The Dance of Death (Auden play)

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First edition
(publ. Faber & Faber)

The Dance of Death is a one-act play in verse and prose by W. H. Auden, published in 1933.

The Dance of Death is a satiric musical extravaganza that portrays the "death inside" the middle classes as a silent dancer. The dancer first attempts to keep himself alive through escapism at a resort hotel, then through nationalistic enthusiasm, then through idealism, then through a New Year's party at a brothel, before he finally dies. Karl Marx appears on stage and pronounces the dancer dead. "The instruments of production have been too much for him."

The play was published by Faber & Faber in 1933, with a dedication to Robert Medley and Rupert Doone. It was performed by the Group Theatre (London), in 1934 and 1935. It was widely interpreted as pro-Communist, but Auden later wrote in a copy of the printed text, "The communists never spotted that this was a nihilistic leg-pull".


General references[edit]

  • Auden, W. H.; Isherwood, Christopher (19 February 2019). The Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Plays and Other Dramatic Writings, 1928-1938. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-65614-4.
  • Fuller, John (1998). W.H. Auden: A Commentary. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-07049-0.
  • Mendelson, Edward (22 May 2000). Early Auden. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-52695-5.

External links[edit]