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Reviews545 the Cockpit in 1632, shows that the play required three entries to the stage. Even if this evidence is chronologically well beyond the time of Shakespeare and concerns a theater with a classical façade that was built for a genteel audience, it does indicate (as does Nelson's work on Cambridge of the 1640's) a heterogeneity of staging traditions to which this useful and efficient volume of essays offers eloquent testimonial . This would seem to be a suitable occasion on which to express a collective sorrow for the death of Tom King. The volume of essays is enriched by his presence, and he will be missed. DAVID BEVINGTON University of Chicago James McFarlane, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Ibsen. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1994. Pp. xxvi + 271. $59.95 "The known," Hegel observed, "just because it is known, is the unknown "—a dictum that his followers in dialectic, Ibsen, Shaw. Brecht and Genet, put into dramatic practice by "estranging" us from the world we thought we knew. And the critical interpretation of an author best serves us when it does the same: not by straining for originality, but by truly "seeing" what has not been seen before. Otherwise, the best is silence . The contributors to the present volume show no awareness that they are dealing with one of the giants of the modern theater whose visionary purpose, like that of his lifelong disciple James Joyce, was to infiltrate the totality of Western history into his images of modern reality, thereby completely subverting modern (or any) reality's claim to truth and adequacy as a habitation of the human spirit. As an anarchist he is as radical as Genet. This Cambridge Companion is no match in intellectual interest for James McFarlane's Critical Anthology (Penguin, 1970), which assembled in its 470+ pages not only many pronouncements by the unsettling Ibsen himself but also copious commentary from some of the most brilliant writers and thinkers, internationally, from the late nineteenth century to the 1960's. Very few were academics. Most were fellow artists and thinkers, including some prestigious enemies of the dramatist. Whether admirers or detractors, they mostly saw Ibsen on a large scale. One continually was challenged to rethink familiar assumptions, to extend one's critical imagination. With the Penguin Anthology one kept much better company than with this Cambridge Companion. For this is an assemblage of academics and, furthermore, of very chummy academics, predominantly British and Norwegian, with a few token North Americans, who share the same ideas, meet at the same 546Comparative Drama conferences, and often puff each others' books. They have created terms for discussing Ibsen and seem to believe that knowing these modest terms is knowing Ibsen. Whereas the Penguin anthology was a richly chaotic assemblage of extremely diverse perspectives on Ibsen on which the reader was free to draw, the Companion lays out for the reader in advance a very dogmatic and narrow idea of the dramatist, each scholar assigned to one aspect of the subject. Each trots dutifully round the sawdust ring of received ideas, to the approval of fellow participants, avoiding anything that might challenge or disturb. For the most part they create an Ibsen who could never flutter the dovecotes of the bourgoisic: indeed who is a troubled defender of bourgeois values, concerned only that they should not be abused. So this is a Companion not to Ibsen but to the current (dreary) state of Ibsen studies. It is a volume that should spark new interest in Strindberg. Not until well through the volume does one sense that a few of the contributors are thinking, if not originally, at least animatedly. Until then, like a wounded snake dragging its slow length along, it is grim going. The Anglo-Norwegian emphasis excludes any infusion of those Ideas that continental Europeans are always getting up to and which force new and strange perspectives on overfamiliar territory. It means that we are subjected to a brain-numbing stream of moralistic-pragmatist judgments of astounding banality: on Ibsen's early plays, on his historical dramas, on Ibsen and comedy, on Ibsen and the realistic problem drama, on Ibsen and feminism (where he gets a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 545-549
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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