British playwright and novelist.
Arden studied at Cambridge and Edinburgh and trained as an architect, but from the late 1950s devoted himself to the theatre. His early plays, which included The Waters of Babylon (1957), Live Like Pigs (1958), and The Happy Haven (1960), were grotesque comedies of modern life. With the publication of his dramas Sergeant Musgrave's Dance (1959) and Armstrong's Last Goodnight (1964) he was acknowledged as one of the leading dramatists of the 1960s. He was particularly acclaimed for his use of heightened colloquial speech to express such deep, dangerous, and often irresolvable issues as pacifism and violence. Since the mid-1960s many of his plays have been written in collaboration with his wife, Margaretta D'Arcy. Major commercial success has eluded Arden, despite the praise of the critics, and following a highly publicized dispute with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the early 1970s he has largely forsaken the mainstream theatre in order to stage his works with fringe theatre groups. More recent plays include Don Quixote (1980), Garland for a Hoar Head (1982), and Whose is the Kingdom? (1988). He has also published a collection of essays, To Present the Pretence (1977), and such novels as Silence Among the Weapons (1982), Books of Bale (1988), and Jack Juggler and the Emperor's Whore (1995).