William Archer (1856–1924) drama critic, and translator

William Archer (1856–1924) was a Scottish writer, drama critic, and translator. He was born in Perth, Scotland, and educated at Edinburgh University. He spent periods of his boyhood with his grandparents in Norway, where he learned the language; when he later became an influential drama critic in London, he did much to popularize Henrik Ibsen in England. His translation of Ibsen’s Pillars of Society became in 1880 the first Ibsen play to be produced in London, although it attracted little notice. In 1889, the production of his translation of A Doll’s House caused moral controversy, which increased with the production of Ghosts and Hedda Gabler in 1891, with Elizabeth Robins (1862–1952) in the role of Hedda.

He also translated, alone or in collaboration, other productions of the Scandinavian stage: Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (1889), The Master Builder (1893, with Edmund Gosse); Edvard Brandes’s A Visit (1892); and in 1892 he and his brother produced a translation of Peer Gynt. The collected works of Ibsen appeared in 1907. Archer campaigned extensively throughout his career to reform and modernize the English theatre. His books included: English Dramatists of Today (1882), Henry Irving, a study (1883) About the Theatre (1886), Masks and Faces? A Study in the Psychology of Acting (1888) (1888), W. C. Macready, a biography (1890), America To-day, Observations and Reflections (1900). His annual volumes of collected theatre criticism, The Theatrical World, appeared between 1894 and 1898. In 1907, with Harley Granville-Barker, he issued detailed proposals for a National Theatre, and in 1919 he assisted with the establishment of the New Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon. He wrote an essay titled The Great Analysis: A Plea for a Rational World-Order in 1912. In The Drama Old and New (1923), he promoted the work of George Bernard Shaw, whose career as a playwright he helped launch, and John Galsworthy among others; in the same year his own play, The Green Goddess, was produced with great success in London after a successful run two years earlier in America.

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