The head of the BBC drama department and author of Brecht: the Man and His Work and The Theatre of the Absurd here compiles a remarkably cohesive series of essays reflecting the development of modern theatre from the mid nineteenth century when the view of world order changed from the rational to the irrational. Which inaugurated the determinism of Zola who influenced the great naturalists Chekhov and Ibsen (An Enemy of the People, Hedda Gabler and The Master Builder carefully analyzed). But the old mold and conventions of this once revolutionary form were discarded by the personality probing of Pirandello; the masterful integrated effects of Brecht; the guilty concerns of Max Frisch; the violent obsessions of Durrenmatt and the creative process of Ionesco. Mr. Esslin discusses the changes in terms of the playwrights themselves and their creative neuroses. This includes supplemental biographies; a conversation with Rolf Hochhuth; dissertations on Gunter Grass, Peter Weiss, Artaud and the Theatre of Cruelty, nudism, Happenings and The Theatre of the Future (hopefully, in Mr. Esslin's viewpoint, a fusion of Brechtian Theatre and The Theatre of the Absurd). All very articulate and accessible although aimed at the critic and a more critical understanding.