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Summary Article: Arden, John
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English dramatist. His early plays Serjeant Musgrave's Dance (1959) and The Workhouse Donkey (1963) contain trenchant social criticism and show the influence of Bertolt Brecht. Subsequent works, often written in collaboration with his wife, Margaretta D'Arcy, express increasing concern with the political situation in Northern Ireland and dissatisfaction with the professional and subsidized theatre world.

Later plays include The Happy Haven (1960), Armstrong's Last Goodnight (1964), adventurously extending the techniques and political concerns of Serjeant Musgrave's Dance, and Left-handed Liberty (1965). Arden and D'Arcy picketed the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of their own play The Island of the Mighty, a treatment of the Arthurian legend, after a notorious dispute over creative control in 1972. Arden was also a fiction writer and published several books including the novel Silence Among the Weapons (1982; Booker Prize shortlist).

Arden was born in Barnsley and educated at King's College, Cambridge, and Edinburgh College of Art, where he qualified as an architect. He first came to attention with a prize-winning radio play, The Life of Man (1956). This was followed by The Waters of Babylon (1957) and Live Like Pigs (1958), both produced at the Royal Court Theatre. Serjeant Musgrave's Dance is generally regarded as his finest work; it deals with the realities of war and the tragically unsuccessful attempt by a group of deserters to act effectively against those guilty of encouraging war.

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