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Reviews 187 as metaphor are plainly evident in the following common-sense declara­ tion by Professor Wilshire: I am responsible for my behavior offstage in fundamentally different ways from my behavior onstage. Ethical responsibility is a condition of the iden­ tity of the self; I am the being and no other, who is responsible for behavior, the consequences and parameters of which cannot be confined to the frame of a work of art. (p. 280) Role Playing and Identity is a substantial contribution to the growing body of theoretical work about theatre and the theatrical process. Wilshire ’s writing is precise, judicious, straightforward, and readable, indica­ tive of the disciplined mind of a seasoned scholar whose passion for a clearer understanding of the human condition is matched by his passion for theatre and, perhaps more importantly, by his passion for “knowing.” Thanks to him, we can “know” some of what he “knows” about Role Playing and Identity: The Limits of Theatre as Metaphor. Finally, the sum of both the substance and the value of the book is succinctly expressed by its author: But in the spirit both of Kant and Vico we can formulate this hypothesis: as science is the theory of technology in the broadest sense—or what we must suppose about objects if we would understand how our techniques for inquiring into them could possibly grasp them—so theatre, philosophically understood, is the theory of acting and identity—or what we must suppose about persons if we would understand how it is possible for them to be convincingly projected and enacted on the stage. In sum: to recreate the world in a ‘world’ of theatrical imagination makes us aware of conditions of the world’s being and meaningfulness that had before lain in the obscurity of the ‘taken for granted’, (p. 91) ROBERT L. SMITH Western Michigan University Ronald Speirs. Brecht’s Early Plays. Atlantic Highlands, N. J.: Humani­ ties Press, 1982. Pp. xii + 228. $42.00. Brecht’s plays are habitually divided into three broad groups: the early, or pre-Marxist plays from Baal through the 1929 Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, the middle-period, austerely Marxist plays like The Measures Taken, and the “mature” or “great” plays like Mother Courage. For all their differences, the Marxist plays share distinct simi­ larities of dramaturgical device and thematic perspective. The early plays are another matter altogether. Lush with seemingly private imagery, psychologically extreme, and emotionally violent, Brecht’s early plays are not easy to understand or appreciate. Nor is their relationship to Brecht’s later work fully clear. As a result, critical studies have tended to neglect them in favor of Brecht’s more famous plays. At the same time, Brecht scholarship has gradually clarified much of the textual confusion surrounding the early plays, some of which Brecht reworked several times both before and after his conversion to Marxism. It has also begun to provide biographical material essential to an understanding of the relationship between the young Brecht and the thematic concerns of his early plays—including 188 Comparative Drama diaries and notebooks by Brecht himself, published during the 1970s. In themselves, these detailed studies are vitally important to die specialist but less than satisfying to the general reader, especially one who does not speak German. They have, however, unearthed information that throws some of the conclusions reached in the early, standard examina­ tions of Brecht’s plays into doubt. The time is ripe for a fresh evaluation of the early plays incorporating this textual and biographical research and specialized critical analysis but accessible to the specialist and general reader alike. This is precisely the task Ronald Speirs has set himself in the first book-length study of Brecht’s early plays since John Milfull’s 1974 From ‘Baal’ to ‘Keuner’ (a rather specialized treatment only pri­ marily devoted to the pre-Marxist plays). Despite some nagging flaws, Speirs has largely succeeded; at the very least, his book takes an important step in the réévaluation of the early Brecht. The core of Speirs’ book consists of a series of detailed critical examinations of each of Brecht’s early plays, excluding the one-act plays...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 187-189
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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