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188 Comparative Drama insistence on penance, discipline, mortification of the senses, and “drede” in the face of God’s inevitable vengeance; its several anticipations of the “neghing of the day of dome.” To what extent, if any, do these coincide with Wycliffite politics and polemic as stated in official pronouncements or as maintained by the significant number of ordinary people attracted to the Lollard movement? Indeed what is the status of the Tretise in the larger social context of Lollardy? These are some of the issues that scholars may be inspired to address now that Davidson has made the Tretise available, for the first time, in an accurate, readable, complete edition. To all such future investigations, Davidson’s edition should prove immensely useful. Teachers and students of medieval drama will also want to turn to this highly accessible text. With this book Davidson has made a valuable contribution to the study and teaching of medieval drama, the late Middle Ages, and the history of the English stage. THERESA COLETTI University of M aryland S. Viswanathan. The Shakespeare Play as Poem : A Critical Tradition in Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980. Pp. x + 236. $29.50. Criticism of criticism has become a commonplace in this critically minded century, and S. Viswanathan’s study of the criticism of Shake­ speare’s plays as poems is a commendable addition to that still growing category. One of its values results from the author’s attempt to be com­ prehensive: he has at least noted in passing most of the relevant studies, small as well as large, and he has provided a bibliography which, though labeled “selective,” gives the work usefulness as a reference tool. The organization of the book reflects Viswanathan’s view of his field. After the predictable surveys of modern Shakespeare criticism in general and of the emergence of interest in Shakespeare as a writer of dramatic poetry, he focusses on three critics who he believes shaped the latter movement and determined its direction: G. Wilson Knight, to whom he gives two chapters, L. C. Knights, and Caroline Spurgeon. To these he adds a brief chapter of conclusion (actually a call for a pluralistic approach to Shake­ speare) and an appendix devoted to “examples of developments,” most of which might well have been included in the chapter on Spurgeon. The chapters on G. Wilson Knight alone would make the book interesting. Viswanathan’s appreciation of this much admired and much maligned critic is marked by an approval that is no less warm and genuine for being partly intuitive. He correctly designates “spatial interpreta­ tion” as Wilson Knight’s most significant critical activity (though he comes dangerously close to suggesting that Wilson Knight himself invented the conception, as he did not). He notes Wilson Knight’s anticipation of the Geneva School of critics (“criticism of consciousness”), particularly notable in those wide-ranging essays on unifying motifs in Shakespeare’s work. He discusses, but sometimes with more sympathy than understand­ Reviews 189 ing, the medley of ideas and systems—Christian, Manichaean, Nietzschean , Bergsonian, etc.—that Wilson Knight has invoked during the long course of his critical career. With Wilson Knight such varied ad­ ventures have resulted naturally from his perception of poetry (in fact, any form of human creativity) as a process that begins with the poet and may continue indefinitely with the critic, or interpreter, as he properly prefers to call him. The resultant “visions” are not so much “ideological moorings” as ideologically definable focussings that the convergence of poet and interpreter have made possible. For example, as a younger writer Wilson Knight understandably “discovered” in Shakespeare some of the concepts, notably Christian ones, with which he himself was already familiar and proceeded to write at length about them. Hostile critics have subsequently castigated him both for being doctrinaire and for being heretical, as well as for being irrelevant. Viswanathan would have us allow the man his visions. We can share his regret that Wilson Knight has frequently ignored formal critical stan­ dards, wandered from the text at hand into clearly tangential areas, and willfully disregarded facts garnered by historical scholars. We can also rejoice, however, as he does, that the man has...


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