Lionel Abel's original Metatheatre, now published in the company of new essays, has inspired a whole generation of playwrights and critics since it first appeared in 1963. Indeed, to insiders the very word ""metatheatre,"" coined by Lionel Abel, has become as familiar as the plays the author uses to exemplify his theory. Abel's basic premise is that ""tragedy is difficult if not altogether impossible for the modern dramatist."" Having identified the modern, existential dilemma (for both playwright and audience), Abel sets out to provide a theory for its resolution. In doing so he illuminates plays by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Calderon, Racine, Wilde, Genet, Brecht, Beckett, Pirandello, and others with ease and probity, offering a new generation of readers fresh, insightful interpretations. And if anyone thinks Lionel Abel has tempered his style be forewarned: As in his opening critique of those he considers to be playing ""language games,"" his criticism remains as piercing as ever.
Lionel Abel (1910-2001), a distinguished essayist and critic, was also an Obie-winning playwright. His plays include Absalom, The Death of Odysseus, The Pretender, and The Wives. He was Professor Emeritus in the English Department at the State University of New York, Buffalo.