14 September 1916 |
Bolton, Lancashire, England
Eric Bentley (born September 14, 1916) is a British-born American critic, playwright, singer, editor and translator. In 1998, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and is a member of the New York Theater Hall of Fame in recognition of his many years of cabaret performances.
Born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, Bentley attended Oxford University, receiving his degree in 1938, and subsequently attended Yale University (B.Litt, 1939 and PhD., 1941), where he received the John Addison Porter Prize.
Beginning in 1953, Bentley taught at Columbia University and simultaneously was a theatre critic for The New Republic. Known for his blunt style of theatre criticism, Bentley incurred the wrath of playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, both of whom threatened to sue him for his unfavorable reviews of their work. From 1960-1961, Bentley was the Norton professor at Harvard University.
Bentley is considered one of the preeminent experts on Bertolt Brecht, whom he met at UCLA as a young man and whose works he has translated extensively. He edited the Grove Press issue of Brecht's work, and recorded two albums of Brecht's songs for Folkways Records, most of which had never before been recorded in English.
In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
Bentley was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1969. That same year, he declared his homosexuality. In an interview in the New York Times on November 12, 2006, he claimed he was married twice before coming out at age 53, at which time he left his post as the Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature at Columbia to concentrate on writing. He has cited his homosexuality as an influence on his theater work, especially his play Lord Alfred's Lover, based on the life of Oscar Wilde.
He has written many critical books, including A Century of Hero-Worship, The Playwright as Thinker, Bernard Shaw, What Is Theatre?, The Life of the Drama, Theatre of War, Brecht Commentaries, and Thinking About the Playwright. In addition, he edited The Importance Of Scrutiny (1964), a collection of pieces from Scrutiny: A Quarterly Review, the noted critical periodical, and Thirty Years of Treason: Excerpts from Hearings Before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, 1938–1968 (1971). His most-produced play, 1972's Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been: The Investigations of Show-Business by the Un-American Activities Committee 1947-1958, was based on the transcripts collected in Thirty Years of Treason..
Critical works 
- 1944 A Century Of Hero Worship
- 1946 The Playwright As Thinker
- 1947 Bernard Shaw
- 1953 In Search of Theater
- 1956 What Is Theatre?
- 1964 The Life Of The Drama
- 1972 Theater Of War
- 1981 Brecht Commentaries
- 1987 Thinking About The Playwright
- "A Man's A Man" by Bertolt Brecht Year of Release 1963
- Bentley on Biermann: Songs and Poems of Wolf Biermann Year of Release 1968
- Bentley on Brecht: Songs and Poems of Bertolt Brecht Year of Release 1965
- Bertolt Brecht before the Committee on Un-American Activities: An Historical Encounter
- Bertolt Brecht's The Exception and the Rule Year of Release 1965
- Eric Bentley Sings The Queen of 42nd Street Year of Release 1970
- Songs of Hanns Eisler Year of Release 1964
- The Elephant Calf and Small Comments on Large Themes Year of Release 1968
Dramatic works 
- A Time To Live & A Time To Die (1967) published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
- Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been: The Investigations of Show-Business by the Un-American Activities Committee 1947-1958 (1972) Collected in Monstrous Martyrdoms (1985)
- Lord Alfred's Lover (1979)
- H for Hamlet (1985?)
- German Requiem
- Round One published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
- Round Two published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
- The Sternheim Trilogy containing The Underpants, The Snob, & 1913, published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
- Historical Register of Yale University, 1937-1951 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952), p. 80.
- “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
- "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
- In Monstrous Martyrdoms, p. 11, Bentley mentions the play has been first published in Pirandellian Studies in 1985.
- Columbia Fetes American Theater Legend Eric Bentley
- NY Times: Eric Bentley at 90
- Bentley Discography on Folkways Records