THIS TEXTBOOK for undergraduates is a systematic introduction to DRAMATIC Literature within a theatrical context and to Theater Art within a literary context.
It comprises two parts. "Part One: the Preface" consists of five essays on dramatic theory, to which are added five shorter plays as examples, with introductory notes and commentary. The point of view of the essays is psychological, and the drama is observed in its relation to common elements in human behavior. Consideration of it is controlled by the discriminating use of certain lieterary and theatrical terms. Thoughtful analysis of the content of a play enforces close interpretation of the lines and the patterning of the complex dramatic experience. This, in turn, calls for recognition of the theatrical potential of the playscript and for unusually creative reading. Once fully realized, the play then invites discussion in historical perspective and critical consideration of its form and ideas.
"Part Two: the Plays" is an anthology of eight longer dramas, preceded by introductory notes and followed by pairs of selections from dramatic criticism. The plays in Preface to Drama, counting the short ones in Part One, make up a baker's dozen, representative of our Western Civilization. Here are exemplified the short play, the medium, and the long--comedy, tragedy, and other types--classical, romantic, and realistic--ancient, more modern, and contemporary--European, British, and American. A handful of the great historic dramatists are here: Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Molière. So, too, are the several fathers of modern drama: Ibsen, Shaw, and O'Neill. And here, as well, are significant recent dramatists: Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Modern literary playwrights, Laurence Housman and Thornton Wilder, rub elbows with theatrical actor-dramatists, Noel Coward and Howard Lindsay. Even the librettist, W.S. Gilbert, has his niche. But the plays selected for inclusion are not merely representative; they have proved to be evocative of student interest and of class discussion, whether for their eduring values or for their immediate relevancy.