Percy MacKaye

Percy MacKaye (1875–1956) was an American dramatist and poet.


MacKaye was born in New York City into a theatrical family. His father Steele MacKaye was a popular actor, playwright, and producer, while his mother Mary wrote a dramatization of Pride and Prejudice, first produced in 1910. His brother James MacKaye was a philosopher, while brother Benton MacKaye was a forester and conservationist. His sister, Hazel MacKaye, became a women's suffrage leader and pageant director.[1]

After graduating from Harvard in 1897,[2] he traveled in Europe for three years, residing in Rome, Switzerland and London, studying at the University of Leipzig in 1899–1900. He returned to New York City to teach at a private school until 1904, when he joined a colony of artists and writers in Cornish, New Hampshire, and devoted himself entirely to dramatic work.[3]

He wrote the plays The Canterbury Pilgrims in 1903, Sappho and Phaon in 1907, Jeanne D'Arc in 1907, The Scarecrow in 1908, Anti-Matrimony in 1910, and the poetry collection The Far Familiar in 1937. In 1950, MacKaye published The Mystery of Hamlet King of Denmark, or What We Will, a series of four plays written as prequels to William Shakespeare's Hamlet. His sister Hazel acted in or helped produce several of his early works.

He was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1914.[4] In the 1920s, MacKaye was poet in residence at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He lectured on the theatre at Harvard, Yale, Columbia and other universities in the United States.[3]

Percy MacKaye is considered to be the first poet of the Atomic Era because of his sonnet "The Atomic Law," which was published in the Christmas 1945 issue of The Churchman.

Civic Theatre

In 1912 he published The Civic Theatre in Relation to the Redemption of Leisure; A Book of Suggestions. Here he presented a concept of Civic Theatre as "the conscious awakening of the people to self-government in its leisure". To this end he called for the active involvement of the public, not merely as spectators, professional staff not dominated by commercial considerations and the elimination of private profit by endowment and public support.[5] This idea is most apparent in his play Caliban by the Yellow Sands (1916). This concept was influential on Platon Kerzhentsev and the Soviet Proletcult Theatre movement.[6]



  • MacKaye, Percy (1912). Uriel: and Other Poems. Houghton Mifflin company.
  • MacKaye, Percy (1914). The Present Hour: A Book of Poems. The Macmillan Company.
  • MacKaye, Percy (1915). The Sistine Eve: and Other Poems. The Macmillan company.
  • The Far Familiar: Fifty New Poems. Richards. 1938.





  1. "'Poor Custom-Ridden Man Must Be Freed as Well as Woman," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 31, 1914, image 1
  2.  Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "MacKaye, Percy" . Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P. F. Collier & Son Company.
  3.  Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Mackaye, Percy" . Encyclopedia Americana.
  4.  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Mackaye, Percy" . Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York.
  5. The Civic Theatre in Relation to the Redemption of Leisure; A Book of Suggestions accessed 7 December 2008
  6. Bolshevik Festivals, 1917–1920, accessed 28 September 2017
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