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This article is taken from PN Review 215, Volume 40 Number 3, January - February 2014.

Exit, in Pursuit of a Bugbear: Edwin Morgan and Poetic Drama James McGonigal
In 1990 Edwin Morgan turned seventy. Born in 1920, he would always read the opening of each new decade as the signal of some change of direction and this, it transpired, would be drama's time. Work for the stage brought him new audiences, awards, rewards. Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac: A New Verse Translation (1992) won an Edinburgh Festival First Award, and a £5000 prize from the Hamada Foundation, shared with Gerry Mulgrew, director of the Communicado Theatre Company. His new version of Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus (1999) toured widely with TAG Theatre (Theatre About Glasgow) in schools, prisons and community venues. Jean Racine's Phaedra: A Tragedy (2000) was produced by the Royal Lyceum Company in Edinburgh and won the Weidenfeld Translation Prize in 2001. But translation into what? The strongly Glaswegian Scots of this latest translation had been all right, some felt, for the broader comedy, or heroic comedy, of Cyrano, but not for Racine's classical French. Some discerned a political motivation, as the ruling classes in this tragedy use not Standard English of the 'centre' but the hitherto despised language of the 'margins'. In that millennial year, too, came further media-fuelled controversy at his unconventional portrayal of Jesus in A.D.: A Trilogy on the Life of Jesus Christ - a saviour who in his youth had smoked hashish and fathered an illegitimate child.

But this dramatic turn was not new. Morgan had been worrying at questions of verse drama since the 1950s when the post-war vogue for poetic drama presented a particular challenge. Whether ...


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