The candidate list of books for The Well-Read Man Project includes 137 plays, only five of which will make it into the final set. Plays come in two flavors: comedies and tragedies. I suppose when there are only two possible targets for your work, it’s hard to come up with something original. QED, the existence of only 137 good plays.
Because of the effort involved in producing a play, playwrights (why isn’t it “playwrites”?) tend to go the extra effort and include a full range of human drama and folly in every act. So it was really difficult to excise so many works that spoke to this reader’s heart.
One rejected play is Faust, Goethe’s classic legend of a man selling his soul to the devil. I had already read Christopher Marlowe’s version, and there are only so many soul-selling plays one can handle. I also left out Aristophanes’ The Frogs, Euripides’ Medea, and Jean Racine’s Phèdre. These are three great classic works of mythology, but as it turns out, most of the important plays in the world are great classic works of mythology, so I still have a lot to choose from.
Another play that won’t make it to the end isn’t a tragedy or a comedy. It’s Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett. I’m not really sure what it is, but this I know: “They do not move.” This is a line from the play that gets repeated, over and over, repeatedly, now and again. And it applies once more, this time to its position in the project list.