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123 REVIEW J. O. Bailey (ed). British Plays of the Nineteenth Century. NY: Odyssey Press, I966. 37.75. Mr. Bailey subtitles his book "An Anthology to Illustrate the Evolution of the Drama." In view of the general quality of the plays of the nineteenth century, the anthologist's choices must necessarily be limited to a coverage of the dramatic genres and to those plays which, in technique and theatrical style, are representative of the popular fare of the theatre and which were influential in the development of drama. The book contains seventeen plays, arranged under four groups - Romantic Verse Drama, Comedy, Melodrama, and The Rise of the New Drama. The contribution of the period consists mostly in the introduction and development of the melodrama and of the problem play. The only dramatists represented by more than one play are Dion Boucicault, one of the most prolific writers of the period, and Henry Arthur Jones. Both dramatists attempted to introduce serious social problems and to present the more popular melodrama and both enjoyed great success in the 19th century theatre. Judged as dramatic literature, the plays run the gamut from bad to mediocre, with the exception of some of the plays in the transitional period which includes T. W. Robertson's Caste. W. S. Gilbert's Engaged., Shaw's Widower's Houses. Henry Arthur Jones' The Masqueraders , and Arthur Wing Pinero's The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmlth. Most of the others, even those identified as comedies or comedies of manners, seem overplotted, often heavy-handed, sometimes clumsy and other times too facile and well-made In their handling of emotional scenes, often broad or crude in their characterizations. For instance, Our American Cousin (I858), made notable by Its association with the assassination of Lincoln, suggests a crude adaptation of Richard Cumberland's comedy, The West Indian (1771)· An essential and overriding difficulty In our response to these plays is that we read them as dramatic literature, while In their day they were valued and enjoyed as theatrical spectacle. Like old movies, their theatrical techniques, effective and even fresh for their time, now seem archaic and clumsy. The theatre of their time demanded the sensation and the spectacle offered by such technically skilled craftsmen as Dion Boucicault. However, the anthologist cannot be held responsible for the general quality of plays available to him; he can only suggest what was representative and historically significant in the century. On this score, Mr. Bailey has done his Job well. Some readers might have preferred Byron's Manfred and Shelley's The Cencl to Marston's The Patrician's Daughter or Browning's Pippa Passes, but both Browning and Marston could be said to be poets of the nineteenth century theatre as both wrote for the popular stage, whereas Byron and Shelley did not. In his introduction and headnotes, the author traces the development of the drama and the significant contribution of the plays. 124 His critical comment, historical notes and bibliography are useful and informative. This anthology could serve as a fine text for a course in 19th century drama, and Mr. Bailey's selection and editorial material suggest the usefulness of such a course. 3UNY, Fredonia (Sept I968) Henry F. Salerno BOOKS RECEIVED Listing here does not preclude the publication of a review in a future issue of ELT. Publishers receive two copies of the review. Amaya. Mario. ART NOUVEAU. NY: E. F. Dutton. 1967. A Dutton Vista Fictureback. $:2.45. THE ART CF VICTORIAN FROSE. Sd by George Levine and William Madden. NY: Oxford U F. I968. Eeebe. Maurice. A CRITICAL STUDY GUIDE TO CONRAD'S LORD JIM. Los Angeles: Littlefield, Adams, I968. Pennant Key-Indexed Study Guides. P3 128. $1.00. Eoughner. Daniel C. THE DEVIL'S DISCIFLE: BFN JONSON'S DEBT TO MACHIAVELLI. NY: Philosophical Library. I968. $5-95Erown . Douglas. HARDY: THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE. Woodbury. NY: Barron's Educational Series, 1962. Studies in English Literature No 7. 30.85,ENGLISH DRAMA IN TRANSITION: 1880-1920. Ed by Henry F. Salerno. NY: Fegasus. I968. Cloth: $11.95: paper: Õ 3-95. ENGLISH FOETRY IN TRANSITION: 1880-1920. Ed by John M. Munro. NY: Fegasus. I968. Cloth: S'il.95; paper: $3.95. THE...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 123-124
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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