Maurice Baring’s Caligula’s Picnic (1911)

Maurice Baring’s Caligula’s Picnic (1911)

Before the picnic breaks up and all the guests are drowned in the Bay of Naples, peacock and eels are served. Baring’s sense of humor is satirical and macabre. Here is one of his jokes in Caligula’s Picnic, a one-act closet drama: Proteus: I once knew a...
Samuel Foote’s Nick-Nack (1772)

Samuel Foote’s Nick-Nack (1772)

Samuel Foote’s comic play The Nabob, now obscure, is the first linkage of picnic with the euphemism “nick-nack.” He used in the sense of dining en piquenique, which suggests familiarity. The alliterative corruption is meant to be humorous for those...
Jane Bowles’ In the Summer House (1953)

Jane Bowles’ In the Summer House (1953)

People do silly things at picnics, and Jane Bowles’ play In the Summer House proves the rule. Bowles means for the play to be absurd, and she succeeds. The play begins with a lawn picnic at which characters with tenuous relationships incessantly bicker. When Mr....
Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music

Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music

  Neither Wolfgang Liebeneiner’s film Die Trapp-Familie (1956) nor Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway production of The Sound of Music (1959) has a picnic. But Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music (1965) glorifies a simple picnic on the Austrian Alps...

Tom Stoppard’s “Wickerwork Picnic Baskets” (1972)

Tom Stoppard’s Artist Descending a Staircase (1972) includes the memorable metaphor: “Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.” A neat turn of phrase....
Becket’s Picnic Setting for Waiting for Godot (1954)

Becket’s Picnic Setting for Waiting for Godot (1954)

Samuel Beckett’s idea of being picnicky is to be separate, unhappy, and poorly fed. So in Waiting for Godot (En antendant Godot), the picnic is topsy-turvy: the setting, a bleak tree without leaves; the atmosphere, foreboding; the food, meager, and the camaraderie....

William Inge’s Picnic (1953)

When Hal Carter tells Madge Owens, “We’re not goin’ on no goddamn picnic,” he means they are “goin'” to make love instead. And she’s willing. They are so passionate and their lust so potent that audiences never notice...
Richard Attenborough’s Oh! What a Lovely War  (1969)

Richard Attenborough’s Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)

Charles Chilton’s anti-war radio play The Long Trail (1963) is a collection of vintage war tunes and war history. Among the World War One songs was the satirical “Oh, What a Lovely War,” the chorus of which is “Oh, Oh, oh it’s a lovely war./Who...
Gilbert & Sullivan’s Thespis

Gilbert & Sullivan’s Thespis

Gilbert and Sullivan’s Thespis or the Gods Grown Old is an early collaboration and not one of their best. It’s a topsy-turvy derivative version of Jacques Offenbach’s operetta Orpheus in the Underworld or Orphée aux envers. Instead of comedy in the...