The Theatre and Dramatic Theory

The Theatre and Dramatic Theory

The Theatre and Dramatic Theory

The Theatre and Dramatic Theory

Excerpt

To a certain extent this book may be thought of as originating from a basic question. Since the time of the eighteenth-century sentimentalists, the drama has proceeded in a series of successively new waves, all of them impelled by a current which moved counter to that which gave force to the drama of earlier years. Naturally we take pride in the achievements inspired by this fresh and 'modern' approach to the stage, yet at the same time we are troubled by the thought that, despite the vast increase in population, the play- going public has markedly declined. The question which arises is simply this: is the theoretical approach which ultimately stems from the sentimental movement of two centuries ago and which still remains dominant really giving to the general public what subconsciously it seeks for in the theatre? Perhaps, too, the question might be put in another way: is the theatre, because of its essential nature, capable of dealing satisfactorily with such material as, for example, so effectively can be provided for individual readers in the novel?

In the search for an answer to this question (or questions), it has been necessary to start with a tentative examination of a much- neglected and difficult subject--the characteristics, the potential virtues, and the limitations of the average audience, so that this study might almost have been called "The Theatre Audience and the Drama." It has also been necessary to proceed from examination of the audience to a discussion, first, of some general trends in earlier dramatic theory and, secondly, of the prevailing forms assumed by the drama in preceding epochs. Obviously it would be foolish to suggest that imitation of these by-gone forms could prove fruitful in the present, but there does seem to be an imperative need in these our days to pause for a moment to consider basic principles. Thus, although no attempt has been made here to survey dramatic theory in general or to deal with more than a selected few aspects of earlier dramatic writing, this study has had perforce to direct itself outwards from the specific question, fundamentally concerned with the present-

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