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82 Comparative Drama textual study of King Lear since 1979 which includes books published or in press by P. W. K. Stone and Peter Blayney (at this writing I had seen neither, but believe both to take different paths from Urkowitz’s to ends analogous to his) and a Sem­ inar at the Shakespeare Association of America Annual Meeting, Boston, April 1980. 2 I want to thank Professor Clayton and Kathleen Farley of the University of Chicago Press for generously permitting me to see proofs of his article, “Old Light on the Text of King Lear,” MP, 78 (1981), 347-67, while this review was in progress. 3 1 noted only three minor misreadings in an attractively printed book: p. 85 line 8 read “might have said”; p. 131 line 17 read “must be considered” (?); p. 145 line 15 read “extant.” Joan Mandell Baum. The Theatrical Compositions of the Major English Romantic Poets. Salzburg Studies in English Literature: Poetic Drama and Poetic Theory, 57. Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1980. Pp. 257. $25.00. The great virtue of this book is the wealth of material it gathers to­ gether about these plays. With that acknowledged, one must turn to the many problems within it. The major difficulty with the book is its con­ fusion of method. First, the difficulty may be described in comprehensive terms. At times the approach is too broad, despite Baum’s contention that this is not another “general study” or “review of failures.” At other times, Baum’s approach is based on too narrow an assumption. For example, despite her attempt to counter Watson’s argument (Sheridan to Robertson: A Study of the Nineteenth-Century London Stage [Cambridge: 1926]) that Romantic drama failed by its inattention to realism, her own unstated assumptions as to what a successful drama (or scene, or char­ acter) should be are clearly mimetic (for example, note 72, p. 203). At still other spots, the critical approach is too mixed, as in Chapter 1 where review of criticism, biography, social history, and theater history get shuffled together with observations about the plays themselves. Withall , this book is unsatisfying because the critical methods it employs get garbled, and are finally perhaps not the most rewarding to use for this material. Now by turning to Baum’s stated aims, it is possible to be more particular about the methodological confusion. In the practice and theory of criticism, there have been traditionally three points of focus: the poem, the poet, the audience. This book at different times tries to embrace all three, though the main focus falls on poets and works. Baum announces that she intends to trace the “attitudes” of these five poets toward the theater (p. 1). Why were they all so drawn—at least at times—to theatrical production? All the plays, she states (p. 3), were written for the stage, not the closet, and all the poets, excepting Byron, wrote for profit. Whether or not one wishes to argue with these claims, the approach they dictate gets immediately muddied because she also wishes to glance at the effect play writing had on their other poems (p. 3). That introduces quite different questions, which get further confused when she “suggests” that the terms “lyrical” and “dramatic” Reviews 83 become much less precise in the Romantic period (p. 3). Perhaps, but such a suggestion requires a still different critical focus. As a second thesis, Baum wishes to examine Romanticist plays for their “evident design” for the stage. That admirable and clear aim like­ wise gets complicated because Baum too often attacks these unconven­ tional plays by assuming that they ought to be mimetic. Thus, the attitudes of the poets toward theater, and the dramaturgical design of their plays (criticism focused on poets and poems)—these become the most consistent concerns throughout. However, while these two may get confused with each other, both get too frequently lost in other interesting material: stage history, for example, and speculation on production, which would seem to demand an audience-based criti­ cism. Perhaps her clearest statement of intention, and the confusion— or profusion—which results, is implicit when she says that in each chapter she will...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 82-84
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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