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How Plays Work

How Plays Work

By David Edgar
Imprint: Nick Hern Books
Paperback : 9781854593719, 228 pages, April 2010
Paperback : 9781839040313, 288 pages, August 2021


In How Plays Work, distinguished playwright David Edgar examines the mechanisms and techniques which dramatists throughout the ages have employed to structure their plays and to express their meaning.

Written for playwrights and playgoers alike, Edgar's analysis starts with the building blocks of whole plays – plot, character-creation, genre and structure – and moves on to scenes and devices. He shows how plays share a common architecture without which the uniqueness of their authors' vision would be invisible.

How Plays Work is both a masterclass for playwrights and playmakers and a fascinating guide to the anatomy of drama. In this revised edition, Edgar brings the book right up to date with analyses of many recent plays, as well as explorations of emerging genres and new innovations in playwriting practice.

'A brilliantly illuminating, bang-up-to-date, unmissable read' April De Angelis

'A book of real theoretical heft written by a major working playwright' Steve Waters

'An essential accompaniment for anyone fascinated by the craft of dramatic storytelling' John Yorke

'Every theatremaker should read this book' Pippa Hill, Literary Manager, Royal Shakespeare Company

'Even if you've read the book before, it demands to be reread' Simon Callow

'Combines theoretical acumen with the assured know-how of a working dramatist' Terry Eagleton, Times Literary Supplement


"Lucid, deeply intelligent... combines theoretical acumen with the assured know-how of a working dramatist."

- Terry Eagleton, Times Literary Supplement

"Fascinating... read it. You will learn a lot."

- The Stage