Peter Brook And The Shifting Point Novel English Literature Essay

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Many famous and talented people, the representatives of different professions, among which are writers and singers, politicians and historians, actors and scientists, attract everybody's attention by their biographies. Of course, it is very interesting to know more about a man who has already had a great success in life and who can easily share his experience with others. Peter Brook is one of such people who are worthy of respect and whose wise thoughts should be analyzed and discussed. I think that his book The Shifting Point is worth to be reading and analyzing because it is not just an autobiography of a talented man, a theater director and a well-known playwright and a wonderful screenwriter but also this book can be considered a so-called guide to the wonderful world of theater. My goal in this essay is to discuss Peter Brook's book The Shifting Point and to prove the fact that this literary work deserves attention of all the people who are not indifferent to theater as a form of art.

To achieve this goal, I decided to organize my paper into several sections which will help to develop the theme. In the first section of my essay, I am going to provide information concerning the events in Peter Brook's life which compelled the author to write The Shifting Point. In the second section of my paper, I will touch upon the main idea of the above mentioned book and discuss the specific contents of it using some interesting quotes from the book. In the conclusion, I will summarize the main points of my essay and express my personal opinion concerning the works of Peter Brook and his ideas. Before starting the discussion of the book, I'd like to turn to the author himself and to some facts of his biography.


It is known that Peter Brook was born in London. His father, a Russian scientist, who came to Great Britain searching for the better life, was not a well-to-do man, nevertheless, Peter Brook got a good education. He studied at Westminster College, later at Oxford University where he was noticed as an active member of the amateur theater. His first amateur work on Jean Cocteau' s play La Machine Infemale attracted attention of the famous playwright Barry Jackson who offered twenty-years-old Brook to put a rather difficult play Man and Superman written by Bernard Show on the stage of Birmingham repertory theater. According to Peter Brook's words, he always hung upon his feelings and the sixth sense in his work. It always helped him to be the first on the stage and in life.

Brook was 21 when he was invited to Shakespeare Memorial Theater to produce Sharesperian plays. This unforgettable cycle of plays made him famous. Romeo and Juliet (1947) was a real sensation. It even set off a lively argument among the English theater critics. For the first time in his work Brook used the idea of "empty space" getting rid of many decorations. As a matter of fact, he was known for brave innovations on the stage and new styles of his productions. May be, his book The Shifting Point which was written in 1988, after about forty years of experience as a theater playwright, an opera playwright and a film producer has the main goal - to represent Peter Brook's ideas and thoughts concerning William Shakespeare's plays.

There were a great deal of other plays, operas and films where Peter Brook showed his talent of a playwright and screenwriter. Among them are the following plays:

King Lear (1962)

Measure for Measure (1950)

The Winter's Tale (1952)

Titus Andronicus (1958)

Marat/Sade (1964)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1970)

These are only some of his numerous plays which were a great success with the public. However, looking at this list of plays we can easily state that Shakespeare's literary works took a special place in Peter Brook's theater activity.


The full title of this book is The Shifting Point: Theater. Film. Opera. 1946-1987. It is quite obvious why Peter Brook decided to give his book such a long title. He wanted to show that he had the greatest experience in the sphere of the drama and film production. Forty years is quite a long period to become an expert whose innovations were highly appreciated. The book consists of numerous witty essays which include not only some commentaries concerning both the classic theater and the avant-garde theater but also different anecdotes which are connected with opera and film work. Besides, the book The Shifting Point touches upon the theme of Shakespeare's plays. The author gives series of thorough explorations of Shakespeare's plays. Peter Brook is well-known as "the leading director of his generation" who uses his own theater techniques and innovations. Some critics even call him "a genius of our times". That is true. Everybody will agree with this statement after reading his book The Shifting Point. Now I'd like to turn to the contents of the book which also is a rather specific. It could not be compared with a standard contents. The contents of the book consists of some chapters which are represented by numerous titles of essays. This is an unusual thing. I am going to introduce some of them:

A sense of direction

There is only one stage

How many trees make a forest

A lost art

The theater of cruelty

What is a Shakespeare's

Shakespeare isn't a bore

Brook's Africa



Filming King Lear

Lord of the Flies

These are only several titles of Peter Brook's essays which are included in his book. Judging by the names of the titles, we can make a conclusion that the author touches upon not only his biography but also he refers to the literary works which he considers to be the masterpieces of such an outstanding writer as Shakespeare. Of course, a lot of interesting ideas concerning the theater can be found in some of Peter Brook's essays. He said in one of the chapters: "For Artaud, theater is fire; for Brecht, theater is clear vision; for Stanislavsky, theater is humanity". (Brook) He pays a lot of attention to everybody and everything that is connected with theater.

I liked the author's relation to Shakespeare. According to his words, two playwrights are the most closer to him, they are William Shakespeare and Chekhov. They have one and the same feature - they never judge their characters, they never divide them into good and bad. They allow the readers or the spectators to judge them and in such a way they show their spiritual love for people.

Another interesting thing that attracted my attention is his love for his theater and film productions. Let's take, for example, King Lear where Peter Brook showed a "cold" and terrible world, a world which is impregnated with soullessness, immorality, inhumanity. However, it is possible to become a "great man" by means of sorrows and sufferings. The modern age was reflected in the cruelty of Brook's plays. The acting of this play takes place in the "empty space" which is understood by the spectators as burnt earth or as universal space. There were no any decorations in the Brook's play. (Brook) Peter Brook made Shakespeare his contemporary. He produced Shakespearian plays many many times because he adores Shakespeare for his ability to join two truths - the truth of the outer world and the truth of the human soul. Brook was never in flight from reality considering that the theater should give explanation of the outer world. But a man is in the center of this world. It is known that Peter Brook staged twelve Shakespeare's plays and one film.

The Theater of Cruelty is another Brook's essay which also makes the readers to be lost in thought. Here the author tells about his theater experiments which show the main points of Antonin Artaud's theater. Brook directed an experimental theater in the Royal Shakespeare Company. His main idea was to create a group of actors who could improvise during the period of rehearsals and make a "holy theater". He was appointed a director and did his work properly. The Screens and Marat Sade were his successful plays which gave him seven awards. The audience was shocked by insane asylum surroundings. (Brook)

It is very difficult to reproduce all the Brook's ideas which were discussed in his book The Shifting Point because he touches upon many issues. Peter Brook states that "everything is possible" in life but each person must "find his own way". He says that the work which he does today "is the result of all the work" that he did "through trials and errors". (Brook)

Peter Brook and his wife Natasha

Peter Brook was awarded the Great Vermeil medal of Paris


In conclusion of my essay, I should say that Peter Brook's book The Shifting Point can be the guide to the world of art because the author gives too much ideas and explanations concerning theater, opera, film production as well as his own understanding of the outer world. We learn about his feelings, his emotions, his achievements, his failures.

The Shifting Point is not the only book written by Peter Brook. He wrote a lot of other works such as The Empty Space (1968), There are No Secrets (1993), The Open Door (1995), Threads of Time (1998) and some others. Of course, such a prominent person could not avoid critical comments. However, all the critics have a greatest respect for Peter Brook. Now he is 85 but he is full of energy. He continues his writing and his new books impress his readers. I also was greatly impressed by his works, and I think that such a outstanding person has already gone down into the history of art.