John James Osborne is an English playwright, screenwriter, actor and critic.Most of his writing crackled with his anger. It was he who turned anger into art. His Look Back in Anger changed the course of British Theater and offered him wide acclaim. He explored many themes and genres, writing for stage, film and television. He was an 'angry young man' who raised his strong voice against the injustices of British society.
Osborne was born on December 12, 1929 in South West London. His father was then a commercial artist and copywriter. His mother worked as a barmaid in pubs most of her life. He adored his father and hated his mother. Much of Osborne's childhood was spent in near poverty. He suffered from frequent extended illnesses. He was deeply affected by his father's death. He became interested in theatre while working as a tutor for children. He was married five times. Osborne died as a result of complications from Diabetes on December 24th 1994 and was buried in the churchyard at Clun. He left behind a large body of work for the stage as well as several autobiographical works.
Osborne's career began while he was an actor. He tried his hand at writing plays.He wrote 25 stage plays and collaborations, five screenplays, 11 works for television, two volumes of autobiography and sundry short pieces of social comment and criticism. His reputation rests almost entirely on the Look Back in Anger. His other most significant plays are The Entertainer, Inadmissible Evidence and A Patriot for Me, Luther and The Hotel in Amsterdam. The two published volumes of his autobiography – A Better Class of Person: An Autobiography and Almost a Gentleman are the most interesting part of his later output. They provide a worthwhile picture of the environment which gave rise to Look Back in Anger.
When Osborne appeared on the literary scene British plays remained blind to the complexities of the postwar period. He single-handedly changed the course of post-war British drama. He was the first to question the point of the monarchy on a prominent public stage. In Look Back in Anger Osborne presents an antithesis to the `drawing room dramas' of the period. These dramas often featured polished and wealthy characters from the middle and upper classes. This play can be seen as a reaction both against the `drawing room' dramas and the general society.
Osborne’s real breakthrough came when Look Back in Anger was first staged on 8 May 1956. It was an outstanding success and was enthusiastically received by the critics. It has been recognized as a bombshell that blew up the old British theatre. It was the foundational work of the genre for which the term “kitchen-sink drama” was coined. The gritty realism of its setting represented a revolution in the British theatre. This play was perceived as giving voice to the lower-middle-class. It depicts the disillusionment and rebelliousness of post-war youth in
. The suffering hero Jimmy
Porter is the representative of this generation. He has a working-class
background and a university education. But he is unable to find employment and
so revolts against the injustices of British society. In short, it is the one- man play par- excellence. Osborne
captured the angry and rebellious nature of a dispossessed post-war generation.
Due to this he is labelled as angry young man. Britain
Osborne is appreciated for his setting, imagery and the use of language. His setting is fantastic, his imagery is evocative and his language is aligned with realism. This very language is a very powerful weapon of articulation. His art of characterization is also praiseworthy. The playwright creates his characters thoughtfully. The characters' speech and rhythms reflect their class and education. In short, Osborne is an outstanding anti-conventional dramatist who attracted the widest attention during the middle of the twentieth century.