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Book Reviews247 whether he is the devil or merely a devil. Here Brown gives us an answer probably unexpected by most readers when she asserts, "Goethe's devil is a nature spirit" (67), and "The devil is a cosmic force, a reality principle, in this play, not a personality" (93). And she returns to this notion later in her book with the statement that "Mephistopheles is indeed a nature spirit, for he enables Faust to perceive nature infused with spirit (or mind or the Absolute)" (156). Brown does not seem concerned about the fact that this reading would leave us with more than one Erdgeist. But that is not the only difficulty. In the scene "Auerbachs Keller in Leipzig" Mephisto sings with raucous gusto about the king who had a great flea. It is hard for me to imagine this as the song of a "reality principle" rather than a most humorous performance by "a personality." Nor can I agree with Brown's statement "that Homunculus' plunge into the sea is, as a mating with Galatea, also a taking possession, even a kind of rape" (222). This is a reference to the scene "Felsbuchten des Ägäischen Meers" at the end of Act II in Part II of the poem, where I can discover no evidence ofany "mating with Galatea," let alone a rape. Consequently, I find this reading without any basis whatever. Nevertheless, Brown's interpretation stimulates a rethinking ofone's notions about Goethe's play, and her book is refreshing because it is so well written and contains no obfuscating jargon. In a revised edition most readers would probably welcome a bibliography of works cited. MAX DUFNER University ofArizona RICHARD ALLEN CAVE, ed. The Romantic Theatre: An International Symposium. Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1987. 130 p. The four papers originally presented at the British Council in Rome (AprilMay 1985) are published here with full documentation and a thorough and useful bibliography. In spite of some overlap, each of the four contributors addresses a specific aspect ofthe problem. The problem, ofcourse, is that both theatre and drama in English Romanticism require some sort of explanation and apology. It was the period ofBlake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, and Keats — all of whom wrote plays. It was also the period of "the great Thespians": Kemble, Siddons, and Kean. Too, the theatre critics ofthe period — Coleridge, Hazlitt, Lamb, Hunt — have shaped the course ofcritical theory. Why, it has been asked, was nothing produced of enduring value for stage performance? As Timothy Webb reveals in his historical account of the stage, the poets and the critics were painfully aware of the difficulties besetting the theatre. In order to accommodate a growing middle and lower class audience, the rebuilt Covent Garden and Drury Lane had been expanded to house vast audiences. Performances emphasized awe and spectacle over feeling and understanding. Although there was agreement on what was wrong, Webb notices that opinions were divided on whom to blame and what could be done to improve conditions. Scott saw the faults deriving from the large theatre and the resulting demands on the finances as well as the mechanics of production. Hunt blamed the managers; Shelley blamed the corruption of society in general; Byron put the responsibility in the hands ofthe audience. This essay provides a wide ranging and well documented overview. 248Rocky Mountain Review The second essay, by Giorgio Melchiori, begins with an absurd account of the Licensing Act (1737) and its consequences. Equally absurd, then, is the subsequent attempt to explain Byron's reaction to the Legitimate Theatre in terms of his assumed role as "a rebel against any form of legitimacy" (48). A more promising direction is Melchiori's insistence on the Italian context, but other than proposing the melodrama ofItalian opera and the "unrealistic language" of Alfieri (57), this argument is not developed. Another promising argument, which is better developed, is Melchiori's attention to parody and irony in Byron's plays. Without acknowledging Hugo's definition ofRomantic drama as the opposition between the sublime and the grotesque, Melchiori makes a rather good case for the grotesque in the plays of Byron. The sole piece ofcritical analysis in this collection is Stuart Curran...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-2833
Print ISSN
1948-2825
Pages
pp. 247-249
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-06
Open Access
No
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