Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, Lord Dunsany, who turned his Irish whimsy to the writing of short plays of Oriental mystery and horror, first came to the stage with his best play, The Glitter-ing Gate ing Gate, a one-act drama, which W. B. Yeats produced with the Abbey Players in Dublin, 1909.
Through the minds of two burglars that have died on the job, the play presents an ironic and whimsical satire on hope. In "the lonely place" before the Gate of Heaven, Jim -- who was hanged -- tilts empty whiskey bottles, only to be mocked by far-away laugher, while the more recently dead Bill takes out his jimmy and works. The glittering gate swings open, to reveal only the blooming great stars. Bill is aghast, as the mocking laughter rises, and Jim exclaims: "That's like them. That's very like them. Yes, they'd do that!"
The Glittering Gate opened at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse on March 6, 1915, and became popular all over the United States. The Milwaukee Leader, after a 1917 production, called Dunsany"the most imaginative dramatist now using the English language." The Glittering Gate, as well as Dunsany's later plays, allows for imaginative staging and lighting. The language is simple, yet fraught with tense anticipation and muted suggestion along the brink of terror.
The emptiness of the hereafter envisioned in The Glittering Gate has caused critics to seek to reassure their readers. It has been suggested that Dunsany meant to show merely that there is no heaven for such as Jim and Bill, but the London Referee ( March 25, 1920) was more consoling: "The stars are not, after all, a negation. Their only fault is that they are as far away as before. And we have to remember the possibility of more 'gates' than one to the Heavenly estate." The play remains quietly ironic.
The later dramas of Lord Dunsany were less universal in their evocation.