Harley Granville Barker: A Preface to Modern Shakespeare by Christine Dymkowski, and: Granville Barker and the Dream of Theatre by Dennis Kennedy, and: Plays by Harley Granville Barker ed. by Dennis Kennedy, and: Granville Barker and His Correspondents ed. by Eric Salmon (review)
- Modern Drama
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 31, Number 3, Fall 1988
- pp. 465-468
- Additional Information
Book Reviews Ifthe principal theme ofthe p~ay is mourning, its principal process, blaming. protects the Tyranes against feeling their losses. But it is a protection that creates its own problems. The Tyrones become as deeply addicted to blaming as to alcohol or morphine. Blaming is the language of intercourse for the Tyrones;blaming gives each the power to affect the others emotionally. If the process makes them miserable it keeps them together. If they are miserable, at least they avoid the isolation they dread more than misery. In the misery of one another's company they can avoid the ghosts that haunt them at the rare moments they are alone. So long as they blame they can avoid understanding their losses or accepting their permanence. O'Neill draws his audience into the ways of blaming; he makes us members of the Tyrone family. Like the Tyranes, so long as we blame, we understand only a little of what we see. Blaming keeps alive the illusion that one has more control over life and destiny than one secretly suspects. When the audience begins to think like the Tyrones it may do so for the same purposes and from the same motives. Unlike the Tyrones, the audience may choose to renounce blaming, and may potentially understand, without angry accusation, the guilt-in-innocence and innocence-in-guilt of parents and sons. The conclusion of the play, which shows us that the Tyrones will go on blaming and loving as long as they live, leaves a sensitive audience with nothing like the exultation that Tristan evokes. "Supreme tragedies exist to produce their own effects and are not serving some other purpose," as Mason insists. Each tragedy detennines the nature ofits own tragic effects. The effect of Tristan has to do with the madness called love and is orgasmic; the effect of Long Day's Journey has to do with mourning. Jt leaves its audience in the state that one feels when one has fmally gone beyond the denials, beyond the desolations of loss, beyond the resignation. It leaves us in a world different from the one we knew before the loss; but we may feel a strength we did not have before to meet the world as it has become. Mourning is both the theme and the tragic effeci of Long Day's Journey; and Mason's simple-seeming insistence that we pennit each tragedy to be itself allows us to know the nature of O'Neill's tragedy. STEPHEN A. BLACK, SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY CHRISTINE DYMKOWSKI. Harley Granville Barker: A Preface to Modern Shakespeare. Washington, D.C.: Folger Books 1986. Pp. 240, illustrated. $32.50. DENNIS KENNEDY. Granville Barker and the Dream ofTheatre . New York: Cambridge University Press 1985. Pp. 231, illustrated. $39.50. DENNIS KENNEDY, editor. Plays by Harley Granville Barker. New York: Cambridge University Press 1987. Pp. 257· $14.95. ERIC SALMON, editor. Granville Barker and His Correspondents. Detroit: Wayne State University Press 1986. pp. 602, illustrated. $57.50. Book Reviews In the last few years, a revival of interest in the work of Harley Granville Barker (1877-1946), both as a director and playwright, has produced a welcome array of scholarship, along with newly edited collections ofhis plays and correspondence. Until recently, Barker was more remembered for his incisive Pre/aces to Shakespeare (1927-1946) than for his impressively diverse, and often controversial, plays, orfor his significant and progressive contributions to modem stagecraft. Although his plays seem to pale beside those of Shaw, and his staging practices have been overshadowed by the theories and productions ofCraig and Poel, Barker, perhaps more than any otherartist of his day, brought the English theatre out of its slavish dependence on the plays and conventions of the nineteenth century. His most important plays suffered from the restrictions of the censor in production, and his staging practices, while considerably less flamboyant than Craig's, quietly and steadily revolutionized the British stage before World War I. The obvious strength of Granville Barker and His Correspondents is that it supplies Barker's own words on a wide variety of theatrical issues. After offering a concise introductory survey of Barker's career, as well as a...