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Reviews269 In writing on specific plays, Mehl protects what he takes to be Shakespeare's deliberate vagueness against the narrowness of doctrinaire approaches—Christian, skeptical, sentimental, moralistic. Romeo and Juliet, he argues, sanctions neither "an attitude of superior moral censoriousness " nor "a triumphant glorification of 'Liebestod'," but should be seen as typical of Shakespeare's "provocative inconclusiveness and . . . unresolved juxtaposition of divergent points of view" (p. 28). In the chapter on Lear, he warns that "the absence of any unequivocal moral lesson" does not signify "arbitrariness or lack of orientation." He affirms the presence of "a general idea of humane behavior implied in the tragedy as a whole" (p. 103), but does not articulate that idea. Mehl's vision of a transcendent Shakespeare beyond the intellectual commitments of his or our time will strike some readers as refreshingly liberal and humane and others as naively ahistorical. The book can serve students as a reliable guide serves novice mountain climbers, one who is thoroughly familiar with the traditional pathways and suspicious of more exciting but riskier approaches. For that very reason, some teachers of Shakespeare may prefer to expose their students to more "committed," provocative, possibly even dogmatic or unbalanced readings. Broadly tolerant, judicious, and sensible, the book also has the limitations of its virtues. MICHAEL SHAPIRO University of Illinois at Urbana Renaissance Drama, n.s. 16. Ed. by Leonard Barkan. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1985. Pp. 182. Renaissance Drama, n.s. 17. Ed. by Mary Beth Rose. Evanston: Northwestern University Press and the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies, 1986. Pp. 174. Each, $42.00. Between volumes 16 and 17 of this valued annual, a change of editors has occurred. The new editor, Mary Beth Rose of the Newberry Library, promises that "This and subsequent volumes will endeavor to continue in the tradition established by founding Editor S. Schoenbaum and maintained with imagination and skill for the last decade by Professor Leonard Barkan." The compliment to these two scholars is well deserved: owing to them, Renaissance Drama has become the major focus of article publication in its field. However, when looking at volume 17, one wonders whether it is about to acquire something of a new accent with the new editor. Admittedly, this volume announced a special subject, and editors depend on submissions, which differ in quality and kind from year to year. Even so, the patent differences in the contents of the two volumes tempt the reader to speculate about the annual's future course. The Barkan volume bears the title of "Renaissance Plays: New Readings and Rereadings"—a catch-all phrase that with its "rereadings" points to fairly conventional exercises; the Rose volume announces itself as "Renaissance Drama and Cultural Change," thereby promising and delivering the inclusion of such newer directions as the new historicism, neo-Marxism, fern- 270Comparative Drama inism, post-structuralism, and deconstruction. Another manifest, but possibly accidental, difference is that volume 16 has three of its nine essays devoted to Shakespeare, and all are on English drama, while the seven essays of volume 17 contain only one on Shakespeare but three on nonEnglish drama. Let us wait for volume 18, which has no announced theme, to see whether a "cultural change" is really in the making at Renaissance Drama. The essays in the Barkan volume all can be said to deal either with structural or thematic matters. Analyses of dramatic structures tend to the argument that these are more ingenious and more complex than has been realized, or that the play has greater unity than has been thought. Sometimes the ingenuity of the discerned structures transcends belief, as it appears to me in the case of the multiple plotting in Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay analyzed by Charles W. Hieatt, and the geometric configurations of time and place deduced from Marlowe's Doctor Faustus by Roy T. Eriksen. More persuasive is Susan McCloskey's analysis of two contrasting and balancing playworlds in Marlowe's Edward II; the world of the first two acts is replete with frustrations, failures to act, and repetitive collapses, that of the last three acts moves forward through passionate action, and both worlds are rejected and a firm and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 269-274
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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