Monday, September 11, 2017

Classic Literature – Dracula: Or the Undead - A Play in Prologue and Five Acts

The fact that Bram Stoker wrote the seminal vampire novel Dracula and published it in 1897 is likely to be known to most readers who come here. That he wrote a play based on his novel that was performed once in 1897 may not be as well known.

Now before you get excited I have to point out that the copyright laws were such, at the time, that if Stoker was to keep the rights to a play version of his novel he had to not only produce one himself but it had to have a public performance. He started the play by hand but eventually resorted to cutting and pasting (literally, of course) parts of the novel. The performance was ostensibly public but in reality would have had an audience of a few select persons and the performance will have been more a walkthrough than a full performance.

There are some differences between play and novel – mostly for stage expediency – but this does not, in my opinion, radically alter the book. One can imagine that the play dragged with huge passages of heavy dialogue, indeed Sir Henry Irving is reported to have called it dreadful – let us remember the purpose, however, this was not a honed production. However, despite this, the volume is a genuinely nice curio for the hardcore Dracula aficionado. Editor Sylvia Starshine offers annotations, which are slightly marred by an overt Vlad III focus in places – though let us remember this was first published in 1997 and thus a lot of the work done to put a nail in the idea that Stoker based the character on the historic figure was still to come.

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