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Reviews519 icism's standard terms and techniques—by concentrating on issues of erotic, specular, or rhetorical power rather than the more usual centralized power structures; by considering viewer response and reception along with the shaping cultural context within which a work was produced ; and by beginning to admit a modicum of pleasure attaching itself to Shakespearean texts in addition to the established notion of "cultural work." CYNTHIA MARSHALL Rhodes College Philip Butterworth. Theater ofFire: Special Effects in Early English and Scottish Theater. London: The Society for Theatre Research, 1998. Pp. xxv+272+1 plate. £24.00. This is the book that I needed in 1986 when, as a postgraduate student working on an edition of The Croxton Play of the Sacrament, I had to try to work out how the effects such as the boiling cauldron and the bursting oven might have been achieved. As I tried to explain to a kind but bemused lecturer in chemistry what I needed to know, I became increasingly aware that the problem was not to find out what was possible, but what had been possible at the time of the original performance . Dr. Butterworth's book provides not only a variety of possible answers to my questions and others, but also, and more importantly, the sources from which those and other answers can be deduced. The introduction, which has a reassuring "don't try this at home" tone to it, sets out the principles of selection of evidence, the nature of the evidence, and the organization of the book. The sources are wideranging and in some cases have been included as appendices. Here and throughout the book there is a system of cross-referencing which is particularly helpful if, as is likely, this is used as a reference aid rather than something to sit down and read all through once. The importance of distinguishing between different kinds of eye-witness accounts, between implicit and explicit stage directions, and between projected plans and what actually happened is stressed here and throughout the book. Chapter 1, "Principal Effects and their Providers," is a series of examples of special effects raising, in each case, questions about how exactly the effect was achieved. Sources range from the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman Adam to the fifteenth-century Cornish Ordinalia to the London playhouses of the sixteenth century to fort-holdings and birth- 520Comparative Drama day celebrations in Scotland in the seventeenth century. Many of the most elaborate effects and most plentiful information are not attached to a dramatic text as such, and this chapter serves largely to make the reader aware of the very wide range of possibilities for fireworks as special effects. The remaining chapters each deal with a specific aspect of fireworks in the theater. Chapter 2, "Fireworks, Wildmen and Flaming Devils " concentrates on the individuals most identified with fireworks, the devils and wildmen. Here, the use of fireworks is not primarily linked with the narrative, but is part ofthe spectacular effect. Devils with gunpowder in their ears, or wildmen with fire clubs, add a sense of strangeness , and no doubt danger, to their portrayal. The various ways ofmaking a fire club are described, using evidence from Provençal and Italian sources as well as English. Methods of setting a figure on fire without injury and masks which enable a character to appear to breathe fire are also discussed. The use of illustrations here and throughout the book is very helpful. The illustrations comprise both those found in Dr. Butterworth's sources and, where these are unavailable, his own interpretations ofthe information given. Chapter 3, "Fireworks as Light, Sound, Smoke and Heat" discusses the various ways in which fireworks can serve the dramatic purposes of the text, as in the case of the worlds being set on fire in the Coventry Drapers ' Pageant, or of the Croxton Play ofthe Sacrament, where the boiling cauldron can be indicated by a simple smoke device. Thunderbolts can be made to strike an object by the use of "rockets on a line," bursts of flame can be made with a variety ofmaterials and in a variety of colours. The mixture of eye-witness accounts and records of payments for ingredients...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 519-522
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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