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Reviews 387 but the most traditional comic theory. If, however, we grant that the comedy as written is easier to study in its particulars than the illegitimi (most of which have vanished), then Bevis has performed a considerable service by this reexamination of the afterpiece. As the favorite form of the more conservative writers, it served both to keep alive the older function of comedy and to counteract the sentimental vogue which impinged upon the London theatre at mid-century. As Bevis says in his appendix on “The Critical Tradition,” clichés about sentimental dominance in the eighteenth century keep surfacing even though a counterview has been gaining currency among serious scholars during the last fifteen years. The importance of this book lies in its detailed consideration of the whole period 1737-80 and its emphasis on afterpieces, a subject too often belittled or ignored. I could wish for even more discussion of little-known but popular plays, and Bevis might also for purposes of comparison have included older come­ dies that remained in the active repertory. The many adaptations staged during these years receive little space, though they too have something to tell us about audience predilections. But enough of cavils. What Bevis does, he does well, and this book makes a solid contribution to the continuing reassessment of the nature of eighteenth-century comedy. JUDITH MILHOUS University of Iowa Derek Hughes. Dryden’s Heroic Plays. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981. Pp. xi + 195. $26.50. Dryden’s rhymed heroic plays continue to attract able critics. They have been controversial since the Duke of Buckingham’s Rehearsal, and controversy about them has not abated. The latest contribution is that of Dr. Hughes, whose book critics of the plays will not be able safely to ignore. Hughes has read widely and attentively in the Continental and English works that provided Dryden’s sources or models; he reveals a knowledge of the French romances in their relations to Dryden’s plays that may be unparalled. He has read the formidable body of modem criticism of the plays, much of which he believes to be wide of the mark, notably that considerable portion of it which interprets the plays as celebrations of an heroic ideal. Hughes’s introductory chapter and his five successive ones devoted in turn to the five plays state and restate his thesis: that (in the words of a summary statement appearing on the dust jack) “Dryden’s main interest is to portray and analyze characters whose human flaws contra­ dict and discredit the heroic ideals which they pursue.” Hughes proceeds by way of close readings of the plays, isolating many instances in which self-deluded characters fail to sustain the patterns of behavior to which they claim adherence. At times he introduces effective contrasts between Dryden’s characters’ inability to live by heroic ideals and characters in analogous positions in French romances or Caroline Platonic drama who 388 Comparative Drama do so triumphantly. The characters of the heroic plays, Hughes con­ vinces me, are indeed lifelike in their lack of self-knowledge and in their fallibility. Yet a demonstration of their human faults is not neces­ sarily a demonstration that they are representations of human nature. This is a learned, tightly-argued, and valuable book. Yet it is a difficult one to read, in part because of the subject, in part because of Hughes’s method of demonstrating his thesis. He considers in close detail, for example, the major characters and several plot lines of the ten-act Conquest of Granada, a play of such complexity that few who do not reread it can keep in mind the network of personal relationships among the characters; and without such knowledge the reader can follow Hughes’s argument imperfectly. Although specialists in Dryden and in Restoration drama will learn much from the book, it is not of a nature to win new admirers of the heroic plays. Hughes’s close attention to his thesis does not prevent him from expressing opinions not immediately relevant to it. He regards the first three of the plays, The Indian Queen, The Indian Emperor, and Tyrannic Love, as inferior to the final two...


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pp. 387-389
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