George Farquhar was Irish by birth. He studied at Trinity College in Dublin but left without earning a degree to become an actor. Later he wrote for the theater. He is most remembered for bringing to English comedy a fresh good humor and an emphasis on country settings. One of his plays, The Recruiting Officer (1706), which Bertolt Brecht rewrote, is a lively takeoff on the author's own military experiences. His best-known play, The Beaux' Stratagem (1707), engages the marriage debate and the difficulty of divorce, drawing on divorce tracts of John Milton. It is a lively, very natural comedy of sensibility. Farquhar wrote Discourse upon Comedy in a Letter to a Friend, in which he defended the genre as "a well-framed tale, handsomely told, as an agreeable vehicle for counsel or reproof." Farquhar married a woman he thought to be wealthy. He was mistaken, however. He died penniless in London at the age of 29.
One of the most honored and versatile of modern writers, Thornton Wilder combined a career as a successful novelist with work for the theater that made him one of this century's outstanding dramatists. It was an early short novel, however, that first brought him fame. The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927), a bestseller that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1927, is the story of a group of assorted people who happen to be on a bridge in Peru when it collapses. Ingeniously constructed and rich in its philosophical implications about fate and synchronicity, Wilder's book would seem to be the first well-known example of a formula that has become a cliche in popular literature. His attraction to classical themes is manifested in The Woman of Andros (1930), a tragedy about young love in pre-Christian Greece, and The Ides of March (1948), set in the time of Julius Caesar and told in letters and documents covering a long span of years. Heaven's My Destination (1934), is a seriocomic and picaresque story about a young book salesman traveling through the Midwest during the early years of the Great Depression.Theophilus North (1973), Wilder's last novel, disappointed many reviewers, but it provided its author with opportunities to offer some wry observations on the life of the idle rich in Newport during the summer of 1926 and to ponder in the story of his alter ego what might have happened if Wilder had stayed home, so to speak, instead of becoming Thornton Wilder. As a serious writer of fiction, Wilder's main claim rests on The Eighth Day (1967), an intellectual thriller, which the N.Y. Times called "the most substantial fiction of his career." It won the National Book Award for fiction in 1968.
KEN LUDWIG is an internationally acclaimed playwright who has had numerous hits on Broadway, London's West End, and throughout the world. He is also on the governing board of the Folger Shakespeare Library.