British Romantic Drama: Historical and Critical Essays

By Terence Allan Hoagwood; Daniel P. Watkins | Go to book overview

2
“A Haunted Ruin”: Romantic Drama,
Renaissance Tradition, and the Critical
Establishment

GREG KUCICH

I am convinced the man who is to awaken the drama must be a
bold trampling fellow—no creeper into worm-holes—no reviser
even—however good. These reanimations are vampire-cold—
Such ghosts as Marloe—Webster &c are better dramatists, better
poets, I dare say, than any contemporary of ours—but they are
ghosts—the worm is in their pages—& we want to see something
that our grandsires did not know. With the greatest reverence for
all the antiquities of the drama I still think, that we had better
beget than revive—attempt to give literature of this age an idio-
syncracy & spirit of its own & only raise a ghost to gaze on not
to live with—just now the drama is a haunted ruin!

—Thomas Lovell Beddoes,
The Letters of Thomas Lovell Beddoes

… a great [dramatic] spirit may daily, hourly arise, and the great
dread should be, that this critical age doth not mislead or neutral-
ize the talent newly generated.

—“On the Drama,” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine

SHELLEY’S DECLARATION THAT “THE HIGHEST PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY HAS ever corresponded with the highest dramatic excellence” character- izes the Romantics’ tendency to associate their age’s electrifying creative and political reforms with their efforts to reconstruct his- tory’s most exalted dramatic traditions.1 Struck by that central conver- gence of dramatic and cultural aspirations, George Steiner has claimed that “at the origins of the romantic movement lies an explicit attempt to revitalize the major forms of tragedy … [in] the great traditions of the Elizabethan and baroque theatre. … The thought of such restoration preoccupied the best poets and novelists of the

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