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Reviews403 4 Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion par Adam de la Halle précédé du Jeu du Pèlerin (London: George Harrap, 1960). 5 Medieval French Plays, ed. Richard Axton (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971). Though liberties are taken with the translation and the melodies, the result is a musical setting that flows well. The edition by Jean Beck and J. Murray Gibbon, The Play of Robin and Marion: Mediaeval Folk Comedy Opera (New York: G. Schirmer, 1937), is much less usable with romantic keyboard arrangements of the melodies and translations into very quaint English. 6 See Beck and Gibbon, The Play of Robin and Marion. Gary Schmidgall, Shakespeare and Opera. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Pp. xxii + 394. $35.00. This is an excellent book by one of the most engaging writers on opera. The volume contains thirty-four discrete essays that are centered on the premise that Shakespeare's plays are essentially operatic in conception . While this is not an idea that is unique to this book, Schmidgall has delved further into this subject and presented more substantiating evidence than any other author heretofore. Although the individual essays are complete works in themselves, reading them in succession helps to establish points of continuity. Schmidgall is very insistent on the notion that Shakespearian plays and opera owe their similarities to the fact that they are both rhetorical in nature. This is a particularly important point because both the elevated speech and the singing of Shakespearian drama and opera are unfathomable except within a context of rhetorical expression. After Schmidgall has established the primacy of rhetoric, he demonstrates that emotional excess—i.e., melodrama—is central to the construction and performance of Shakespearian plays and opera. He then argues that, since rhetoric and melodrama are the essential dramaturgical ingredients of opera and Shakespearian plays, contemporary expectations of verisimilitude and naturalness of expression are therefore inadequate for their complete understanding. Indeed, as Schmidgall points out so well, the more natural the mode of expression the less operatic or Shakespearian it is. Schmidgall arranges in ascending order the modes of dramatic expression in Shakespeare: naturalistic prose, heightened prose, highly rhetorical prose, normal blank verse, heightened blank verse, and rhymed couplets . The operatic analogues are: spoken speech, recitative or declamation , accompanied recitative, arioso, aria or concerted ensembles, and coloratura. These similarities of dramatic expression yield similarities of construction and design. For instance, Schmidgall sees an analogy between the Shakespearian soliloquy and the operatic solo aria. He also notes that both operas and Shakespearian plays use plays within plays 404Comparative Drama (or operas within operas, as in the case of Richard Strauss' Capriccio) and additionally exhibit a tendency toward set speeches or scenic types —e.g., brindisi or preghiera). The last hundred pages of the book, given over to discussion of operas that have been made of Shakespeare's plays, provide a particularly valuable section because Schmidgall examines in great detail little-known Shakespearian operas such as Aribert Reimann's Lear as well as canonical works such as Verdi's Otello. Shakespeare and Opera is a very substantial book that will prove to be of value to those interested in Shakespeare, in opera, or in both. Although ample endnotes are provided, one wishes for a bibliography. But that is perhaps the fault of the publisher, not the author, and in no way diminishes the cogency and strength of Schmidgall's arguments. WILLIAM E. GRIM Worcester State College Elizabeth Hale Winkler. The Function ofSong in Contemporary British Drama. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991. Pp. 363; 35 musical examples. $48.50. From the premise that song in drama is a genre to itself, standing separate from either song or drama, Elizabeth Hale Winkler has constructed a theory to account for the effect created when a playwright intrudes a song into the dramatic context. While she touches on several approaches to analyzing the effect of song or music, including semiotics and various psychological avenues, her preferred analytical mode is "agonistic" or "dissociative," based on "alienating functions and devices" derived from the dramatic theories of Bertolt Brecht and those who followed or were influenced by him. She says that "many contemporary dramatists...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 403-404
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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