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i82 Comparative Drama way in Wikander'sview to later "pathetic" dramas in which kings and queens are portrayed as "victims of irresistible historical process" (p. 87). Dryden's heroic Almanzor of the late seventeenth-century London stage becomes W. G. Wills' pathetic Charles the First of Henry Irving's Lyceum Theatre; Nicholas Rowe's Lady Jane Grey becomes the pitiful Queen Mary of Tom Taylor's 'Twixt Axe and Crown (1870) or Lord Tennyson's play. Needless to say, given the immense territory covered in this chapter (history plays from Dryden to Robert Bolt), Wikander cannot possibly address the myriad complexities involved in the rise of modem drama. In truth, his cursory discussion of Victorian historical melodrama and inclusion of Bolt cannot disguise his merely passing interest in British historical drama of the last hundred years or so. Thus, while his chronicle of the decline of English historical drama from Shakespeare to mid·Victorian melodramatists is compelling, it does not extend to more recent attempts to put history on the English stage, the work of Bernard Shaw and contemporary political dramatists like Edward Bond, John Arden, and David Hare, for instance. This omission, I hasten to add, does not in any way dampen my enthusiasm for this book. And, as Wikander turns from English to Continental drama, the breadth of his knowledge and depth of his insight become even more apparent. So, too, does the intluence of Shakespeare. In the last two chapters of The Play of .Truth and State which together form the book's second section, "Redeeming Time: Drama in the Great Age of History," Wikander turns first to Schiller and Strindberg, then to "The Revolution of the Times: Musset, BUchner, and Brecht." Here Wikander devotes a great deal of time to an unravelling of Schiller's suggestion of a "complementary, reciprocal relationship between the discipline of history and the art of the theatre" in the Wallenstein trilogy (po 149). He then moVes to a detailed consideration of Strind· berg's enormous and constantly changing fascination with history as manifested in his sixteen history plays, twelve .on Swedish subjects and four on world-historical heroes. Oscillating between providential and nihilistic understandings of the past, Strindberg posited and experimented with several hypotheses about history, in the process becoming the modern stage's most prolific historical dramatist. Shakespeare, by Strindberg 's own insistence in Open Letters to the Intimate Theatre, looms in the background of Master Olof; further, as Wikander proceeds to the "overriding secularism" of de Musset's Lorenzacdo, BUchner's Danton's Death, and Brecht's Galileo, Shakespeare's presence grows even more prominent. As Wikander draws his study to a close, he advances strong comparisons between Brecht and Shakespeare: both build Our Town; the production keeps shifting moods, material, and attitudes to prevent any interpretation becoming dominant and a new. orthodoxy. Savran caDs this free-floating irony. Everything is questioned, and the audience left to think about what it has seen and h~ard. The Wooster Group, and especially LeCompte, take ideas Qf dIStance and alienation to an extreme and reject the privileging of any interpretation,cultural levels, or material. Structure is provided by such ideas as examining Our Town in present-day America, or by juxtaposing 'the contradictions of The Crucible with Timothy Leary's leadership of the anti-establishment drug culture. Society, culture, and politics are explored, deconstructed, and criticized. The use of simultaneous actions parody, films, and video ~ong with isolation between speech and gestu~ contributes to a feeling of depth and open-endedness. The result is distinctively post-modem in its arbitrary, fragmented form and mixture of .styles. A production is a self-conscious work of art, meant to be examined like a cezanne or Cubist painting. Savran claims that in the ''history of theatre • . • much of the most radical work has been deconstructive," including the ''indecorous tragedy of Euripides," "Btichner's demonic comedy," and Brecht's non-Aristotelian , non-cathartic Epic Theater. Each playwright was revolutionary because he "worked within history, and within metaphysics, to. launch a trenchant critique of the ideology spoken through history and through metaphysics. Each manipulated preexisting fQrmsto reveal their mode of operation" and exposed the devices upon...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 183-185
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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