© 2016

The Case for Terence Rattigan, Playwright

  • One of the first book-length critical studies of Rattigan's work

  • Offers comprehensive analyses of all of Rattigan's plays written for the stage

  • Contextualizes Rattigan's work in the broader history of playwright tradition


Part of the Bernard Shaw and His Contemporaries book series (BSC)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xii
  2. John A. Bertolini
    Pages 39-49
  3. John A. Bertolini
    Pages 51-61
  4. John A. Bertolini
    Pages 63-79
  5. John A. Bertolini
    Pages 81-100
  6. John A. Bertolini
    Pages 113-125
  7. John A. Bertolini
    Pages 127-141
  8. John A. Bertolini
    Pages 143-159
  9. John A. Bertolini
    Pages 161-178
  10. John A. Bertolini
    Pages 193-205
  11. John A. Bertolini
    Pages 207-217
  12. Back Matter
    Pages 219-229

About this book


‘Terence Rattigan was among the most successful British playwrights of the modern era – a master of comedy as well as tragedy.  He is so incredibly good it should come as no surprise that a significant revival has been underway for some time.  In fact, Rattigan has been slowly achieving a permanent place of esteem in the essential repertoire of twentieth century dramatists.  And that place will be bolstered by this brilliant comprehensive study of the playwright’s art by John A. Bertolini.  His book is a pleasure to read:  elegantly written, persistently intelligent, and lucid, and it does exactly what it promises:  makes a case for Rattigan.’ - Jay Parini, D.E.Axinn Professor of English, Middlebury College, USA

This book asserts the extraordinary quality of mid-twentieth century playwright Terence Rattigan’s dramatic art and its basis in his use of subtext, implication, and understatement. By discussing every play in chronological order, the book also articulates the trajectory of Rattigan’s darkening vision of the human potential for happiness from his earlier comedies through his final plays in which death appears as a longed for peace. New here is the exploration through close analysis of Rattigan’s style of writing dialogue and speeches, and how that style expresses Rattigan’s sense of life. Likewise, the book newly examines how Rattigan draws on sources in Greek and Roman history, literature, and myth, as well as how he invites comparison with the work of other playwrights, especially Bernard Shaw and Shakespeare. It will appeal broadly to college and university students studying dramatic literature, but also and especially to actors and directors, and the play-going, play-reading public.


Terrence Rattigan Twentieth-century Drama British theatre dramatic art writing influences theatrical inheritance George Bernard Shaw Oscar Wilde Shakespeare playwriting characterization pessimistic worldview human relations self reflexivity

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Middlebury College, USAMiddleburyUSA

About the authors

John A. Bertolini teaches Dramatic Literature, Shakespeare and Film at Middlebury College in Vermont, USA. He holds the Ellis Chair in English and the Liberal Arts. He has written The Playwrighting Self of Bernard Shaw, edited Shaw and Other Playwrights, introduced and annotated two volumes of Shaw’s plays for Barnes & Noble, as well as written articles on Hitchcock, Renaissance Drama, and American Drama.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Case for Terence Rattigan, Playwright
  • Authors John A. Bertolini
  • Series Title Bernard Shaw and His Contemporaries
  • Series Abbreviated Title Bernard Shaw and His Contemporaries
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Literature, Cultural and Media Studies Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-40996-2
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-82237-2
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-40997-9
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XII, 229
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Theatre History
    British Culture
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“It is an insightful analysis of Rattigan’s work, showing the real emotional complexity and intensity of the plays beneath exchanges that might seem at first glance linguistically unmemorable. … Bertolini is very good at teasing out the emotional transactions that transform these seemingly banal moments into profound pieces of theatrical anthropology, scrutinizing the rituals of our tribe. The comprehensiveness of the book pays particular dividends when he comes to some of the lesser-known plays.” (Dan Rebellato, Modern Drama, Vol. 61 (03), Fall, 2018)

“The Case for Terence Rattigan: Playwright is an early volume in a new series, Bernard Shaw and His Contemporaries, published by Palgrave Macmillan for a largely academic and global readership. … There could hardly be a more timely and eloquent study of Rattigan as a literary (and dramatic) artists than John A. Bertolini’s The Case for Terence Rattigan, Playwright and we may hope that the Palgrave book is widely read by academics and taught to new generations of students.” (Holly Hill, The Rattigan, Issue 21, July, 2017)

“There is much illuminating textual analysis here - of career-spanning dramatic techniques (the use of letters, the silent reappear­ance of characters), for instance, and the development of two classic Rattigan set-ups: father-son conflict, and a woman's love for a younger man. Bertolini is precise in unpicking Rattigan's verbal strategies, such as the use of qualifiers, as well as how his characters echo one another’s statements, and in doing so reveal new, painful meanings. This is especially perceptive and detailed.” (Holly Williams, TLS The Times Literary Supplement,, March, 2017)

“With his lucid, nuanced analyses, Bertolini reveals and explains Rattigan’s artistry. This thoughtful book serves both as a study of the playwright and as a manual on reading and understanding drama—useful to students, actors, and directors alike.” (Sally Peters, SHAW The Journal of Bernard Shaw Studies, Vol. 37 (2), 2017)