UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Quaker elements in Christopher Fry's dramas Kirkaldy-Willis, Ian Dunbar


This thesis examines the interplay of the forces of life, death and love in Fry's plays. The relevance of Quakerism to the issue is established in Chapter I. This chapter takes the mystery of existence as the basic point common to Fry's plays and Quakerism and explores it as it develops in each. Christopher Fry includes within his plays abundant evidence of the tragedy inherent in the human condition. He transcends this awareness, however, in his consistent intimation of the triumph of the vital force and in a concept of redemption through joy as the proper expression of the human spirit. This attitude parallels the basic frame of mind underlying the Quakerism in which Fry has his roots. The Quaker chooses to be amazed at the mystery of existence rather than lament his inability to fathom it. Indeed, he finds this the natural course. Intuitions of a greater reality prevent him from indulging in an unnatural suicidal concern with his human limitations. Chapter II deals more specifically with the mystery of existence within each of Fry's plays. Each play is considered separately. However, since similar themes appear in all his plays, this chapter in fact explores the body of Fry's plays as a whole. It perceives each play as a particular dimension of what is in all his plays. The Appendix establishes the literary relevance of Fry's plays to the theatre as both religious drama and verse drama, and it concludes by describing the relevance of religion and poetry to a type of romance drama. Fry's work as a whole reflects the conviction that romance and comedy are universal, and that they can only be found after the tragic experience. There is something beyond tragedy and Fry calls it comedy. In reaching out to it, he says, one has to pass through tragedy first.

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