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Reviews 91 uses Mrozek’s Tango as a demonstration case of the theoretical basis and therapeutic potential of savage comedy. His point is that unlike Absurdist plays which provide also a “catharsis of illusions,” savage comedies offer an identifiable socio-historical framework (p. 43). Count­ ering Fratti and Gianakaris, Gautam Dasgupta, whose concluding essay pulls the strands of the definition together, believes that savage comedy is not moral, while Absurdist and grotesque plays are. “In comedy,” Dasgupta maintains, “the value-system honored by the majority wins; in savage comedy, all value-systems become morally inactive” (p. 61). Even when savage comedy employs the grotesque, it does so in a selfenclosed system without any implied humanistic measurement. The playwright’s “allegiance” is to his “obsessive and, at times perverse imagination” (p. 62). Nonetheless, Dasgupta’s final analysis is that stated or implied by all contributors: that in these savage theatrical worlds humor is generated by the breakdown of human laws. Or, we might add, by the exaggerated discrepancy with our) desperately cherished noumenon: the moral universe. MARILYN GADDIS ROSE SUNY-Binghamton Mark S. Auburn. Sheridan’s Comedies: Their Contexts and Achievements. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1977. Pp. ix + 221. $10.95. This is a good book and a welcome one. Unlike Jack D. Durant’s Twayne Sheridan (1975) and John Loftis’ Sheridan and the Drama of Georgian England (1977), Auburn is not working under the constraints of a series format. He ignores Pizzaro, most of the minor pieces, and all of the adaptations except the re-writing of Vanbrugh’s The Relapse. Thus he can concentrate on the main features of Sheridan’s development as a writer, on structure, and on the criteria by which we evaluate these plays. Auburn’s writing is a pleasure to read. While not argumentative, he does assume that the reader knows the current scholarship in eighteenthcentuTy comedy, and much of his discussion concerns familiar cruces. Auburn’s answers are derived from an approach which combines per­ formance-oriented interpretation with genre theory. Particular issues give the book most of its substance, but Auburn never loses sight of broader questions about what makes comedy work. An initial chapter on “Sheridan and the Georgian Comedy” summa­ rizes the standard comic repertory of the 1770’s and then outlines the critical debate begun by Goldsmith over what kinds of comedy play­ wrights meant to produce or should produce. Auburn identifies three qualities shared by stock comedies of the time and handled with varying degrees of success by aspiring writers, including Sheridan: “plots . . . designed to evoke tears of distress or joy”; “the portrayal of comic characters whose faults and foibles are forgiven on the basis of their 92 Comparative Drama good hearts”; and “the eschewal of bawdry, indelicacy, the improbabil­ ities of farce, and characters from common life in favor of an emphasis on the refined, sensitive, dignified, and morally uplifting” (pp. 24-25). Auburn refers knowledgeably to many plays written while Sheridan was active, but for the most part he avoids plot summaries and only points out instructive contrasts and comparisons. He looks for patterns and writers’ strategies rather than reviewing the problems of “sources” yet again. Readers unfamiliar with the plays of Sheridan’s contemporaries (e.g., O’Brien, Kenrick, Kelly, Garrick, Colman, Foote) may find the results elliptical—but this is a sophisticated book written for the wellinformed reader. Chapters 2 through 6 examine the plays in the order of their com­ position, St. Patrick’s Day and The Duenna sharing a chapter. The book concludes with an evaluation of Sheridan’s “Achievement” as a writer of comedies, with a brief appendix of observations on his “compositional practices.” Most of the chapter on The Rivals is devoted to its characters. Au­ burn notes the autobiographical derivations of the plot but makes no claim for the success of the play on that basis. The few questions of delicacy which arose at the premiere were immediately dealt with by cuts and so do not really affect the play’s stage history. The characters whose faults we cheerfully forgive are most obviously Bob Acres and Mrs. Malaprop, though I am not sure what he means when...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 91-94
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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