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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER tions? And what is the relation between the placement and iconography of the illustrations and the textual filiations? It is to be hoped that the catalogue, when it appears, will contain reproductions of all the illustra­ tions in all the manuscripts, since those in the essays by Griffiths and Burrow in this volume are so informative. Derek Pearsall's essay rounds out and adds to previous discussions of Gower's reputation, concluding that changing taste is the best explanation for his decline in popularity. "Morality, from being the backbone of Gower's reputation, hadbecomein the post-Romantic period theverystick with which he was beaten" (p. 194). Surely this is as much a comment on modern values as it is upon the quality of Gower's poetry. And perhaps the revival of interest in his poetry betokens a salutary improvement in our aesthetic sensibility. JOHN H. FISHER University of Tennessee PAULA NEUSS, ed. Aspects ofEarly English Drama. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer; Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble, 1983. Pp. xv, 159. $42.50. The study ofmedieval drama has come far since 1952, when the editor of the Wakefield pageants began his text of the Second Shepherds' Play with the direction, "Scene: open fields near Bethlehem." This apparently in­ nocuous aid encouraged the reader to imagine historical shepherds in ancient Palestine, begging many interesting questions about the nature of fifteenth-century dramatic art. Today it would be a mischievous or negli­ gent teacher who sent students off to write about the "realism" of the Wakefield Master without telling them some of the rules of the "game" played onpageants; pointing, perhaps, to avolumeof theTorontoRecords ofEarly English Drama project; suggesting that Brecht might offer easier access to understanding medieval acting conventions than building the shepherds a mist-blowing machine; letting slip that Mrs. Noah was played by a man. The new scholarship is oriented to performance, both historical and contemporary. Paula Nuess in her introduction to this collection draws attention to "the systematic scrutiny ofall surviving records relating to the 224 REVIEWS original productions and imaginative experimental modern productions based on careful treatment of the surviving texts" (p. ix). The best of these essays draw from both fields and witness to a spirit of collaborative enter­ prise that is heartening. In an admirable survey of the incidence of musicin the cycle plays, Richard Rastell argues that music is both representational and structural. He keeps the reader closely in touch with conditions of performance, distinguishing between professionals who played and sang by ear and church singers who read off the stave. The nature of "original" performance is in the foreground of Peter Meredith's excellent piece on "Scribes, Texts and Performance." He amply demonstrates that "it is not possible to answer questions about a text without referring constantly to city and guild records" (p. 14). By questioning the authority of the "stage directions" of medieval scribes, he is able to point up the very disparate purposes of the extant manuscripts. At one extreme the common clerk of York at "the ffyrst place at Trenytie yaites" checks the register against actual pageants and casts; at another, the main scribe of the N-Town plays seems to be compiling a cycle of plays to lend out to satellite villages. The marginal jottings in one Chester manuscript (plate 2), "Staffe, staffe, sword, Cast vpp;" etc., apparently give the actor playing Herod directions in a sword-juggling routine. This fairground approach to acting is being explored in England by the Medieval Players and by the Poculi Ludique Societas in Canada and the United States. Contrary to Reformed notions of piety and propriety, it is no longer inevitable that the devil have the best tricks: in the Toronto production of Chester plays in May, 1983, the Pentecostal flames cast upon the heads of the Apostles issued from the mouth of a fire-breathing God. Richard Proudfoot, too, makes good use of recent production in a brisk, well-judged discussion of Castle ofPerseverance which attends to theme, structure, and visual effect. On interpretation of the manuscript diagram he remains uncommitted whether the circle represents the "theater," enclosing the playing space andthe audience, or indicates a moat round...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 224-227
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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