Sir Hall Caine: Plays

Sir (Thomas Henry) Hall Caine (1853–1931), one of the most popular authors of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, is all but forgotten now, his once widely read novels dismissed by modern critics and readers for their turgid prose, implausible plots, and didactic tone. Yet he was a literary celebrity during his lifetime: over a career spanning four decades, Caine wrote fifteen novels that grappled with the explosive subjects of adultery, divorce, domestic violence, illegitimacy, infanticide, religious bigotry, and women’s rights. Each sold hundreds of thousands of copies, ran to multiple editions, and was translated into dozens of languages.

Caine was also one of the most commercially successful dramatists of his generation. He wrote theatrical adaptations of seven of his novels as well as plays on original subjects that were perfectly pitched to the popular taste of his day.

My PhD thesis (University of Leicester, 2015) was a study of Caine’s writing for the stage and his collaborations with leading actors and managers, including Wilson Barrett, Viola Allen, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Louis Napoleon Parker, Mrs Patrick Campbell, George Alexander, Henry Irving, and Arthur Collins. In the thesis, I challenged the undeserved obscurity into which Caine’s plays have fallen, correcting and extending the cursory treatment they have received to date. Caine emerges as a major dramatist whose work complicates long-accepted distinctions between ‘romance’ and ‘realism’ as generic categories.

I am currently engaged in researching and writing a full-length study of Caine’s work in the theatre as a critic and playwright. In the meantime, I publish here two items created in the course of preparing my thesis: a handlist of his plays, and detailed synopses of those that were produced.

The handlist is the first comprehensive list of Caine’s plays and provides essential context for understanding his career as a professional playwright. Plays are listed by date of first major production. Because most of these are unpublished, I have indicated where extant manuscripts can be found. I have included locations of promptbooks where known. The list of ‘Unproduced’ plays, which includes plays that were given only a copyright performance or plays that exist only in scenario form, is presented by date of composition.

Detailed synopses of each of Caine’s produced plays can be accessed by clicking on the titles of the plays in the handlist.

My thesis can be downloaded from the British Library’s EThOS site as a PDF.

I welcome your questions or comments.