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276Comparative Drama The interpretive chapters that form the major portion of the book are Schlueter's, and they are particularly good of their kind. Schlueter provides interesting summaries of each play and then manages to present the critical consensus on the play while she also presents a fresh interpretive viewpoint. She argues convincingly, for example, that Willy's reveries are "Willy's way of restructuring history and self" (p. 61) and that "Incident at Vichy deserves a second look: exquisitely crafted, the play moves like a sonata, restrained, occasionally erupting into energy, sounding its melody and repeating it in variation" (p. 106). Most importantly, there emerges from this book a sense of Miller as coherent thinker, a man who has wrestled throughout his life with his own response to the reality of evil—social, political, and personal—and has expressed that struggle artistically. It is a most appropriate introduction to Arthur Miller's work. BRENDA MURPHY St. Lawrence University J. A. Bryant, Jr. Shakespeare and the Uses of Comedy. Lexington, Kentucky : The University Press of Kentucky, 1986. Pp. 270. $26.00. Professor Bryant begins this study of Shakespeare's comedy with two stated critical assumptions: "that most art is a manifestation of humanity's perennial quest for meaning and therefore constitutes an exploration of the known world or some aspect of it" and "that comedy is at once the primal and the comprehensive form of literary art" (pp. 1-2). He then develops his study through a chronological examination of the comedies, devoting a chapter to each one until he comes to All's Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure, which he combines into a single chapter, then handling Cymbeline and The Winter's Tale in another chapter, and concluding with a chapter on The Tempest. Such an approach tends to give the work much the same quality as the general introductions to the plays in an edition of the complete works. With the rather vaguely focused purpose of the entire study, these chapters suggest that they may have originated as lectures in an undergraduate Shakespeare course. They cover the usual questions raised about sources (A Shrew and The Shrew) and genre (Is The Comedy of Errors a farce?). The temptation an undergraduate lecturer succumbs to frequently is also present in the work. Unspecified generalizations about critical opinion abound, without citing of exact sources or examples: "Most scholars" (p. 57), "Some editors" (p. 75), "modern critics" (p. 81), "Scholars regularly observe" (p. 99), "Most scholars now agree" (p. 102). It is difficult to decide for what audience this work is intended. Professor Bryant has clearly spent a great part of his scholarly life philosophizing about the meaning of these plays, but he warns at the beginning of his study that "Shakespeare was not a philosopher, and there is no evidence that he ever thought systematically about the nature of human beings, society, or the cosmos" (p. 3). That tendency to generalize about the "relevance" of Shakespeare for contemporary living crops up Reviews277 in the recurrent observations about Shakespeare's feminism and the Elizabethan ideal of marriage, in spite of Professor Bryant's initial disclaimer. By choosing to organize by plays, Professor Bryant is restricted to concentrate in each chapter on the individual play rather than on the full development of his ideas about the uses of comedy. He comments, for example, that "The ideal of marriage that does emerge from these plays is best thought of as a process rather than as a status to be achieved with any finality . . ." (p. 208); but, since the two plays that are the subject of the chapter determine the chapter's organization, he can only cite earlier plays without developing the idea as it perhaps might have been fully examined for a scholarly audience. The organization also tends to make plot summary more important than it should be for an audience already familiar with the plays. The central section of each chapter is devoted largely to general statements about plots and characters. The conclusions of the chapters, then, become sometimes rather vague opinions about Shakespeare's meaning. For example, The Merry Wives of Windsor "makes us once more sense the mysterious...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 276-277
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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