Gide's theatre, according to the essay, written in 1904 and printed at the end the five plays in this volume, is based on the principle that art dies in freedom. It needs friction on which to grow. In operation, the poet takes certain figures, historical as Gide has done in these plays, and does with them as he pleases in order to portray he world he sees. He has against him of course, the actor's portrayal of the character nd the philosophy or set of morals upon which the society of the audience and the play based. These are a few of the problems Gide states in his call for a renewal of dramatic art- to disengage it from the ""mantle of custom"" and in creating new heroes and heroism, to widen the gap between player and audience and keep drama from the morass of the merely episodic. The plays, except for the last one, Persehene (1933) were all written between 1896 and 1904. The others are titled Saul. Bathsheba Petetes, and King Candaules, and they are some measure of the criteria Gide has set forth in his essay. Saul, as a bitter and emotionally insecure old man, burns with the flames of his own inadequacies and his distrust of mankind. He at once wants to know the future and is afraid of the sorcerers who can help him find it. Dramatic irony is built up in the situation whereby Saul is soothed by David, his real threat to power. Philoctetes, an old man cast off on an island by Ulysses during one of his voyages, has the bow of Hercules which Ulysses sends a protegee, Neoptolemus, to obtain by trickery. Unable to deceive, young Neoptolemus confesses to Philoctetes only to be chastized for trying to gain true virtue (the sense of which Philoctetes has already won) too quickly. Full of countless further problems characteristic of Gide's writing and philosophy, these plays are interesting samples of his earlier works and should be in demand for all readers of French literature in translation.