Shakespeare’s Romances: A Study of Some Ways of the Imagination by Hallett Smith, and: Time, Tide and Tempest: A Study of Shakespeare’s Romances by Douglas L. Peterson (review)
- Comparative Drama
- Western Michigan University
- Volume 9, Number 2, Summer 1975
- pp. 176-182
- View Citation
- Additional Information
REVIEWS Hallett Smith. Shakespeare’s R om an ces: A S tu dy o f S om e W ays o f the Im agination. San Marino, California: Huntington Library Publica tions, 1972. Pp. xiii + 244. $8.50 (hard), $3.50 (soft). Douglas L. Peterson. T im e, T ide a n d T em pest: A S tu dy o f Shakespeare’s R om an ces. San Marino, California: Huntington Library Publications, 1973. Pp. xv + 259. $8.50. Since the early writings of G. Wilson Knight, Shakespeare’s last plays have come increasingly to be known as enormously rich works, and they are being many times effectively produced upon the stage. Even Pericles, previously the least well regarded of them, has been so beauti fully presented in London, Paris, Canada, and the United States that scholars have come to appreciate the reasons for its popularity in the seventeenth-century theater. As scholarly studies have multiplied, and the various schools of criti cism have brought their approaches to bear in the recognition that these plays as “romances” belong to a special genre, we are coming to understand better the relation of the genre to the philosophic and religious interests they make so much of. The T em pest has long been studied in this light but now the explorations into all the plays are being industriously and expansively pursued. The great gains have been in the discovery of the variety of thematic concerns, in the intimate and perva sive emphasis on music and spectacle and choreography, and in the demonstration of the obligations of these works to the romances of the Middle Ages and of antiquity. The plays are indeed so richly conceived that we may look forward to still greater appreciation as they continue to be studied, although, unfortunately, it does not follow that every elaboration will advance either our knowledge or appreciation. Professor Hallett Smith’s volume, Shakespeare’s R om an ces: A S tu dy o f Som e W ays o f the Im agination, proposes to show how these plays are “a natural outgrowth of Shakespeare’s experience in writing comedy and tragedy.” In this he undertakes to work out in more detail continuities that have been remarked upon by many others, but with a particular slant. He is interested in treating Shakespeare’s “imagination” in order to answer the question—“how did it change from his early period to his late period?” By comparing and contrasting themes, images, words, and devices in the comedies and tragedies from the earliest time he demon strates continuities, differences, and developments, in effects and in mean ings. This involves him sometimes in an extensive analysis through juxta posing works of different periods—A M idsu m m er N ig h t’s D ream with 176 Reviews 177 T he T em pest. On another occasion, bringing to bear certain considera tions that come forward on comparing T he W in ter’s Tale with its source, P an dosto, he goes on to point to another way of treating a theme that is in A s Y o u L ik e It. In short, through a painstaking ordering of features considered in this way to be the “elements” of the development of Shakespeare’s imagination, Professor Smith aims not only to portray a mesh of artistic habits but to lead the comparisons into comments on the style and the meaning of the individual works. I am grateful often for the notice of likenesses his careful reading brings to my attention, although I find his idea of “imagination” much too limited and even misleading. This does not turn out to be the kind of psychological study that Professor Lowes made in The R o a d to X an adu —which Professor Smith says he would have liked to emulate had the necessary materials been available to him—but it is an effort, or better, a beginning towards a psychological study—in his words—“of some ways of the imagination.” But in these notations of likenesses and differences, and in the comment on different effects, this really tells little of what one ordinarily has...