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Orton, Joe. (1933 - 1967).

W o r k

- distrusted all systems of authority and control, strongly perceived the potential of the state to oppress the citizen

- fought back against authority with an anarchic verbal comedy, exploited and transformed the traditional forms of comedy and farce

- wrote to the press and theatre managers under a female pseudonym: parodied the bourgeois respectability and complained of his own work = an ‘endless parade of mental and physical perversion’

- made the old morality and the old social order vanish x but: left a space both amoral and apolitical

- structured his comedy not simply to expose the folly of the fool, the double standards of the hypocrite, etc. x but: to disrupt the status quo

- made his villains no fools, his fools no innocents, and his innocents no wronged paragons: innocence can never be a defence

- used a sordid camp (The Erpingham Camp) or a private psychiatric clinic (What the Butler Saw) setting as a metaphor for an over-organised and explosively revolutionary state

- took an anarchist's delight in fostering disorder x but: none in reclaiming order again

> criticized for never exploring the consequences of the social questions he raises

Entertaining Mr Sloane (1964)
Loot (1966)
The Ruffian on the Stair (1967)
The Erpingham Camp (1967)
What the Butler Saw (1967)


"Truscott: And you complain you were beaten? Dennis: Yes. Truscott: Did you tell anyone? Dennis: Yes. Truscott: Who? Dennis: The officer in charge. Truscott: What did he say? Dennis: Nothing. Truscott: Why not? Dennis: He was out of breath with kicking."

From Loot (1965).


(Photo: Lewis Morley. 1965. Source: BBC).

  • Author

    John Kingsley Orton. Aka Joe Orton. (1933 - 1967). British.
  • Work

    Playwright. Author of What the Butler Saw (1967).
  • Genres

    Black comedy. Farce.


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Baugh, Albert C. ed. A Literary History of England. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.

Coote, Stephen. The Penguin Short History of English Literature. London: Penguin, 1993.

Sampson, George. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


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