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Reviews 279 Sarah P. Sutherland. Masques in Jacobean Tragedy. New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1983. Pp. xv + 148. $24.50. Writers in the English Renaissance apparently delighted in the rever­ berations brought about by the intrusion of one artistic medium or genre into the frame of another. One thinks of the innumerable songs inserted in everything from drama to sonnet cycle, or the inclusion of a tale in The Shepherdes Calender, or even the wish to bring the effects of the visual arts to bear on the verbal through ekpbrastic description. The subject of Sarah P. Sutherland's book is a fascinating example of such intrusion: the masque-within-the-play, which, according to the author, accounts for most of the more than a hundred examples of inserted drama in Renaissance plays (p. 1 ) . Sutherland's study focuses on the masque i n tragedy which, she says, "is always both a show and a disguise, simultaneously wonder and woe, at once 'tied to rules of flattery' and 'treason's license.' It yokes violently together the decorum inherent in celebratory court entertainment with the indecorum of madness, mayhem, and murder" (p. xiii) . The mind leaps at the resonant possibilities in the transposition of this most orderly courtly genre into the tragedian's milieu of decorum gone awry. Sutherland defines the limits of her study clearly: she takes as her subject not tragedy containing masque, but masque within tragedy; she is concerned specifically with the relationship of masque to surrounding play. Although she calls her work an extension of "criticism that approaches the play by way of the masque it contains" (p. x), she insists in the Epilogue that she is not defining a device or subgenre: "we have not the masque in Jacobean tragedy but a number of masques in a number of Jacobean tragedies. This is far more a study of six plays that contain masques than a study of the inserted masque" (p. 1 12) . Her intent is "to shed light on some plays by examining what uses they make of a device" (p. 1 13 ) . This she does, after two opening chapters discussing, i n tum, ''The Critical Heritage" and "Kyd's Play [The Spanish Tragedy], James's Masque, and London's Theaters" (as influences, briefly described, on the penchant during James's reign for inserting masques in tragedies) . Suther­ land provides close analyses of the dramatic functions of the masques or masquing elements in Marston's Antonio's Revenge, Toumeur's The Revenger's Tragedy, Beaumont and Fletcher's The Maid's Tragedy, Web­ ster's The Duchess of Malfi, Middleton's Wamen Beware Women, and Middleton and Rowley's The Changeling. Her analyses of how the masques operate in these plays are thorough and always interesting. She relies substantially on the work of earlier critics, often disclaiming orig­ inality, but she invariably questions and probes beyond what her prede­ cessors have done. Each chapter is closely argued, depending upon the reader's consider­ able familiarity with the plays and employing essentially the methods of New Critical formal analysis. The resultant understanding of bow the masquing parts contribute to the dramatic whole is admirable. In her discussion of The Revenger's Tragedy, for example, after describing many instances in which music, dancing, torchlights, masks-any of the 280 Comparative Drama visual or auditory components of the masque-are referred to in the course of the play in the context of revenge and murder, she concludes that the final masque, performed on stage, brings into focus and literally realizes the tension that has been built up through verbal images through­ out. This kind of spade-work is insightful and valuable. Apart from its scholarly interest, close reading of this sort could be of special use to modern-day producers of these plays. Because the author has taken such pains to delimit her subject, her method, and her aims, I am reluctant to take her to task for what she does not do. Nevertheless, in spite of the strength of Sutherland's readings of these plays, I believe many readers will find that this book raises more questions than it answers. It seems, in light of much of today...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 279-281
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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