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378 Comparative Drama his cutoff date of 1975 for the plays included precedes the book’s publication by five years. In fact, the playwrights he has chosen as representative—Rabe, Albee, Bullins, Guare, Anderson—have not re­ mained in the forefront of successful play writing recently and the influence of absurdism has decreased. The theme of personal fragmen­ tation and incompleteness that Bernstein rightly discerns in his sample works has, however, persisted, now manifesting itself in those dramas of physical and psychological deformity that have dominated Broadway the past several seasons. Since Sticks and Bones and House of Blue Leaves are clear precursors of this trend, more should be made of this linkage in the final chapter. This would establish that these plays are not an isolated early seventies phenomenon and that references to “cur­ rent” theatre are valid. Adding or substituting a play by a more recently active and successful dramatist such as Lanford Wilson, Sam Shepard, Mark Medoff, or David Mamet would also have made the study seem less dated. The Strands Entwined says nothing glaringly inaccurate or unintel­ ligent about its subject. It does draw attention to five good plays that may have been underestimated when they opened and may now be in danger of being forgotten. But it says little that is probing or imaginative enough to invite much notice from serious students of contemporary American theatre. INA RAE HARK University of South Carolina, Columbia C. J. Gossip. An Introduction to French Classical Tragedy. Totowa, New lersey: Barnes and Noble Books, 1981. Pp. 193. $28.50. C. J. Gossip’s slim volume on French classical tragedy is a fine attempt to provide a serious, comprehensive, yet accessible introduction to a topic that is always difficult for English-speaking students. Although the author’s intention is quite modest (“to prepare the ground” for the beginner and to offer him “a grasp of the basic issues which face him as soon as he picks up a text or enters the theatre,” as he himself says on p. 2), his success in achieving that goal is not to be slighted. For he provides not only the concise introduction promised but also a supplement of cogent discussions of deeper literary matters that will interest and inform more advanced students. Most importantly in a book of this type, Gossip furnishes intelligent explanations of those conventions foreign to the English stage and thus to the usual reading experience of the student. Furthermore he delves into some practical items of stagecraft and business that are not ordinarily considered in manuals on French classical tragedy. The book is divided into thirteen chapters, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the topic. Gossip begins with “Purposes,” “Staging,” and “Public” before tackling “Unities” in chapter seven, “Action and Plot” (chapter nine), or “Language” (chapter ten). Approached slowly and as part of a larger and coherent context, the typically French “règle des trois unités,” for example, seems less strange and illogical than when presented immediately, as a starting point for discussion as is often the Reviews 379 case. These thirteen abstract categories allow Gossip to discuss the whole world of classical tragedy: he is talking here both about French Tragedy and about French tragedies. The ideal form, the exemplum of this special genre, is highlighted through this emphasis on form and on the genre’s necessary structures. This method permits the reader to develop a feeling for the French classical mind-set in whose context the “twentyfour hour” rule and the strictly regular rhyming alexandrines, which always skirted the danger of monotony, especially in the sing-song delivery that was the classical acting style, are not at all out of place. As a consequence of this methodological approach, classical tragedy becomes a fixed literary structure (cf. such chapters as “Form,” “Charac­ ters,” and “Proprieties”) made of almost interchangeable component parts that can be separated from an individual play and analyzed. Thus Gossip isolates the “récit” (pp. 100-105), explaining its dramatic func­ tion on stage, its historical development throughout the century, and then discussing one outstanding example, Théramène’s “récit” in Phèdre. As this last comment shows, Gossip...


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pp. 378-380
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