|Written by||Howard Brenton|
|Characters||Percy Bysshe Shelley
Dr William Polidori
|Date premiered||1 October 1984|
|Place premiered||Haymarket Theatre Leicester|
|Setting||Switzerland, England and Italy 1816-1822|
The play had its roots in Brenton's involvement with the small touring company Foco Novo and was the third, and final, show he wrote for them. The initial idea was that Brenton should write a piece based on the life of Shelley, though Brenton was more interested in looking, not at the individual, but at the quartet of Percy, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and Byron's mistress Claire Clairmont, tying it in with Utopian themes appropriate to the revolutionary spirit of the protagonists. In his introduction to the play Brenton disclaims any interest in moralising over the actions of his characters, as he had in a programme to his earlier play Weapons of Happiness.
The play takes as its epigraph a comment of Richard Holmes's, “Shelley's life seems more a haunting than a history.”
The play played at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1987 in a production directed by Lynne Meadow and was revived in 1988 at the Royal Court Theatre and in 2007 at the Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.