John Osborne

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John Osborne by Reginald Gray (1957)

John Osborne (12 December 192924 December 1994) was a British playwright, producer and actor. In 1956 the first production of his play Look Back in Anger, which revolutionized British theatre, launched him into national prominence as the leader of the Angry Young Men – a label which he never recognized.


  • Jimmy Porter: They spend their time mostly looking forward to the past.
    • Look Back in Anger, Act II, sc. I (1956)
  • This is a letter of hate. It is for you my countrymen, I mean those men of my country who have defiled it. The men with manic fingers leading the sightless, feeble, betrayed body of my country to its death.
    • "A Letter To My Fellow Countrymen", Tribune (18 August 1961)
  • Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs.
  • Archie Rice: Don't clap too hard – it's a very old building.
    • Number 7; said to have been an old joke in the music-halls at the time the play was written.
  • Archie Rice: I'm dead behind these eyes. I'm dead, just like the whole inert, shoddy lot out there. It doesn't matter because I don't feel a thing, and neither do they.
    • Number 8
  • Archie Rice: Let me know where you're working tomorrow night and I'll come and see you.


  • John Osborne spoke out in a vein of ebullient, free-wheeling rancour that betokened the arrival of something new in the theatre – a sophisticated, articulate lower-class. Most of the critics were offended by Jimmy Porter, but not on account of his anger; a working-class hero is expected to be angry. What nettled them was something quite different: his self-confidence. This was no envious inferior whose insecurity they could pity.
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