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Dangerous Corner


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A: J. B. Priestley Pf: 1932, London Pb: 1932 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Drawing room of the Caplans’ country home, England, 1930s C: 3m, 4fRobert Caplan, a publisher, and his wife Freda have held a dinner party for Freda's brother and his wife, Gordon and Betty Whitehouse, a novelist Maud Mockridge, the publishing firm's secretary Olwen Peel, and the cynical Charles Stanton. The company begins to discuss whether truth should be told in any circumstances. Betty argues that life has many ‘dangerous corners’ and that it may be wiser to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’. Failing to find dance music on the radio, they pursue their discussion, and Robert is soon intent on uncovering the truth about his brother Martin's suicide. Martin supposedly committed suicide after being accused of stealing money. In fact, Stanton stole the money to spend on his mistress Betty, who felt ignored by her effete husband Gordon, who was in love with Martin. Martin, it turns out, was having an affair with Freda, while Robert adored Betty. Olwen, who is in love with Robert, reveals that Martin was accidentally shot when, crazed with drugs, he had tried to rape her, and the gun went off in the ensuing struggle. Robert is so shattered by these revelations that he goes upstairs and shoots himself. The play begins again with identical dialogue, but this time Gordon finds dance music on the radio, and the carefree couples begin dancing together.

A: J. B. Priestley Pf: 1932, London Pb: 1932 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Drawing room of the Caplans’ country home, England, 1930s C: 3m, 4f

This was the first of Priestley's ‘time plays’, written under the influence of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, who argued that time is cyclical and that parallel time streams may proceed from the same moment. One does not need to subscribe to this philosophy, however, to find this a gripping piece of theatre, a kind of ethical striptease distantly reminiscent of Oedipus the King. That the whole tragedy might be avoided by something as trivial as finding music on the radio lends added poignancy, a still popular device as witnessed by the film Sliding Doors (1998).

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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J. B. Priestley (1894—1984) writer


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