The well-made play (French: la pièce bien faite, pronounced [pjɛs bjɛ̃ fɛt]) is a dramatic genre from nineteenth-century theatre, developed by the French dramatist Eugène Scribe. It is characterised by concise plotting, compelling narrative and a largely standardised structure, with little emphasis on characterisation and intellectual ideas.
Scribe, a prolific playwright, wrote several hundred plays between 1815 and 1861, usually in collaboration with co-authors. His plays, breaking free from the old neoclassical style of drama seen at the Comédie Française, appealed to the theatre-going middle classes. The "well-made" form was adopted by other French and foreign playwrights and remained a key feature of the theatre well into the 20th century.
Among later playwrights drawing on Scribe's formula were Alexandre Dumas fils, Victorien Sardou and Georges Feydeau in France, W. S. Gilbert, Oscar Wilde, Noël Coward, and Alan Ayckbourn in Britain, and Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller in the US. Writers who objected to the constraints of the well-made play but adapted the formula to suit their needs included Henrik Ibsen and Bernard Shaw.
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