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REVIEWS 217 . SHAKESPEARE AND THE ACTORS'" ALLARDY,CE NICOLL When Fechter played Othello, he deliberately gazed in a mirror as he recited the words, "It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul." In 1783 it was noted that John Philip Kemble, at the end of the first act of Hamlet, made that clear distincti'on between ((trust in 'Horatio's secrecy" and ltd'oubt of Marcellus" which Professor J. Dover Wilson has so recently put forward as a new interpretation of this scene ot "wild and whirling words." Between these two extremes is included the mass of information which Dr. Sprague has painstakingly gathered. Amid the variety of business he records we are continually being surprised, now by the absurdities of which some actors, in their straining after novelty, permitted themselves to be gujlty, now by the unerring good sense and penetration of judgment which made some of them anticipate in a practical manner the subtlest theories 'of modern scholar and critic. Dr. Sprague has well accomplished an important task. From the meticulous examination of a vast mass of source-material-contemporary journals, theatrical memorabilia, printed 'texts, and manuscript prompt- 'books-he has done full justice to 'a subject which, if not literary, has a very important bearing on the elucidation of Shakespeare's scenes. Much information bearing on this subject is lacking, since in earJier'days prompter 's marginalia were, scanty and only a few spectators'took the trouble to record more than general impressions of their stage idols' styles of performance ; but we may rest assured that Dr. Sprague has succeeded in assembling by far the greater part of such evidence as is available. Some new prompt- , books ~ay turn up later and there is certainly more to, be gleaned from periodical literature, particularly of tne nineteenth century) yet it is unlikely that any new material collected from such sources will do more than add a few other details to the picture here so vividly presented; certainly that pictu're will not materially be altered by any new discoveries.. As all who know his earlier studies are aware, Dr. Sprague, when he undertakes to scan a chosen theme, does his work painstakingly and well. Concerning one thing only, regret may be expressed. Because of the nature of his subject, Dr. Sprague has had to arrange his findings into small watertight compartments, play following play in the succession of comedies, histories, and tragedies. This, indeed, was the only way of dealing with the mass of diverse and generally unrelated evidence at his disposal. One could have wished, however) that he might have given ·himself the opportunity of presenting, more fully than he was able to do in his twelve-page introduction , some of his own conclusions on certain interesting general questions. Of such questions the two most significant are these: Did th, e stage -after 1660 preserve any "pieces of business" derived from Shakespeare's own *Shakespeare and the Actors; The Stage Business in His Plays, 1660-1905. By ARTHUR COLBY SPRAGUE. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1944. Pp. xxv, 440. ($5.'00) 218 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY time? Is there any evidence to spow that up to the middle of the eighteenth century stage business was conditioned more by tradi tion than , by the innovations of succeeding generations of actors? Though Dr. Sprague shows himself aware of these questions, he avoids a clear answer to either. Perhaps no such clear answer, in the paucity of relevant' documentary source-material, is possible, but it is to be wished that the author, having thus immersed himself so deeply in, this theme, could have hazarded at least some more definite guesses than are given on the last two pages of his introduction. It may be, of course, that he is merely reserving judgment , since valid judgment in such matters would have to be based on more than a study of stage practice from the Restoratio~ onwards, would have to be founded on a comparison between what Dr. Sprague has now given us and equally careful scrutiny of Elizabethan acting methods. While , stage directions in quarto and folio are few, it should be possible, both from a detailed study of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 217-218
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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