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84 Comparative Drama the Great—Baum claims these as examples of genuine attempts to create a new tragedy. Perhaps they are, and one would certainly like to add Byron’s Cain to the list, especially for its cinematic second act, and its strikingly modern ending. Of the “accidental” sort of “near tragedy” she offers no examples, but states the general complaint that when “an attempt to merge philosophic and popular interests in the outdated form of the five-act blank verse tragedy” occurs, some unsatisfactory work of art results. The chapters on each of the five poets are filled with interesting information, sometimes in plethora, all of which results from Baum’s exhaustive research and reading. Some chapters are more nearly suc­ cessful than others. On Wordsworth, for example, Baum writes with more clarity. There is only the one play, and there is the change of attitude toward theater on Wordsworth’s part to document. The chapter on Keats is likewise easier of access. With Byron she has her greatest problems, partly because of her skeptical dislike of Byron, and partly because that is the most difficult chapter of all: Byron wrote eight plays, and he is the most mercurial of the poets she addresses. No one, I think, can fail to admire the wealth of material Baum collects. No one would doubt the depth and detail of Baum’s scholarly pursuit (on the stage history of those plays that have been produced, for example). Certainly, too, I do not wish to stand against critical pluralism. But clearly conceived philosophic assumptions have to be understood by the writer before pluralism can be successful and lucid. It does not occur by accident, as the material collects. JOHN W. EHRSTINE Washington State University Felicia Hardison Londre. Tennessee Williams. World Dramatists Series. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980. Pp. vi + 231. $10.95. The writing of a general introduction to the works of a well-known playwright whom previous critics have already dealt with in depth is no easy task. Should one simply condense and render into layman’s language what commentators have said before? Or should one stress aspects of the plays that others have neglected, risking an unbalanced impression on the critically naive? What should be the ratio of summary and des­ cription to analysis? How much biographical detail should appear? Can one deal with the entire oeuvre and still produce a study that coheres as a scholarly whole? The volumes in the World Dramatists Series have generally grappled successfully with these questions. Felicia Hardison Londre, author of the volume on Tennessee Williams, however, has not been totally suc­ cessful. Her aim seems to shift from chapter to chapter, so that beyond an adequate compilation of the facts about the content, composition, and performances of Williams’ dramas, the reader comes away with no Reviews 85 consistent statement about his characteristics and importance as a play­ wright. Londré’s problems first arise in her handling of the biographical material. She says in the introduction that because Williams’ life has been thoroughly detailed in several books she will forego a “condensed biography” in favor of “a brief examination of some important influences on his work.” And yet “condensed biography” accurately describes the eighteen-page chronology that precedes the introduction. Here the reader acquainted with Williams’ life finds nothing new, while the novice is tantalized by just enough detail to be confused. Londré’s emphases are also rather strange. The chronology is excessively particular in detailing Williams’ chronic health problems and numerous operations, leading one to expect that the book will dwell on the insistent occurrences and imagery of disease that run throughout his plays. But except for a general discussion of how the fear of death has shaped his writing, the specifics on the dramatist’s health lead to nothing in the text. Indeed, a main problem with the volume is that no one of its fortyfour sections has any firm connection to the other forty-three. Londré does write a promising introduction in which she outlines the influence of Williams’ family and his Southern heritage on his work (although she skirts the issue of his homosexuality that the playwright has been so voluble...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 84-86
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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