Maxwell Anderson and the Temple of Man

Publication Year



Maxwell Anderson, man, theater, drama, writing


Arts and Humanities | Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature


"I believe...that the theater is essentially a cathedral of the spirit, devoted to the exaltation of men"; "The theater, more than any other art, has the power to weld and determine what the race dreams into what the race will become." --Maxwell Anderson

Maxwell Anderson is, by his own admission, a priest in the temple of the glory of man. His special function is to challenge and inspire mankind to develop its inherent potential for godlikeness.

The above quotations illustrate Anderson's attitude toward the theater as a n institution. He believes that all theatrical presentations are, consciously or unconsciously, services of worship, in which the object of adoration is the greatness of man. In his essay, "The Essence of Tragedy," Anderson traces modern drama back to the Bacchic rites of the early Greeks, designed to celebrate the animal side of man, and to the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles, designed to show the nobility of man's nature. From those first rites, says Anderson, came Old Greek Comedy, which has its descendants in the farces, burlesques, and coarser musical comedies of our time. From the tragedies came the serious drama of all ages, celebrating man's virtue and aspirations to a higher life. But drama is still primarily worship, and the theater is a temple in which the worshipers "acquire virtue...according to their understanding and the wisdom and skill of the functioning playwright."

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

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