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Reviews481 ous ways in which these ideals can be corrupted or misused by men and women under the pressures of "envious and calumniating time." Anyone reading Bruster's chapter will become more alert to the importance of the imagery of commerce in the play but is not likely to be persuaded that human relationships in it are distorted by an "economic system" (p. 117). The trouble with his cultural materalist method is that because he conceives texts as historically determined, he builds on evidence drawn from other more or less relevant works or events of the period to make general assertions about Shakespeare's plays without having any concern for the complexities of any one play as a whole. It is a method that, on the one hand, focuses on details in plays rather than the whole work and, on the other hand, encourages airy generalizations . It is all very clever, and in the end not very convincing. R. A. FOAKES University of California, Los Angeles Donald Perret. Old Comedy in the French Renaissance 1576-1620. Geneva: Droz, 1992. Pp. 164. FrS 44. Donald Perret has produced a very valuable study to add to the growing body of literature on the French Renaissance theater, specifically the comedies. This work deals with seven plays which "illustrate late Renaissance experiments in comedy that rival the highly conventional and domestic kind favored by the Pléiade" (p. 13). He defines Old Comedy as he understands it as a resurgence of comic genus contrary to the Pléiade's idea of refined comedy. The separation between Old Comedy and New Comedy in the Renaissance is based on formal characteristics and ideas of proper decorum—the erudite as opposed to the popular, the high versus the low. Perret begins his study with a look at Le Loyer's comedy, La Néphélococugie. This play is unique in that it is the only French Renaissance comedy based on Aristophanes, in this instance The Birds. Aristophanes was generally condemned because of his linear, sequential form of writing, his lack of conformity to the rules "set" for comedy. Le Loyer, however, did more than translate his Greek model. He expanded the play two to three times in length, and he added more and more examples of the birds arriving in Cloud-Cookooland, making this into a comedy of sexual impotence versus sexual force. This gave the play a double appeal of erudition plus obscenity and the gros rire. He also added the character of La Caille, a female bird, who symbolizes the new order where women are respected. Perret believes that, rather than condemning this play as odd or obscene, the reader should consider it to be unique and a prime example of Old Comedy. He next considers Gérard de Vivre's comedy La Fidélité nuptiale, one of three plays by this teacher of French in Cologne written for 482Comparative Drama presentation by his students to show off their newly-acquired skills in French. Its complete title, La Fidélité nuptiale d'une honeste Matrone envers son Mari ? espoux, is seen by Perret as an indication that it was written to be performed since the long titles of such plays would allow a potential acting troupe to have some idea of their content in order to determine their potential interest. De Vivre here writes la bigarrure, a hybrid of genres and traditions. This play contains nine well-known songs, unique in sixteenth-century French theater. There are also precise costume indications and declamation signals given in the printed text—another indication of the staging of the play. Bonet's trilingual comedy La Tasse, like one long farce or several farces in one, creates its humor by the accumulation of languages and complications in the plot. Unlike most comedies of the time which were based on character, this one is a comedy of object—the eponymous cup. The play shows off language by imagining a world where different linguistic systems interpenetrate. Perret argues that this comedy was written for Carnival. In the case of Marc Papillon de Lasphrise's La Nouvelle Tragicomique , even its title creates problems. Is this theater or narrative? It has elements of...


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