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The Lady's Not for Burning

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  481 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
Fry's best-known play, The Lady's Not For Burning, is acclaimed for its optimism and exuberant word play. This edition contains only the text of the play.
Paperback, Acting Edition, 72 pages
Published June 1st 1994 by Dramatists Play Service, Inc. (first published 1949)
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Hamlet by William ShakespeareMacbeth by William ShakespeareThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeRomeo and Juliet by William ShakespeareWaiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Best Plays Ever
108th out of 656 books — 833 voters
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Titlemania III: Whole-Sentence Titles
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,009)
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Feb 02, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
THE LADY’S NOT FOR BURNING. (1949). Christopher Fry. ****.
This was Fry’s first big hit for the stage, both in the UK and on Broadway. It is written, as you might expect, in blank verse, but flows beautifully, both as a silent read and when read aloud. It is a comedy, though more a comedy of errors than one of general humor. It is about the announced marriage of a young girl to one of twin brothers, Humphrey, who suddenly realizes that the doesn’t love her but has to go through with the ceremony
Sep 09, 2011 Sketchbook rated it really liked it
Fry shines more as a verbalist than a dramatist. His
talkiness is, really, next to Godliness. C 1950, when
TS Eliot was also writing verse plays, there was an
Eliot-Fry vogue of "lit-drama" -- for a while. This was
pushed aside x Theatre of the Absurd and the Kitchen Sink
School. Fry's work reminds some of Shakespeare, but I
agree w those who refer to him as a verseful of Shaw.
For he delights in contradiction, irony and paradox. With
Fry's imagery and lyrical wordplay, you really have to
perk up your ea
May 02, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Definitely in the running for my favorite play of the 20th century (the other top contender being Arcadia. A verse drama set in the late Middle Ages, it abounds with beautiful language, interesting characters, wit, romance, and wisdom. Some of the speeches are extraordinarily beautiful, such as the following:
I seem to wish to have some importance
In the play of time. If not,
Then sad was my mother's pain, my breath, my bones,
My web of nerves, my wondering brain,
To be shaped and quickened with suc
Jun 20, 2015 Keith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Lady’s Not for Burning is a delightful comedy/farce. I especially enjoyed the light touch of its humor upon dark subjects. The plot is also very well formed and moves along rapidly to a satisfying denouement.

I have more than a passing interest in verse drama, so I find the success of this play very interesting. (It had long runs on the England and the American stages in the 1950s.) The reason is simple: It is a piece of good theatre – interesting characters, excellent plot, suspense and sur
Apr 14, 2012 Alastair rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favourites. A book I checked out of the library because I saw it on the shelf & couldn't wait to get home & read (it was springtime). Lyrical poetry, deep thoughts, a radical engagement with the Christian world-view (Mr Fry & I differ somewhat on conclusions but have much in common).

I was in a production of this in college as the raving old man at the end. So much happened around this play. I can't quite extricate it from that point in my life (like, for example,
May 14, 2015 Lysergius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
This play is so neglected these days! The Lady's Not for Burning is a wonderful rural-social-fantasy in which 'the costumes are as much 14-century as anything else'. Thomas Mendip is a world-weary soldier fed up with living who wanders into a small medieval town determined to get hanged. He swears he's the devil, 'he who sings solo bass in Hell's madrigal choir' (and who's voice should on no occasion be confused with that of a peacock!) and insists that the towns people hang him at once. The onl ...more
Oct 21, 2010 Stuart rated it it was amazing
Fry writes a modern Shakespearean comedy, complete with two pairs of lovers, clownish twins and some May Day madness where everything mixed up is made right again. Excellent ensemble roles and beautifully written love poetry interspersed with his usual wit and intelligence. A good choice for a director with a great cast looking to show their stuff without reverting to the usual classics.
Aug 05, 2015 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exquisitely hilarious.
Dec 20, 2014 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Charmingly, satirically, hysterically comic short play in verse. The fun of having joined goodreads is to have a peek into books others have read. This was one I had not heard of before so I read it at the library today and had to control my laughter so as not to disturb other patrons.
I learned that Richard Burton and John Gielgud (as well as Claire Bloom) played in this one on Broadway in 1950. If you can find it at your library, enjoy! Out of fashion though it may be, this play has some great
Aug 19, 2013 §-- rated it did not like it
Shelves: plays
American humor: "Isn't it funny that..."
British humor: "Wouldn't it be funny if...?"

Which of the two of these takes more intelligence, or, better yet, effort?

There is a point at which "wit" is just incongruity, eccentricity, or just nonsense. This can be learned even in conversation with people who are not funny but wish they were--they just try to act surprising or strange.

This play is almost unreadable. Not one character is developed at all, to the point where their actions seem not inevitabl
Sherry (sethurner)
May 07, 2011 Sherry (sethurner) rated it it was amazing
I had been meaning to read The Lady's Not For Burning: Comedy in Verse in Three Acts pretty much forever. But when events conspired - a book group decided to read about witch trials, and our local library demoted the script to the "friend Shop" for sale, I decided I had to have it. What the heck took me so long? I think the idea of a comedy in verse might scare lots of people off, but Shakespeare wrote comedies in verse and they're still really popular. This play should still be popular, not dis ...more
Jan 30, 2011 Guy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: multiple-reads
A truly great peace of pointed, funny writing that works on the stage very well. The made for TV version (with Kenneth Branagh and Cherie Lunghi) was very good, but the live production I saw of it filled my senses and mind with energy. A woman is to burnt for being a witch, and a man confesses to a killing in a bid for suicide by state intervention. The town's authorities refuse to believe in his guilt, and refuse to believe in the woman's innocence. The irony is not lost on the man or woman, wh ...more
Aug 24, 2014 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Oh! This was so wonderful. Every line was a gem. Of course, that meant I got slightly blinded by the constant glitter.

