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Reviews483 This is an exceptional study of seven unjustly neglected comedies from this period. I noted only one error; p. 28 gives the date 1789 for 1589. Although it reads somewhat like an unrevised dissertation, it nevertheless shows the extensive scholarship and research needed for any study of such material. The book adds greatly to the knowledge of both Renaissance literature and theater history. CATHERINE E. CAMPBELL Cottey College Clifford Davidson. Illustrations of the Stage and Acting in England to 1580. Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series, 16. Kalamazoo , Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1991. Pp. xviii + 176. $39.95; paperbound, $19.95. Expressly intended to complement R. A. Foakes' illustrations of the Stage 1580-1642, Clifford Davidson's Illustrations ofthe Stage and Acting in England to 1580 does just that. There has long been a need for a single-volume work of this kind, accessible and useful to students , teachers, and researchers alike. Much has already been published on the later period covered by Foakes' volume, which makes Professor Davidson's recent contribution to the study of the earlier medieval period a timely one. As the title indicates, Davidson's Illustrations is copiously illustrated , and the textual commentary is closely related to the visual material throughout. His discussions are concise and precise, but in seeking to cover such a wide range of material in a fairly short book he has set out on an undertaking that has its perils. There are times when exploration has given way to compression, leaving the reader with a feeling of frustration like that experienced by Chaucer's dreamer figures— excluded at the very moment of yearning to learn more. The reader's main disappointment, however, must be that none of the illustrations is in color. Much as one understands the economic restraint lying behind the decision to print illustrations only in black and white, one cannot but conclude that more has been lost than an aesthetic sense of delight. Apart from reducing the book to a somewhat drab overall appearance , the lack of color closes off access to an important area in medieval iconography: the use of colors to signify meaning. The eight chapters into which the book is organized together give an admirably broad coverage to the performing arts, leaving the reader impressed with the author's capacity to see a performance culture whole. Davidson rightly implies that the term "stage" in his title need not apply only to spoken dramatic performance: music and a host of other performance skills are related and may be adumbrated in a study of this kind. It is also refreshing to find a book that, for once, takes the history of theater in Britain back to the Roman period with more than 484Comparative Drama a passing reference. So many histories of performance in England start in the tenth century with the quern quaeritis trope. Davidson's first chapter, "The Roman Theater in Britain," provides materials that are as interesting to all as they will be unfamiliar to many. Many a reader will be pleasantly surprised to learn how much evidence of dramatic performance survives from Roman Britain. It is, perhaps, a pity that Davidson juxtaposes his chapter on Roman Britain with one on "Ceremonies and Liturgical Plays" from the tenth century onwards because this encourages one to assume that there was no significant performance art of any kind in the intervening centuries . This impression is clearly unintended: in a later chapter on "Minstrels" Davidson points to a vigorous and unbroken performance tradition continuing through the sixth and eighth centuries (see figs. 125 and 126); and in another chapter, "Illustrated Manuscript Playbooks ," he draws attention to the survival of Terence in medieval manuscripts and also to the plays of Hrotsvita in the Terentian mode. In the third chapter, "Pageants and Processional Staging," Davidson draws succinctly and with precision on the splendid work done over the last two decades by that dedicated band of scholars which includes Alexandra F. Johnston, Alan Nelson, Peter Meredith, and Meg Twycross. He does well to include reconstructions by Johnston and Meredith in his illustrations (figs. 24 and 25). Davidson's self-imposed limit of illustration only from British materials is unimpeachable, but...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 483-485
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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