The Chief British Dramatists, Excluding Shakespeare; Twenty-Five Plays from the Middle of the Fifteenth Century to the End of the Nineteenth

The Chief British Dramatists, Excluding Shakespeare; Twenty-Five Plays from the Middle of the Fifteenth Century to the End of the Nineteenth

The Chief British Dramatists, Excluding Shakespeare; Twenty-Five Plays from the Middle of the Fifteenth Century to the End of the Nineteenth

The Chief British Dramatists, Excluding Shakespeare; Twenty-Five Plays from the Middle of the Fifteenth Century to the End of the Nineteenth

Excerpt

This volume contains a severely sifted selection of plays, tragic and comic, written by British dramatists and acted on the stage with prolonged success. For obvious reasons it does not contain any of the histories, comedies, and tragedies of Shakespeare, who is too various to be represented by any single example of his work. For reasons perhaps less obvious, it does not include any specimens of the so-called "drama for the closet," the play not adjusted to the conditions of the contemporary stage. Accordingly it omits the imitations of Greek tragedy by Milton and Matthew Arnold, and also the poems in dialogue of Scott, Coleridge, and Byron, Shelley, and Swinburne, no one of which exerted any influence on the development of the drama in England. And for similar reasons it excludes the plays written by poets (like Browning and Tennyson) who, because they did not care to acquire the art of the theater, failed of the success that they desired in the playhouse. The endeavor of the editors has been to present the work of the professional playwrights who were able to establish themselves in the theater and whose plays "kept the stage" for years.

There are many professional playwrights of whose work we should have been glad to present examples, if only we had been allowed two or three volumes instead of one; and we must plead this necessary limitation as our sole excuse for the omission of Lyly, Peele, Greene, Chapman, Dekker, Marston, Middleton, Shirley, and Ford (all of whom the student will find in President Neilson's companion volume, devoted to the chief Elizabethan dramatists). In like manner we have been forced to exclude, Etherege, Steele, Shadwell, Addison, and Rowe. Cibber, Fielding, Gay, Lillo, Home, Garrick, the Colmans, O'Keefe, Holcroft, and Cumberland; Sheridan Knowles, Douglas Jerrold, Charles Reade, H. J. Byron, and Tom Taylor.

Yet in spite of these unavoidable exclusions (by no one more regretted than by us) we make bold to believe that we have here brought together a score or more of plays which illustrate adequately and even brilliantly the development of the dramatic literature of our language from the Middle Ages to the end of the nineteenth century. These pieces, strikingly unequal as they may be in merit -- in invention and in construction, in characterization and in dialogue -- are sufficient to reveal the evolution of the art of playmaking in Great Britain. If they are studied curiously they will serve to disclose the triple influence always exerted upon the dramatist by the . . .

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