Under Milk Wood – Critical appreciation (2000 words).
Completed just before the author’s death in 1953, Under Milk Wood’ is an expression of Dylan Thomas’s sense of the wonderful variety of life. It is a play for voices, which was commissioned by the BBC to be broadcast on the radio. This meant that the spoken word had to convey everything because there were no actors on a stage, no scenery, no props and no lighting. It is a moving and hilarious account of a spring day in a small Welsh fishing village. It begins with the dreams of the sleepers before dawn, moves through the brilliant, noisy day of the townspeople and closes as “the rain of dusk brings on the bawdy night.”.
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The town in which ‘Under Milk Wood’ is set is called Llareggub, which is bugger all backwards, which mischievously suggests not much goes on in the town. Under Milk Wood has been described by some critics as a black comedy but, in my opinion, this interpretation misses the true message of the play. Thomas himself described his intentions for the piece very clearly in a letter to Countess Caetani. It was to be an impression for voices, an entertainment . of the town I live in and to write it simply and warmly and comically with lots of movement and varieties of moods so that at many levels, through sight and speech, description ; dialogue, evocation and parody, you came to know the town .
Under Milk Wood does not simply create a dream world, in a way it also creates an ideal world. The townsfolk are observed from the point of view of an indulgent parent. All their shortcomings, foolishness, selfishness and general human frailty are viewed in a non-judgemental way. .
The play begins in the dead of night spring, moonless night, starless and bible-black, with the author showing us the bizarre dreams of some of the town’s inhabitants, who are presented with light irony and mild mockery. We get to know this dreamy village as though we had lived there all our lives.