Page extent: 256
Includes the plays Claw, Ursula, He Stumbled and The Love of a Good Man
The plays in this volume range over twenty years, beginning with Barker's first major work for the stage, Claw, a study of urban discontent and political impotence, developed over three stylistically contrasting acts. Its terrible conclusion marked the debut of a vivid dramatic imagination.
In Ursula Barker's engagement with the pains of the past, and his way of reinvigorating ancient arguments reaches a high point in his treatment of the legend of St Ursula and the martyrdom of 11,000 virgins, where the virtues of celibacy and marriage are set against the catastrophic passion of a woman described as a 'perfect liar'.
Barker's scrutiny of the body and its complex meanings is never more intense than in He Stumbled, the tragedy of a celebrated anatomist whose last dissection becomes his own.
The body as a site of political and personal investment is also at the heart of The Love of a Good Man, an early work set on the empty battlefields of the Great War, where the burial of the dead becomes a pretext for private ambition as well as national grief.