ALIZON Our father
God moved many lives to show you to me.
I think that is the way it must have happened.
It was complicated, but very kind.

Of course, it did suffer from the plague of plays - that is, everyone who fell in love did so in the space of five minutes. But what a fall!
Julian Munds
Aug 07, 2015 Julian Munds rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my god... what a fantastic play. This beauty has a disdain for the classic view of love and it looks at love as kind of willing torture. The characters are rich and rie and I mean, I just could not stop reading this thing. Such clarity in hyperbole. It's do damned special.
Dennis Fischman
Nov 24, 2014 Dennis Fischman rated it liked it
Shelves: drama
"I've had enough. The whole thing's become I recognizable." The language is witty but the characters and the situation make no contact with lived reality.
May 08, 2013 Autumn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: play, funny-stuff
This was suggested to me by my acting teacher for a monologue and I am so glad she lent it to me. Not only did I get a fantastic monologue out of it, but I loved the whole play. Nicholas had me cracking up with his "murder" of his brother. Thomas, who has decided he MUST be hanged and persistently petitions the judge throughout the play to hang him, is wonderful. Very odd, very poetic, very set on dying, but oh so wonderful. Jennet, who is accused of being a witch, comes in laughing at the absur ...more
Kelly Oissar
Mar 07, 2015 Kelly Oissar rated it it was amazing
I can read this over and over again!!!
Sep 07, 2015 Michelle rated it it was ok
Shelves: meh, school-assigned
burn the lady
Apr 03, 2014 Priceh rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite plays of all time. Fabulous language.
Feb 17, 2008 Charliece rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 29, 2009 Cecilia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
I very much enjoyed this play. The language is delicious and the wit is sharp. The story ends a little silly, but that's alright, as the main characters are the depressed hopeless people who decide to live because they find love in each other, even if that doesn't change how the feel about how horrible the world is. Well-crafted with fun costumes. I actually think Playmakers might really enjoy this show.
Dec 05, 2010 Alex rated it liked it
My favorite part about this is something that happened in a production of it done at my university -- one of the characters "lights" a chandelier, which was rigged to light up one bulb at a time, as if they were proper candles. The play itself was nice, but as I was more involved with the technical aspects, my memories of it are of the colors and the costumes and the lights. It's a lovely story.
Feb 13, 2008 Nicole rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays-prose
A roommate in college used to quote this play nonstop so eventually I had to find out why. When the book is somewhere handier I will throw a few choice quotes in here. I adore how expressive the author is with his words. The book is set in the 15th century and concerns a woman who is trying to avoid being burned as a witch and a man who wishes to be executed.
Jan 30, 2009 Laura rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Shakespeare's romances
Recommended to Laura by: indirectly- Pamela Dean
Shelves: plays
I read this play ages ago (it seems) because Dean mentions it in "Tam Lin". This is your typical British romantic play, where a thousand incredulous things are all happening at once complete with humourous miscommunication, and ends with an even number of happy couples. Thomas Mendip in particular is both a vexing and humorous lead character.
Nov 02, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jennifer by: pamela dean, a young man full of promises
My copy is a bit wrinkled and teary from my recent divorce; but still one of my favorite plays and I'd jump at the opportunity to see it performed.

I think probably the most apt description is Isiscaughey's: A lovely story of two rather sad people who manage to save each other. Which is really all that needs to be said, isn't it?
Jan 21, 2014 Victoria rated it liked it
Free play that I found in my college library. It was somewhat funny.
Jun 08, 2007 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
A wonderful play, set in the middle ages, though it was written post World War II. A lovely story of two rather sad people who manage to save each other.

This was referenced in Tam Lin, which is what brought my attention to it, but I truly enjoyed it for its own sake upon reading it.
Oct 01, 2008 Alyse rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008, plays, plays-2008
This was recommended to me by a dear friend, but I found it very difficult to get through. It may be better on stage than on paper.

Act one drags a bit with a lot of background info, but by act three you are fairly invested in the characters.
Dec 29, 2013 Celia rated it it was amazing
Still my favorite play ever read, ever. I like to just roll around in the words and let them wash over me.
Annette Hart
Sep 25, 2009 Annette Hart rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-read, historical, drama
I was in a production of this play at school and thoroughly enjoyed it but sadly have not seen or heard of the play since. I would love to re-read it (or actually see a performance!)
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“What after all, is a halo? It's only one more thing to keep clean.” 11 likes
“I seem to wish to have some importance
In the play of time. If not,
Then sad was my mother's pain, my breath, my bones,
My web of nerves, my wondering brain,
to be shaped and quickened with such anticipation
Only to feed the swamp of space.
What is deep, as love is deep, I'll have
Deeply. What is good, as love is good,
I'll have well. Then if time and space
Have any purpose, I shall belong to it.
If not, if all is a pretty fiction
To distract the cherubim and seraphim
Who so continually do cry, the least
I can do is to fill the curled shell of the world
With human deep-sea sound, and hold it to
The ear of God, until he has appetite
To taste our salt sorrow on his lips.
And so you see it might be better to die.
Though, on the other hand, I admit it might
Be immensely foolish.”
More quotes…