Parables of the East in Edward Bond’s Political Drama

Author: Loretta Visomirskis, Harold Washington College, United States of America
Published: April 2012

Citation: Visomirskis, L. (2012). Parables of the East in Edward Bond’s Political Drama. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 1(1).


The themes of ancient and modern, of East and West, and of “journeys of discovery” form the ideological fabric of the work of Edward Bond (b. 1935), one of Britain’s most established contemporary playwrights. In his plays Narrow Road to the Deep North (1968) and The Bundle (1978), set in Japan in vaguely historicized seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, Bond uses history as a prism of looking at the present and of deconstructing the political myths of the past. He introduces the character of the great seventeenth-century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. In both plays, Basho becomes the Brechtian narrator, the “alienating factor,” as well as the medium for Bond’s philosophical dilemma of human choice and its political implications in society. In questioning the artist’s role and the individual’s responsibility in society, Bond creates political parables that oppose the “ivory tower” intellectualism and abstract meditation to active resistance to evil. Both plays signify Bond’s own evolution from the pacifism of the Tolstoyan philosophy of “non-resistance to violence by force” (Narrow Road to the Deep North) to the revolutionary theory of Brecht’s Epic Theatre and its social and political activism (The Bundle).


drama, Edward Bond, Matsuo Basho, Bertolt Brecht, political parable