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Reviews 183 aspects. Fear is the vampire in Advent: fear of damnation, fear of the Last Judgment—fear of happiness. The plot of Easter revolves around the Heyst family: a father who has been imprisoned and the resulting torment his family must endure. Eleanora, the sixteen-year-old daughter was so traumatized by her father’s incarceration that she was driven insane. Strindberg described her as “a poetic figure of light in a world heavy with bitterness.” She more than any other person in the drama understands the play of emo­ tions. There are Crimes and Crimes focuses upon the question of sin, not as an overt act, but in its covert state. “I’ve now wanted to deal with the problem of Evil Will and the responsibility for evil thoughts and the individual’s court of self-punishment,” Strindberg wrote. The question posed in this harrowing drama is the following: is an individual responsible for his thoughts? One of the protagonists declares: “If one were responsible for one’s thoughts who could go on living?” Strindberg seems to have been living out St. Matthew’s credo in which he declares thought to be tantamount with the act. For modern audiences, less preoccupied with the notion of sin, guilt, and damnation, The Dance of Death, 1 and 11 arouses a more responsive note than do the religious dramas. The anger and resentment felt by married couples today allow for greater identification with Strindberg’s protagonists. These unfulfilled beings, rather than admit to their own failure, project their negative image of themselves onto others—making them the scapegoats. They live out their own personal animosities in the stage happenings; their isolation, turmoil, and spiritual emptiness. Strindberg’s characters—unsettled, dissatisfied, and fragmented—have an assignment as Edgar stated, that “of torturing each other.” BETTINA L. KNAPP Hunter College and the Graduate Center of CUNY Robert Potter. The English Morality Play. London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975. Pp. ix + 286. $21.75. Histories of the morality play seem to arrive in regular sequence. In 1950, A. P. Rossiter wrote a delightful, impressionistic survey of the drama before Elizabeth. In 1958, Bernard Spivack produced Shakespeare and the Allegory of Evil which headed a new wave of interest in the morality play as a means for interpreting Shakespeare. In 1962, David Bevington’s From Mankind to Marlowe provided another history which took the theatrical perspective so brilliantly advanced by Richard Southern in 1957 and T. W. Craik in 1958. In 1969, F. P. Wilson’s Oxford history appeared, but, by limiting it to 1485-1585, he essentially left the earliest plays in limbo and stopped before the Elizabethan theater. Now, Robert Potter provides a comprehensive approach which is specified in his subtitle: “Origins, History, and Influence of a Dramatic Tradition.” 184 Comparative Drama Three features make The English Morality Play useful: an account of the twentieth-century stage history of Everyman and other productions; a review of scholarship from 1660-1914; and a survey of morality plays on the Continent. Modern stage history gives the book its frame with a prologue and closing chapter; the other two occupy Chapters 7 and 8. The heart of the book (chapters 1-6) provides a history of the morality play which uses a theory of penitential ritual as its organizing premise. Essentially, the book proceeds chronologically from the Pride of Life through Brecht and, as such, reflects its subtitle. This is a remarkable projection, but the effort breaks down under the weight of its own ambitious sweep and, inevitably, becomes unsustained and fragmented. The intellectual scaffolding does not hold, but the materials gathered together provide many interesting insights. Chief among them is the list of continental morality plays in Chapter 7 and the bibliography in footnotes which remind us that the early English drama does not exist in isolation. Although he omits the NeoLatin drama, Potter’s brief survey of vernacular materials makes the head swim with speculations about comparative studies which would take a wider view now only characteristic of work in the liturgical drama. Coming down to earth, however, we can turn to Potter’s tale of Everyman’s commercial success in Edwardian England and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 183-187
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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