The problem play, or play of ideas, contains strong characterisation and topical social issues. The genre is typically thought to have reached its maturity in the late 1800s with some of the realistic and naturalistic works of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, such as A Doll’s House (1879), Ghosts (1882) and An Enemy of the People (1882). These dramas frankly portrayed current contemporary social issues on the stage. The subject matter of Ghosts, for example, was so sordid, the play was banned in many parts of Europe for several decades. Some scholars have loosely characterised a small number of Shakespearean dramas as problem plays, including Troilus and Cressida (1602), Measure for Measure (1603) and All’s Well That Ends Well (1623). – Justin Cash
Problem Play Resources
Interesting article exploring the similarity in dramatic form and structure between the well-made play and the problem play.
Discussion about the origins of the term and how this Ibsenian model was retrospectively applied to several of Shakespeare’s dramas.
Wikipedia entry on the Shakespearean problem play.
Useful article for students of theatre as to why Shakespeare’s problem plays are labelled as such?
Academic discussion of some of the Shakespeare’s works with similar characteristics.
Informative article explaining the unique characteristics of Shakespeare’s problem plays.
Only in the problem play is there any real drama, because drama is no mere setting up of the camera to nature: it is the presentation in parable of the conflict between Man’s will and his environment: in a word, of problem.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Concise definition for the play of ideas.
Wikipedia entry discussing the genre through the 19th and 20th centuries.