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Reviews 253 Third, in making Shakespeare “relevant” Manheim sometimes forces his interpretations of the plays, especially his belief that Henry the Sixth was a good king as well as a good man. He asserts that it is Suffolk’s fault that Henry foolishly marries Margaret, for “The king says in effect that he is too young and inexperienced to withstand the onslaught of a super-subtle troubadour, a master of erotic description” (p. 98). But Henry seems to realize as he surrenders that he is being seduced (Part I, V.v.79 fif.), and so he is responsible; and Manheim ignores the fact that Henry gives up two provinces to marry Margaret—the condition that ap­ palls Duke Humphrey. He continues, “The strength [my italics] implicit in Henry’s innocence is revealed in the fall and murder of Duke Hum­ phrey” (p. 99), by which, apparently, he means Henry’s reliance on law and his “conviction that right will triumph.” Humphrey, of course, is given to his enemies for safe-keeping and is murdered by them. Although the audience detests the factious nobles, it is disgusted with the king. If Shakespeare had meant to convey his “anger at political realities” through the failure of a good king in Henry the Sixth, he could have presented him with less emphasis on his foolishness. Yet distortions of this kind are only occasional, and critical studies are worthwhile for reasons other than their overall thesis. Manheim pro­ vides a number of good insights into the plays, with especially good dis­ cussions of Edward II, Bolingbroke in Richard II, and King John. The book is carefully written, and the “Bibliographical Remarks” (pp. 187-94) are informative and an improvement on the conven­ tional bibliography. CHRISTOPHER SPENCER University of North Carolina at Greensboro Lois Wheeler Snow. China on Stage: An American Actress in the People’s Republic. New York: Random House, 1972. Pp. xv + 328. Illus. $ 10.00. There are at least three dramatic traditions in the twentieth-century Chinese world. The oldest of these is the so-called “Peking opera” or “National theater,” as it was once called. It reached a high point of elaboration in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), flourished under the Manchus, and is still popular wherever there is a large enough body of Chinese to support it. This is the drama that Lois Wheeler Snow describes as “decadent” with the audience spending its time “eating fruit and melon seeds, gossiping, tossing hot towels back and forth, visiting from one box to another, and only occasionally looking at the stage” (p.x). The Peking opera has often been described by the modern Chinese as being elitist, decadent, and reactionary; but as Ms. Snow’s book shows, it is still an influence on the modern, Maoist drama. Critically, it can be described as romantic and episodic—a Ming opera can run to fortyeight acts. The romantic adventures of heroes and pure women, corrupt 254 Comparative Drama officials and courtesans, in the circumstances of palace intrigues, are its stock in trade. Interest in it in the West, in such pioneering studies as A. E. Zucker’s The Chinese Theater (1925), L. C. Arlington’s The Chinese Drama from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (1936), and Cecilia S. L. Zung’s Secrets of the Chinese Drama (1937), concentrated not on the plays but on the theatricals, especially the formalized acting technique, the use of operatic arias, and the visible prop man and his ingenious devices, which Peking opera shares with the N5 play and kabuki. This drama, however, has never been elitist in that it required any subtle connoisseurship as the No drama does with its elaborate word­ play and echoes of Buddhist doctrines. Its decadence, if that is the word, consists in its romantic plots and its appeal to the jaded city theater-goer. The second tradition of modern Chinese drama is Western. Even be­ fore the cultural revolution of 1919, the radical changes in Western drama were being imitated in China, where they were permitted. An exile Chinese group, the Spring Willow Society, did Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Japan in 1907. (This is still popular with student groups in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 253-256
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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