This volume of Handke's plays includes two full-length and four shorter plays by the young Austrian playwright. The first of the full-length plays, The Ride Across Lake Constance, is one of Handke's best-known works. It deals directly with one of Handke's favorite themes: the realities of theater itself, independent of the offstage world, and the way language (dialogue) and objects (props) operate in the skewed world of the stage.
Therein it anticipates They Are Dying Out, Handke's most recent full-length play, which is also in this volume. In some ways more conventional than many of Handke's plays, They Are Dying Out presents one of his most fascinating protagonists, Quitt, a businessman who first induces a group of colleagues to set up a monopoly and then torpedoes the scheme.
The four short plays that round out the book--Prophecy, Calling for Help, Quodlibet, and My Foot My Tutor--were written between 1966 and 1969, before The Ride Across Lake Constance (1971), and show Handke moving from the experimental mode of his early work toward the richness and complexity that have marked him as the most important dramatist since Becket; they bear witness to the truth of Richard Gilman's observation that "in Handke's theater, language, exposed, assaulted, wrestled with, driven to limits, and pursued still further, begins to take on, like the color returning to the cheeks of a nearly hanged man, the signs of a strange and unexpected resurrection."