In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews 281 obliquely. Rather than attempt to discredit these various approaches, he normally retreats from the critical chaos to consider basic questions like what the plays are about, what elements make up the plays, and what effects the plays could be expected to have on an audience. He asks whether plot or character is the more important in a play, whether there is a single or double plot line, whether the play arouses admiration, love, terror, pity, joy, or indignation. Instead of glibly assigning a “theme” to a play, he asks which of the stock plot formulas and character types are present. In determining theatrical trends, he relies not on intuition or general impressions, but on statistics. Some may argue that this kind of discussion is too simple, that any person with time, inclination and a modicum of intelligence could compile the kind of information Hume does. But the importance of Hume’s work, however pedestrian it might seem, can hardly be exaggerated. He claims that the book is no critical study, but is “a historical prolegomenon to future critical studies.” As such, it certainly provides an excellent foundation upon which critics can build. But more than this, it is a corrective for studies which have gone awry, largely for lack of the kind of proper basic understanding which Hume here supplies. The only major regret one can have about Hume’s book is that it wasn’t written many years ago, before most critics of Restoration drama went wrong. PHILLIP J. PIRAGES Kalamazoo College William Searle. The Saint and the Skeptics: Joan of Arc in the Work of Mark Twain, Anatole France, and Bernard Shaw. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1976. Pp. 182. $12.50. In the Preface to Saint Joan Shaw mentioned other literary treat­ ments of Joan of Arc, all of which he found unsatisfactory, though some of the world’s greatest writers had told her story. Joan and the myths that came to invest her appealed, among others, to the imaginations of Shakespeare, Voltaire, Schiller, Anatole France, Michelet, and Mark Twain. Primarily from a philosophical and a psychological point of view, Searle discusses in detail how two of these artists and Shaw himself regarded Joan. Mark Twain in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc somewhat paradoxically admired Joan for her heroism but was unable to find political or religious substance in her life and actions. In being abstracted from the circumstances under which she lived, her virtue became some­ thing for Twain to worship purely as an ideal. On the one hand, he dis­ regarded the fervor of her religious devotion and the strength of her secular interests, and he viewed her heroism as self-regarding. On the other hand, he admired her for her ability to act even at the expense of ethical (and physical) risk to herself and for disregarding damnation in her pursuit of a generous cause. Twain was led to write about a religious figure like Joan, Searle maintains, because he hoped to find in 282 Comparative Drama history, and particularly in the history of a saint, some powers that would enable him to attain transcendence for himself. But his radical skepticism and his pessimistic determinism undermined any assurances that he might otherwise have derived from the perusal of heroic figures. Unlike Shaw, Twain felt that the imagination was by itself powerless to protect the individual from despair. For Shaw Joan did achieve transcendence precisely because of the strength of her imagination, partly projected in the voices which Twain, as a rationalist skeptic, felt impelled to reject metaphorically as well as literally. A wraith-like, idealized Joan is the result of Twain’s need simultaneously to recover in Joan’s innocence some sense of spiritual certainty for himself and to deny her spiritual authority as saint because as a skeptic he could not accept her orthodox faith. Like Twain Anatole France cast doubt on Joan’s credibility by virtue of his own skepticism and by his rejection of the supernatural (France was an unbeliever, an ironist rather than a man like Twain afflicted with spiritual despair). For France, Joan’s voices gave her no construc­ tive assistance and they encouraged in her...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 281-284
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.