Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Thrace to Topeka >> Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt

family, real, pinero, play and act

THUNDERBOLT, The, a comedy in four acts, by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, represents the mature work of one of the most skilful of con temporary English dramatists. In it he dis cards most of the theatrical conventions which constitute the common stock in trade of the playwright's craft and which he knows how to use with consummate ease and dexterity. He himself modestly describes 'The Thunderbolt' as °an episode in the history of a provincial family?' We are introduced in the first act into a family conclave of the Mortimores. Edward, the only member who has achieved wealth, lies dead upstairs. He was a bachelor and although he had been estranged from his brothers and sister for many years. they are his °next of kino and presumably his heirs, for, to their delighted surprise, he has ap parently left no will nor made any provision whatever for the young woman who is known to be his daughter and whom he has educated and supported lavishly and affectionately. The reactions of the various members of the family to this situation as it develops are portrayed with a ruthless truth and simplicity which remind one rather of Balzac than of the author of 'Sweet Lavender,"The Magistrate' and 'The Second Mrs. Tanqueray.' One feels the influence of the conversational play of Shaw and Granville Barker but in 'The Thunderbolt' it is real talk of quite ordinary people, always forwarding the movement of the drama, never halting it for philosophical discussion or bril liant monologue. Pinero is so enamored of his new realistic method that he sacrifices to it the opportunity of an effective °curtain° in the third act. The family is again in council and

the thunderbolt has fallen; there was a will leaving everything to the daughter, Helen. Thaddeus, having just been forced to confess that it was his wife, not himself, who had found and destroyed this will, flings out of the room with a frantic but futile appeal to the family and the lawyers: °Oh, my God, let me get her away! . . . Don't you harm a hair of her head! Don't you touch her! She's been a good wife to mel° Instead of ending the scene on this poignant note, Pinero. makes us linger to watch the exasperated family quarrel and lament over the money they see slipping through their greedy fingers. But greedy and selfish and petty as they are, they. are very human, and James' frank statement in the last act of what the money really means to them reconciles one to the solution by which.they all get a share, although Helen's inagnammity is perhaps the least natural thing in the play. She is not a very appealing heroine and all the other characters are people one would avoid if possible in real life. There is no love in terest, no sex problem, no fun, and but little action. In view of the lack of these elements of popular appeal it is not surprising that 'The Thunderbolt' has not been one of Pinero's conspicuous successes on the stage but to the real lover of the drama and to the student of lite, it is his most important play. It was first produced in London in 1908 and was presented at the New Theatre, New York, in 1910.