Robert Cedric Sherriff also more commonly known as R. C Sherriff, was born in Hampton Wick in Middlesex in the year 1896. He had joined the army in 1914 at the age of 18 in favour to fight in World War 1. He had a great interest in becoming a commanding officer, but could not due to the fact that only private school (upper class) boys could be an officer. His wish was later granted in 1915, this was due to the lack of officers. Overall he was active in the war for just two years after he left in 1917 because he was injured during fighting. R. C Sherriff had written the play ten years after the war had ended.
It was first premiered at the London Apollo theatre. The play had evolved into becoming a part of many poems and books. The split between the end of the war and the play being written first had allowed people to recognise the consequences the war had left behind therefore they would be able to understand the horror’s of war which of course was even more abysmal. The play had helped people understand the true horror’s of war and the time gap had made it even more significant because it would make those understand that the war itself was worse than the consequences.
R. C Sherriff’s main objective of writing the play was to outline the vast measure of violence, horror, death that was contained all in one war. Initially he had succeeded in this area, by showing the vile conditions and the difficulties it had created and dropped on a man’s life. With in the play R. C Sherriff had shown the horrific states of the trenches which the soldiers had to live in, he had shown this through stage directions and points in which the soldiers talk about the state.
He was able to show the horrible points of a war which had caused a hell like experience for the soldiers. In addition to this Sherriff shows the men’s suffering days due to constant shortage of food and uniform that tortures them. The play shows that even water, the one most important thing was dirty so the soldiers did not have clean drinking water and had to drink water with chemicals. “Osborne: I wonder what they put in the water. Hardy: Some sort of disinfectant I suppose. Osborne: I would rather have microbes, wouldn’t you? ”
This quote shows that the men did not have clean drinking water since there were ill causing germs that would constantly flow into the drinking water therefore they would have to spray chemicals such as disinfectant on to the water in order to kill the microbes, but with the men’s dislike to the taste one of the exclaims that he would rather have the risk of getting ill than drinking water with a disgusting taste. This quote shows the point that Sherriff is trying to explain to the audience, he shows the dirty condition of the surroundings causing difficulties for the men. The living conditions in the trenches were gruesome.
There were strong and horrible smells and germs and the sleeping arrangements were at a poor level since the soldiers had found difficulty in sleeping so they would rely on their best friend to comfort them, which would be rum. “(Dugouts smell like cesspits). ” This quote shows that the trenches had smelt horrible. Sherriff attempts to outline that the living conditions for the soldiers were quite dramatic since they would have to live with such things as vile smells. The food the soldiers had to eat was terrifying for the men, it would make them feel sick yet they still had to eat it.
“Mason: Soup sir – cutlets and pineapple’s. Stanhope: Ordinary ration meat….. smells like liver. ” This quote shows that the regular diet the soldiers had was terrible, and the food can make them ill since it is described as undercooked and that it has a terrible smell. R. C Sherriff shows the horror’s of war through the food the soldiers had to eat, he explains that it was horrible and the soldiers had to cope with it everyday. The uniforms the soldiers had to wear had made their life miserable because it was heavy and painful especially when they had other missions to do such as running and fighting.
“(He wears a heavy trench boot). ” This quote shows that the gear the men had to wear would be painful since the soldiers would have to wear such things as the heavy trench boot and the soldiers would have to survive with the uniforms in various occasions which would increase the misery and pain. This quote shows how the soldiers had to suffer with a lot of pain every day. Through out the course of the play Sherriff makes use of stage directions to give the examples of the horrors of war and add the sense of the atmosphere.
The stage directions are useful when coming to help the director understand the structure and sense of the setting, he can use this to create a tense or violent atmosphere with a good build up of rhythm, such as the tension between the soldiers and it grows to become more fierce. The stage directions had helped the play seem more realistic and helped the audience to comprehend the language and style of the play, it was able give the audience the understanding of the actual violence that had been created in the war.