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Reviews 191 who directed Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and The Wild Duck, playing Hjalmar Ekdal in the latter, would hardly expect his own dramatic creations— Ann Leete, Edward Voysey and Philip Madras—to be labelled “idealists.” Barker undoubtedly subscribed to Shaw’s Shelleyan definition of idealism, as put forward in The Quintessense of Ibsenism: each character starts out as an idealist until he “dared to begin pulling the Masks off and looking at the spectres in the face—dared, that is, to be more and more a realist.” To admire these characters for their idealism is either to misuse critical vocabulary or to miss the points of the plays altogether. This book is unlikely to bring about any long-awaited revival of Barker’s plays in performance. But with steady flow of new work on Barker’s directing and criticism, as well as Eric Salmon’s new biography (awaiting American publication) and his forthcoming edition of the collected letters, it may not be long before there are additional studies of Barker’s dramaturgy which will succeed in elevating at least a few of his plays to the standard repertoire of twentieth-century British and world drama. CARY M. MAZER University of Pennsylvania Kristin Morrison. Canters and Chronicles: The Use of Narrative in the Plays of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1983. Pp. viii + 228. $20.00. Beckett and Pinter characters tell stories, and in Kristin Morrison they have found a reliable critic who explores why they do so, at least in terms of the dramatic structures in which they have been formulated. This discussion has therefore been designed to show us how dramatic characters work, rather than what they may be meant to mean. The approach is refreshing and often accurate in its specification of the compression of two forms, the narrative and the dramatic. Within each play the character’s narration serves as “unwitting self revelation and commentary” (p. 88) and “the narrated segment is an essential part of the dramatic action . . . it is a story not to be cut short” (p. 102). Morrison is talking about “a recital rather than an action” (p. 110) in the strictly Aristotelian sense of the term. For in Beckett and Pinter, the drama results “from the way narrative is used” (p. 116). Finally, on page 123 the point is made: “the narratives are . . . dramatic action.” Few would argue with Professor Morrison’s perceptive and clearly stated analysis of the dramatic situation, and critics like Ruby Cohn and Elin Diamond, among others, have argued along similar lines before. The force of Morrison’s approach, however, lies in the extended attention and close reading she gives to the plays under scrutiny. Canters and Chronicles is, moreover, a good read: it is indeed a rare treat to see a book which goes after Beckett and Pinter from one particular angle, rather than submitting us to a spot check of every aspect of their work for the contemporary theater. Morrison persuades us that the stories their characters tell “lay bare their inner struggles” (p. 127). The result is something more than a good read: it is a good book, one that will find 192 Comparative Drama any critic consolidating his own impressions of this important aspect of Beckett’s and Pinter’s dramaturgy. There are, nevertheless, several aspects in the present study that de­ mand further clarification. Let me state at the outset, here, that Morrison is altogether more secure in her appraisal of Pinter than she is of Beckett, even though the latter seems to occupy a bigger portion of the book. Her chapters on Pinter are direct and to the point; no tangential material intrudes (though her final comment on Family Voices is more footnote than chapter, and, like most critics, she continues to underestimate the use of time in Betrayal as mere gimmick). I wish I could say the same on the Beckett chapters. Here Morrison too often gets bogged down by tracking recherche Biblical allusions in the texts, a topic on which she has written before. This looks like digression to me, and certainly gets us off the main thesis of her book. It is...


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pp. 191-192
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