and a design that eschewed naturalism. As Martin Priestman has argued, ‘the disturbance of the unities by back-projections and over-familiar narrators was actually quite helpful in allowing classical stars…to wrestle tragically with their consciences in full costume’ (Priestman 1992: 119). This view of psychology is also at odds with Brecht’s concept of the individual as the site of social contradictions, the point where social and historical forces meet and are played out. One result of this is that the conflicts that are then explored—More’s crises of conscience, for example—appear ‘timeless’, very much like our own. Raymond Williams argued that A Man exemplified a kind of history play that is really ‘a kind of ante-dated naturalism: the characters talk and feel in the twentieth century, but for action and interest are based in the sixteenth’ (Williams 1978:505). The effect


is not of one historical period finding a resonance in another, but of history itself being obliterated, dissolved into a pool of universal human concerns.

Luther is also remarkably like Osborne’s other protagonists at this time; Tynan remarked that he was remarkably like Osborne himself. ‘Why…should John Osborne have wanted to write a play about the founder of Protestantism?’ he asked. ‘Is there not something here that might speak to the author of Look Back in Anger, embarrassed to find himself dubbed an apostle of social revolution when in fact, like Luther, he preached nothing but revolutionary individualism?’ (Tynan 1984:314). Like both Jimmy Porter and Archie Rice, Luther is almost outside history altogether, the essential conflicts that trouble him arising not out of his time but out of a kind of original sin of self-doubt and a compulsion towards the truth as he sees it. He is a character who is not produced by history, but rather acts upon it, his inner conflicts played out on a world stage.

A different attitude towards history—and a different relationship to Brecht—is revealed in Arden’s writing. Arden’s plays are unlike any others in the New Wave, drawing on a range of popular and literary forms to engage not only with the processes of history, but also to explore, along a different path from his contemporaries, the possibilities of a contemporary political theatre. Although both Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance and Armstrong’s Last Goodnight were set in the past, the impetus for both of them was contemporary political events—as it was for all of Arden’s plays. Arden wrote Musgrave, a play about the impact of a group of deserters from a British colonial war on a northern mining town in the mid to late nineteenth century, after reading a newspaper account of an incident involving British troops in Cyprus. And Armstrong, set in late medieval Scotland, was written after reading Conor Cruise O’Brien’s To Katanga and Back, an account of events in the Belgian Congo. In neither play are these original sources openly acknowledged, and the connections are partly at the level of the issues explored. Thus Musgrave is a play about the nature of pacifism and the correct response to acts of violence, colonial or otherwise, and Armstrong discusses questions of political morality. However, the choice of period was not arbitrary, nor was it based on an attraction to particular individuals from the past, but arose out of similarities between the two historical situations. Therefore, Musgrave, a play written in response to contemporary colonialism,


was set in the period of colonial expansion; and Armstrong-was set in a period of European history that had clear parallels to the Africa of the mid-1950s.

Radical Stages: Alternative History in Modern British Drama

Book by D. Keith Peacock; Greenwood Press, 1991

Although with Luther, in 1961, John Osborne also appeared to be emulating the Brechtian Epic approach to historical drama, like Bolt, in the portrayal of his hero, he too was unable or unwilling to abandon individualism. Inevitably, this factor was again to militate against a broadening of the play's historical perspective. Like Galileo (and A Man for All Seasons), Luther belongs to a long tradition of plays of individual conscience and, in spite of Osborne's intention that the intense private interest of Act 1 should be replaced in Act 2 by a "physical effect" which would be "more intricate, general, less personal; sweeping, concerned with men in time rather than particular man in the unconscious", 14 he does not convey that interplay between the historical figure and his peculiar historical environment which, in Brecht's plays, resulted in the portrayal of man not only as an individual but also as a member of society. Luther centres instead almost exclusively upon the problems of personal belief and private conscience experienced by one particular man who suffers from a painful bowel disorder. Luther is portrayed, like Jimmy Porter, as a disaffected outsider in his own society. He is an individualist who, in consequence of his theological doubts and his desire to attain unmediated communication with God, finds himself in opposition to the institution of the Catholic Church. Significantly, Osborne's chosen source for Luther's characterisation was Eric H. Eriksons psychological study, Young Man Luther ( 1959), and the play returns repeatedly, often employing Luther's own words, to the character's evident anal fixation.

If the source material selected by a dramatist reflects his or her own perception of character and event and exercises a major influence upon the dramatic realisation of both, then the difference between Osborne's approach and that of earlier biographical historical dramatists lies merely in his application of modern psychology to the creation of his hero and in the scatological nature of the


expression of Luther's personal angst. As Simon Trussler points out in his study of Osborne's work, Luther "is conceived much more fully as a private man hemmed-in by his own physicality than as a politico-religious animal". 15 This is a viewpoint supported by such emotive stage action as Luther's epileptic fit which concludes Scene 1, and by the powerful visual image of a man sprawled across the blade of a huge butcher's knife which opens Scene 2 and which effectively communicates the physicality of Luther's anguish. Luther's individualism is also emphasised by the fact that, in spite of his own humble background and his role as a religious revolutionary, he has no sympathy for political revolution and arrogantly disassociates himself from the Peasants' Revolt which was partly inspired by his own radical ideas. Mrhen the Knight upbraids him with the accusation that, had he involved himself in the peasants' rebellion, he "could even have brought freedom and order in at one and the same time", Luther retorts that "There's no such thing as an orderly revolution. Anyway Christians are called to suffer, not fight." It becomes evident that he is personally afraid of the chaos that accompanies revolution, seeing it as "the devil's organ". "They deserved their death", he says of the peasants, for, as he tells Christ, "they kicked against authority, they plundered and bargained and all in Your name!"

The play ends inconclusively with a scene of extreme personal domesticity which involves Luther and his child, and our last image is of a very private person who has put radical activity behind him. In his critique of the play, Kenneth Tynan was again to recognise, as he had in the case of Bolt A Man for All Seasons, that, in spite of its pseudo-Brechtian structure Luther was radical neither in its theatrical approach nor in its ideological standpoint. He concluded somewhat bitterly that Osborne, whom five years earlier he had praised for his contribution to the revolution in British theatre, must have been somewhat embarrassed to have been dubbed an apostle of social revolution when in fact, like Luther, "he preached nothing but revolutionary individualism". 16

While emulating some of Brecht's stage techniques, both Bolt and Osborne were ideologically incapable of adopting his non-individualistic interpretation of history. During the 1960s there were nevertheless a number of British dramatists who, in their dramatisation of history, were to present alternative interpretations to those offered by the Establishment and successfully alter its focus from personal to public. For them, the past was neither merely a source of "human interest" stories, of romance, spectacle or nostalgia, nor even a context for the expression of universal spiritual or moral concerns or the exploration of personal angst. For these dramatists whose political


sympathies, while not identical, were broadly socialist, all history was now to become contemporary history. It was to be employed primarily as a means of discussing the present and as a vehicle for confronting public rather than personal issues. Outside the West End, in various regional theatres, at the Royal Court and at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, in the work of Arnold Wesker, Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop and John Arden, the new approach was to be expressed in the form of Social Realism, the Epic, or Documentary theatre. Although this new approach to historical drama should not be considered as intrinsically "better" than that which it replaced, it was, nevertheless, to be more in tune with the thoughts, feelings and political and social aspirations of its age.


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