Robert Cedric Sherriff was born on 6 June 1896 at Kingston-on-Thames near London; he was the son of Herbert and Constance (Winder) Sherriff. In finishing grammar school at seventeen, he became a clerk in the insurance office where his father used to work. The next year, with the outbreak of World War I, Sherriff joined the Ninth East Surrey Regiment in his infantry. Sherriff was wounded in the battle and spent six months in an army hospital. With the signing of the Treaty of Versailles the War was ended, Sherriff was demobilized after having advanced to the rank of captain.
Upon his return to England, Robert Sherriff rejoined the insurance office and became a claims adjustor. Until this time Sherriff had no interest in theatre, his spare time being spent with sports. It was through the Kingston Rowing Club, which Sherriff captained, that he first became involved in any way with theatre. In the winter of 1921, needing money to buy new boats, the club decided to put on a variety show, one part of which was to be a one act play which Sherriff was assigned to write and direct. Sherriff had never written or even read a play prior to that attempt to write one for this program. He had to teach himself how by reading other plays and William Archer's texts on play-making (Halsey, 1974).
The next play that Sherriff wrote was journey's end in which he broke the previous pattern. The success of Journey's End brought fame to Sherriff, the director, and several of the actors; As the London run of Journey's End was beginning to falter, Sherriff found himself expected to produce more dramatic successes.
The following is for the purpose of summarizing and explaining the action of the play and for helping the director and actors to understand the play at a deeper level. The play has been divided into twenty-five units. These divisions are for the purpose of defining the units of action that go together to build the play (Olson, 1975).
The main action of Journey's End results from the psychological conflict between Stanhope and Raleigh. This conflict stems from the reaction these two men have towards the war. In this play, war is the antagonist and both Stanhope and Raleigh are protagonists. Both men share common ideas of heroism and ideals of what a man should be. Since Stanhope has been in contact with the antagonist for three years, he shows evidence of a wearing down of those ideals. However, Raleigh, having just come into contact with the antagonist, still has a high level of the ideals but no experience of the realities of war. Stanhope fears that Raleigh will not understand and will hold Stanhope in contempt. This fear is the driving force of the main action of the play: men trying to live up to the ideals of heroism.
Stanhope, the protagonist of the play, is a man who has been in- the trenches for three ...