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Reviews283 or a revenge tragedy; and, in fact, one might well contend that the theater was then, as it is now, a coterie entertainment. Thus original or subsequent performances of Volpone or The Duchess of Malfi were performed for audiences which, at best, might have been a microcosm of a larger society but which, more likely, represented the cutting edge of that society. It is probably only that cutting edge which was aware that a Renaissance was taking place. A lack of education and public communication left most people in the endless round of agrarian and later industrial life, unaware of the macrocosmic changes around them. With the advent of mass communication, however, the entrepreneurs of mass entertainment have been obliged to analyze audiences and to produce art that caters to their publics' needs. Griswold's book implies that Burbage and Henslowe did the same, but the evidence available about audience reactions in the Elizabethan/ Jacobean theater is insufficient. It is not until she reaches the surge of revenge tragedy revivals in the sixties that Griswold hits pay dirt. Quotes from Robert Brustein and Martin Esslin consciously link concerns of the period with a return to the societal and private excesses dramatized by playwrights such as Webster. This kind of commentary just doesn't exist for the original productions. Griswold's approach would be telling in an examination of the trends in soap operas and sitcoms which are probably far more sensitized to the taste buds and nerve endings of average Americans than an art theater ever will be. In this book, however, her careful scientific approach produces truths so palpably obvious that her methodology seems disproportionately unwieldy. She concludes: "plays are preserved because of their theatrical and their literary power. If preserved, they become accessible for theatrical revival in certain institutional contexts. They are revived disproportionately if they address some currently salient social concern shared by members of the audience." It's comforting to know that common sense can be elaborately supported , if not proven, by utilizing graphs, tables, etc. It's more important, however, to realize that modern technology has finally produced an age that will provide the raw data necessary for what is, after all. a social science analysis of an art form. ARTHUR W. BLOOM Loyola Marymount University Nancy L. Roberts and Arthur W. Roberts, eds. "As Ever, Gene": The Letters of Eugene O'Neill to George Jean Nathan. Rutherford, N. J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1987. Pp. 248. $35.00. In his recent autobiographical memoir, Timebends: A Life (Grove Press, 1987), Arthur Miller regrets having to write during a period characterized by "a hardening of the pretense that the critic is somehow virginally distanced from the vulgar enterprise of the theatre, that his responsibility ends with his delivery of the impressions of the play." So he, as is almost invariably true of his American contemporaries, "exist[s] as a playwright without a major reviewer in [his] corner." The one notable exception Miller cites to most theater critics' "arm's-length attitude 284Comparative Drama toward writers" is George Jean Nathan's friendship with Eugene O'Neill, whose development over a thirty-year period between 1919 and 1949 comes alive in these letters. Although Nathan's half of their correspondence has been lost—leaving, instead of a dialogue, an extended monologue somewhat akin to the ones that became a hallmark of O'Neill's own plays—Nathan emerges as a nurturing critic who, like a good parent, can disagree without dismissing and reprimand without rejecting, making us wonder, as Miller evidently does, about the possible impact a more sympathetic, less dictatorial criticism might exert on playwrights today. Nathan provided O'Neill with his first significant recognition by publishing a number of the early sea plays in Smart Set, which he co-edited with H. L. Mencken; and on the basis of scripts that O'Neill sent him, he oftentimes contributed essays to American Mercury about the later plays before they were staged. Scholars have known of this correspondence almost from its inception, since Isaac Goldberg included fourteen of O'Neill's letters in The Theatre of George Jean Nathan: Chapters and Documents toward a History of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 283-286
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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