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94 Comparative Drama much without Cicero’s help, or La Primaudaye’s, or Montaigne’s. We cannot fault the accuracy of Geckle’s perception that Antonio’s Revenge, like Titus Andronicus, is “built upon the principle of contrast” (p. 82), but we may wonder what play of the period is not. So, if we cannot condemn him in Philarchus’ terms, neither will we exclaim with Fourcher in the same play “Good faith these knowledges are very rare,/ And full of admiration; are they not?” (p. 43). If the fact that Marston is scarcely an understated dramatist should obviate much of Geckle’s heavily documented explication, that does not mean, of course, that these plays present us with no difficulties or leave us in no need of critical or scholarly help. But Geckle either does not see or does not address those aspects of the plays that are likely to puzzle us most. Where others find perplexing tensions in Antonio’s Revenge, The Malcontent, and The Dutch Courtesan, Geckle finds unambiguously comfortable moral lessons. And he takes his solemn stand on the issue of Marston’s high seriousness from the beginning in a way that pretty much closes down the pervasive questions of tone and attitude—of just what effects are intended by all the bizarre diction and outrageous action with which the work of this curious playwright is highlighted. Others may be unsure about the extent of parody, burlesque, or comedy involved. But having proclaimed Marston a serious moralist at the outset, Geckle seems impervious to any risible impulse. His sober explication of the stage direction describing the ludicrous backward entrances of Balurdo and Flavia in Antonio and Mellida (p. 76) typifies the rigidly straight face he maintains throughout. The only joke in the book-—Geckel says that Lucius murders Satuminus at the end of Titus Andronicus with a “grisly couplet” (pp. 84-85)—is surely unintentional. This is a very serious book about a dramatist whose seriousness may sometimes be suspect. I am not sure that this scholar and this playwright were meant for one another. But the misalliance could be worse. When he occasionally mentions Shakespeare (e.g. p. 47, p. 167), Geckle shows every inclination to reduce his work (and Cleopatra’s infinite variety) to homiletic lessons of the same sort that he sees as the essence of John Marston’s drama. ROBERT C. JONES The Ohio State University Nicholas Grene. Shakespeare, Jonson, Molière: The Comic Contract. Totowa, N. J.: Barnes and Noble Books, 1980. Pp. xvii + 246. $26.50. In Shakespeare, Jonson, Molière, Nicholas Grene, a Lecturer in Eng­ lish at Trinity College, Dublin, has taken as one aim “to illustrate a range of different comic patterns, to challenge the idea that the form and meaning of comedy can be explained in terms of a simple funda­ mental purpose.” In developing this thesis, he has restricted himself to Reviews 95 plays by three major playwrights of the seventeenth century, about whom he comments, “As far as I am aware, this is the first critical study to be centrally concerned with a comparison of all three.” He has linked his conclusion that no “comprehensive view of the form and meaning of comedy is possible” with another thesis: “What remains constant . . . is . . . the relationship between the comedian and his audience. The audience at a comedy agree to see things in a certain light, agree to accept the terms of reference which the comic structure establishes. . . .” It is this “comic contract” to which the book’s subtitle refers. Grene’s notion of a “comic contract” appears to be a variation on Aristotle’s conception of “probability,” Coleridge’s doctrine of the “wil­ ling suspension of disbelief,” and Kenneth Burke’s definition of form as the arousal and fulfillment of expectation—similarities of which he seems unaware. Insofar as his idea of a “contract” is valid, it is applicable not merely to comedy but to all forms of imaginative literature. Attempts to analyze how this general concept is manifested in particular plays must inevitably lead to two perceptions: that each work is in some respects unique, but that certain patterns of similarity permit plays to be grouped into...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 94-96
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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