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286Comparative Drama The Grace of Mary Traverse (1985). (Gems and Wertenbaker appear sporadically in Cohn's pages, along with five other women, including Caryl Churchill, for whom Cohn has obvious admiration. But, as Cohn observes, contemporary English drama is still a male domain.) One could not ask for a more skilled guide for this special tour of the contemporary English stage. Yet at its end, one feels rather abruptly abandoned. Though Cohn offers general observations throughout—English drama was slower than American drama to challenge realism; more recent English drama shifted from social concerns to the individual mind—she resists the summary closure that could provide a sense of coherence to her catalogue of "retreating" plays. One could also wish that she had more actively made use of her extensive firsthand experience with the performance of these plays to provide greater detail of how particular non-realistic devices were realized on the stage. But it is unfair to complain of what a writer has not given us at the expense of what she has. Retreats from Realism in Recent English Drama is a lively, informed, and provocative document of the last thirty-five years of the London stage. JUNE SCHLUETER Lafayette College Frances Teague. Shakespeare's Speaking Properties. Cranbury, N. J.: Bucknell University Press, 1991, Pp. 222. $35.00. It would seem by now that every nook and cranny of Shakespeare's plays and their productions have been examined and re-examined in countless studies. However, Frances Teague of the University of Georgia has taken a unique approach in a finely researched examination of the significance and varied meanings of props in Shakespeare's plays. Teague, who has written studies of Bartholomew Fair and women writers in the Renaissance, is no stranger to Shakespearean studies. Her 1986 book, One Touch of Shakespeare: The Letters of Joseph Crosby to Joseph Parker Norris (Folger Press), illuminated a little-known aspect of Shakespearean production. Teague's Shakespeare's Speaking Properties breaks new ground. She identifies 'props' as a term which "everyone uses, but hardly anyone defines" (p. 15). To make up for this perceived omission she offers a variety of definitions, both traditional and revisionist, but stresses that a property is most usefully seen to be significant on account of its function in the play. Here the action is the key to displaying the meaning of the prop in production whether he or she is "showing" it or "demonstrating" it. A simple stool is more than a piece of furniture to sit on; it becomes in the play a signpost to time, place, and character. In this sense, the prop enters the dramatic action of the play and, along with language, assists in revealing the full meaning of the play. Teague insists that while "any Shakespearean has things to say about Richard II's crown or Yorick's skull, few realize that these objects fit into patterns of presentational imagery—one property metaphoric, one métonymie. And although critics have long noted verbal image clusters that recur throughout the plays, they have not noted some significant Reviews287 presentational image clusters" (p. 10). For example, Teague points out that Shakespeare uses Yorick's skull in Hamlet to "mark place, illustrate a joke, and serve as both traditional emblem and ironic symbol" (p. 25). In Othello, Desdemona's handkerchief similarly multiplies meanings both symbolic and emblematic, becoming for Othello "a symbol of himself" (p. 25). Teague traces the use of the most obviously important properties in the plays, including those that might escape much notice—e.g., love charms in the comedies. There are seven chapters. The first, "Word, Action, Object," defines necessary terms and examines techniques involved in the use of properties. The next three chapters—"The Good Properties of Bad Quartos," "Objects Comic and Comedie," and "Spectacle, Character, Language"— focus on the text and insights that examination of the properties offers for a deeper comprehension of the plays. The final three chapters— "This Chapter About Spectacle Is Not About Spectacle," "Object as Actor: Caps, Crowns, and Characters," and "Actor as Object: The Petrified Woman"—examine how properties function in scenes of visual spectacle, in the multi-leveled creation of characters, and in presentational...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 286-287
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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