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532Comparative Drama revised, some by the authors and some with Battenhouse's help; all of his own reprinted articles or book selections have been personally revised for publication. The Index, arranged by topics, particular plays, and all modern contributors mentioned, is extremely useful. Seven illustrations , many from emblem collections, well suit the sections they precede. In wrestling with Battenhouse's book, I found myself resisting his militant tone toward scholars, some far in the past, with whom he disagrees. Some of the authors he includes are represented only when he agrees with them. For instance, Eleanor Prosser, whom he questions on the matter of Hamlet's redemption, receives reprinting only of her discussion ofthe Ghost. Phyllis Rackin's New Historical perspective admits only one play discussion with which he agrees, her essay on Richard III. J. A. Bryant, often favorably mentioned, thinks too highly of Cleopatra. Battenhouse does stand as a giant voicing his opinions to an audience he considers threatened by recent critical fashions. Perhaps this is an appropriate moment to express sorrow for his death on 1 7 February 1995 at the age of eighty-two and sympathy to his family, whom he thanks for support in completing this last book. MARGARET J. ARNOLD University ofKansas Alan C. Dessen. Recovering Shakespeare 's Theatrical Vocabulary. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Pp. 203. $49.95. Recent complaints about the superficiality of some Renaissance New Historicists' historical research—some from within the New Historicist camp itself—have prompted what might be termed a "New Scrupulousness " in Shakespeare studies, whereby meticulous attention is paid to a wide range ofrecoverable information about Renaissance staging practices and theatrical conditions. Alan Dessen, whose book gently chides historicists of various stripes for insufficient detail work, is a leading "Scrupulist": each of his chapters bespeaks his familiarity with "roughly 700 plays from the 1400s to the 1680s" (p. 218) and justifies his hypotheses regarding what he calls Shakespeare's "theatrical vocabulary ." Dessen's book is about Shakespeare's stage directions: how to interpret them according to a Renaissance rather than a twentieth-century theatrical idiom (or as close to a Renaissance idiom as we can come). By more nearly approaching a sense of what such directions meant to their plays' original audiences, he sensibly asserts, we increase our options for visual and auditory symbolism in the staging or re-imagining of Shakespeare; we also gain a clearer idea of the imaginative work expected from Renaissance playgoers in the collaborative project of dramatic production. Nearly as impressive as Dessen's painstaking cataloguing and anal- Reviews533 ysis ofcommon (and not-so-common) stage directions is his careful justification of the analysis itself. Dessen notes with irony that those who deny the distinction between "what is opaque (privileged 'literary' texts) and what is transparent (other non-'literary' works that supposedly can be used freely as context)" still "regularly assume that the evidence found in stage directions is transparent and unproblematic" (p. 219). Such an assumption is, he argues, unwarranted: stage directions, no less than dramatic dialogue, are fragments of "theatrical strategy and techniques taken for granted by Shakespeare, his player-colleagues, and his playgoers" (p. 3) but conceived with difficulty by modern readers, audiences , and directors. Dessen's goal, therefore, is to help us begin to recover this lost theatrical vocabulary. What stands between us and an appreciation of lost "theatrical strategy and techniques," Dessen contends, is not only cultural scholars' heedless propensity to accept stage directions as "transparent" but the tendency of twentieth-century editors to suppress or alter directions which fail to match modern naturalistic theatrical expectations. By dint of extensive comparative research of stage directions from English drama 's inception to early Restoration theater, Dessen demonstrates that the stage-direction vocabulary shared by Shakespeare, fellow playwrights, and their audiences may well have made far more use of symbolic dress and behavior than of verisimilitude (an argument, by the way, that runs strictly counter to New Historicists' and cultural materialists' emphasis on the growing naturalism of Renaissance theater). Use of a symbolic visual language to convey character implies, in turn, a greater reliance by actors and playwrights on audiences' imaginative powers than has previously been suggested. In...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 532-534
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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