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Reviews497 are of interest only to those who engage in the feckless activity of trying to pump some life into them with the endless commentary given to such specialized activities. On the streets of life where the theater actually breathes and lives they have no place or importance whatsoever . This book then is disappointing, not delivering what it promises, revealing at best a kind of nascent awareness of theatrical activity, at worst the odd but precise feeling that a good deal of what it has to say is sealed off from the fleeting truths of the theater and the plays it seeks to describe. JAMES COAKLEY Northwestern University Hans-Jürgen Diller. The Middle English Mystery Play: A Study in Dramatic Speech and Form. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Pp. xvi + 336. $69.95. Hans-Jürgen Diller's 1968 Habilitationsschrift, published in 1973 with only "minor revisions" as Redeformen des englischen Misterienspiels , is now accessible as The Middle English Mystery Play in the Cambridge University Press series European Studies in English Literature . Chapter Eight has been extensively revised, the treatment of English criticism expanded, and in the preface Diller cites his concern to make the text user-friendly while at the same time preserving its German background. This is a classic work of German scholarship, rooted in an academic tradition that produced Form Criticism and the Stammb äume of Indo-European. The organization is clear (sometimes whole paragraphs are devoted to organizational method and summary), and the argumentation is buttressed with philological support (features such as tense, mood, and pronominal person and number, for example, are used to define critical forms, an approach that is refreshing in these days of reader-response methodology). Cambridge University Press is to be commended for its series, for it is important to have access to European scholarship, yet difficult for those who, like Cecily in The Importance ofBeing Earnest, do not read German with much enthusiasm. Such readers, however, should be warned that although they will be reading English, there will be momentary blocks when the syntax and rhetoric are more German than English. Sometimes sentences are clogged with relative clauses, and the German penchant for abstract nouns remains in words such as "sequentiality " and "accompliceship." One wishes the editors had been a bit more rigorous in preparing the text for an English audience. The text frequently preserves German nouns and phrases, a punctilious acknowledgment of language drawn from sources identified in the footnotes, but for an English audience unfamiliar with the sources, such terminol- 498Comparative Drama ogy burdens the argument with technical language, particularly when it clusters in successive pages. Sometimes the terms are handled felicitously in the text with parenthetical translation, but more often than not they would have been better located in the footnotes. Elsewhere translated phrases such as "double-bottomed dramaturgy" are not particularly enlightening. In addition, a number of curious editorial decisions were taken. The detailed table of contents was apparently thought an adequate substitute for a general index (there are indices for plays, dramatis personae, and authors, but readers are advised to prepare their own subject index). Middle High German passages are translated, but Latin are not (though oddly two passages from Matthew are cited from the King James Version). Occasionally Middle English words are glossed, very usefully in marginal square brackets, but sometimes quite ordinary words are translated where context makes their meaning clear, whereas elsewhere unusual words or ones obscured by curious grammar or spelling are unglossed (though there are some very useful linguistic footnotes in Chapter Eight). Finally, one might have hoped that in 1992 a sensitive editor would have revised a phrase like "history of Man's salvation" (p. 129). Having voiced my complaints, I hasten to add that the book, hard reading that it is, is essential for anyone seriously interested in medieval drama. Diller's treatment of liturgical drama is unsurpassed, and future criticsm will have to take into account his thesis that the cycle plays can be best understood and classified by the way their authors perceived and shaped the two worlds of "play-sphere" and "audiencesphere ." The first two chapters focus on liturgical drama, and there is a useful...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 497-499
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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