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302Comparative Drama rewarding proximity of art and politics, and how best to make exciting drama out of that tantalizingly symbiotic but difficult relationship. And to dismiss the major Shaw plays, most of which are still very much alive in the modern international repertoire, as "hybrids or montages of stump speech, journalistic op-ed, and thesis play peppered with jokes and lengthy diatribes" is clever word-making perhaps, but no more, revealing a fundamental lack of appreciation of what Shaw's theater and indeed a good deal of good or great theater is all about. To laugh is to survive, something Shaw never forgot. And to suggest as the author does on page 1 43 that "Shaw lived far too long" is to be not merely ungracious but simply arrogant and crude—a statement quite unnecessary in purportedly scholarly writing. De mortuis nil nisi bonum! Furthermore , the author's tedious penchant for ex cathedra statements in an academic prose often foggy, awkward, or downright opaque also limits the appeal of this discourse. Like Wagner or Marx, two of his intellectual heroes, Shaw is still controversial and will continue to provoke the widest possible approaches to him, his work, and his ideas (gay rights, children's rights, to name just two current issues now before the public and about which he spoke out long ago and early on). He is still very much among us. And he will not disappear. He is, as men of genius always are, a mystery , his own creation, difficult, imponderable, of time but also out of time, someone constantly redefining himself, a spiritual, theatrical, and literary chameleon, or a Celtic magpie who would and did steal anything , and make it uniquely and exasperatingly his own. A good many of his plays, hither and yon, are best forgotten, some dated, others didactic to the point of oblivious blather or mere talkiness. But the best ones, and they are numerous, place him quite squarely in the front rank of twentieth-century dramatists. When Shaw was seventy, both Brecht and Pirandello contributed laudatory essays to a Festschrift in the playwright 's honor. They knew, themselves masters of the drama, what place the bantam Irishman occupied on the modern stage. JAMES COAKLEY Northwestern University Patricia Hyde. Thomas Arden in Faversham: The Man Behind the Myth. Faversham: Faversham Society, 1996. Pp. xii + 612. £42.00. It is unfortunate that only specialists in English Renaissance drama seem to know the anonymous domestic tragedy Arden of Faversham (1592). Virtually any audience could enjoy its bizarre and macabre account of the real-life murder of a landowner and businessman by his wife, her lover, some of their servants, and various knaves named Black Will, Shakebag, and Greene in 1551. The playwright, at various times surmised to be Shakespeare, Marlowe, or Kyd, culled most ofhis details Reviews303 from the chroniclers John Stow and Raphael Holinshed, the most salacious of which hinted that the husband encouraged his spouse's infidelity to advance his career. However, Patricia Hyde is interested not in the play but in publishing (and, to some extent, analyzing) all of the historical records concerning Thomas Arden "in the hope that it will give [the people of Faversham] a greater understanding of and respect for their sixteenth-century forbears" (vi). The historical person, it seems, has little in common with the pathetic tyrant onstage. Hyde's enormous book reproduces "full and accurate transcripts of all the relevant documents" (xii) concerning Thomas Arden and the people who surrounded him. She devotes most of her text to reproducing this primary material in the form of twenty-one separate appendices: Stow's narrative; records relating to Arden in Sandwich, Canterbury, and Faversham; informed surmises concerning who owned property in the town and county in early 1530s (112-549). She precedes these transcriptions with thirteen very short chapters that treat "The early years," "Man of property," "Events leading up to the murder and the murder itself ," "Punishments," etc. (1-112). Hyde does not intend that Thomas Arden in Faversham should serve as an authoritative sourcebook for a Renaissance play. Instead, she invites us to examine the records for ourselves and speculate with her about the history of a small...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 302-304
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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