WILLIAM ARCHER QUOTES

Scottish critic (1856-1924)

William Archer quote

The drama is not dead but liveth, and contains the germs of better things.

WILLIAM ARCHER, About the Theatre

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Tags: theatre


Beware of epigram! It is one of Satan's favourite disguises.

WILLIAM ARCHER, Real Conversations

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How many a world-embracing creed has sprung from a tiny contradiction in terms!

WILLIAM ARCHER, Masks Or Faces?: A Study in the Psychology of Acting

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The difference between a live play and a dead one is that in the former the characters control the plot, while in the latter the plot controls the characters.

WILLIAM ARCHER, Play-making: A Manual of Craftsmanship

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Tags: playwriting


I suggest that the anthropomorphic god-idea is not a harmless infirmity of human thought, but a very noxious fallacy, which is largely responsible for the calamities the world is at present enduring.

WILLIAM ARCHER, William Archer as Rationalist: A Collection of His Heterodox Writings

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I am entirely convinced that the drama renounces its chief privilege and glory when it waives its claim to be a popular art, and is content to address itself to coteries, however "high-browed."

WILLIAM ARCHER, Play-making: A Manual of Craftsmanship

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The dialogue, as a form of exposition, has this disadvantage, that it stimulates the pugnacious, or, more politely speaking, the chivalrous instinct in human nature. One of the disputants invariably goes as a lamb to the slaughter, and his pre-arranged massacre cannot but stir our sympathy. Thus a feeling of antagonism to the writer's argument is aroused by the very form. There is a cat-and-mouse cruelty about the Socratic method against which our sense of justice, nay, of humanity, rebels.

WILLIAM ARCHER, Masks Or Faces?: A Study in the Psychology of Acting

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It may be said, with some truth, that only a pedant would attempt to establish an order of merit among the world's great dramatists, as if they were candidates in a competitive examination. The wiser course, no doubt, is to enjoy as many different forms of drama as we can, without troubling too much about questions of precedence.

WILLIAM ARCHER, The Old Drama and the New: An Essay in Re-valuation

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To the average intellect, nothing is so alluring as a paradox. The reason is simple: in accepting a paradox, the average intellect feels that it has risen above the average. Any fool can believe what is possible and probable, but it demands no ordinary gifts, whether mental or spiritual, to believe what is absurd.

WILLIAM ARCHER, Masks Or Faces?: A Study in the Psychology of Acting

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One thing, however, we may say with tolerable confidence: whatever may be the germ of a play--whether it be an anecdote, a situation, or what not--the play will be of small account as a work of art unless character, at a very early point, enters into and conditions its development. The story which is independent of character--which can be carried through by a given number of ready-made puppets--is essentially a trivial thing.

WILLIAM ARCHER, Play-making: A Manual of Craftsmanship

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To me, it seems that mankind can never achieve its highest potentialities till it has thrown off the incubus of historic (and prehistoric) religion.

WILLIAM ARCHER, William Archer as Rationalist: A Collection of His Heterodox Writings

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Tags: religion


Speaking of provincial playhouses, I said they were usually sandwiched between two public-houses, from which they were distinguishable mainly by their flaunting posters and some hideous flare of gas. As for London theatres, I said they were at best like swagger restaurants.

WILLIAM ARCHER, Real Conversations

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The art of theatrical story-telling is necessarily relative to the audience to whom the story is to be told. One must assume an audience of a certain status and characteristics before one can rationally discuss the best methods of appealing to its intelligence and its sympathies.

WILLIAM ARCHER, Play-making: A Manual of Craftsmanship

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Paradox begets paradox; and we could scarcely have a wilder paradox than the assertion that none but a magnanimous man can act magnanimity, and that lovers alone can do justice to a love-scene.

WILLIAM ARCHER, Masks Or Faces?: A Study in the Psychology of Acting

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"Theocracy" has always been the synonym for a bleak and narrow, if not a fierce and blood-stained tyranny. Why seek to revive and rehabilitate a word of such a dismal connotation?

WILLIAM ARCHER, God and Mr. Wells

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Deeds, not words, are the demonstration and test of character.

WILLIAM ARCHER, Play-making: A Manual of Craftsmanship

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Tags: character


When the destinies of the world are at stake, there comes a point at which private esteem and admiration must give way to the sense of public duty.

WILLIAM ARCHER, Shirking the Issue: A Letter to Dr. George Brandes

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People fail to realize the technical conditions of drama, and think that, in the case of so simple a matter as playwriting, everyone is as good a judge as his neighbor. With regard to music and painting, you will hear people modestly confess that they have no expert knowledge, though "they know what they like." With regard to drama, they are troubled with no such diffidence. They not only know what they like, but they know what you ought to like, and more especially what you ought to despise.

WILLIAM ARCHER, The Old Drama and the New: An Essay in Re-valuation

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There are no rules for writing a play. It is easy, indeed, to lay down negative recommendations -- to instruct the beginner how not to do it. But most of these "don'ts" are rather obvious; and those which are not obvious are apt to be questionable. It is certain, for instance, that if you want your play to be acted anywhere else than in China, you must not plan it in sixteen acts of an hour apiece; but where is the tyro who needs a textbook to tell him that?

WILLIAM ARCHER, Play-making: A Manual of Craftsmanship

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One of the first and most important things for a critic to learn is how to sleep undetected at the theatre.

WILLIAM ARCHER, attributed, The Biteback Dictionary of Humorous Literary Quotations

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Tags: criticism