THE interesting story of the slow evolution of the drama, from its rude beginnings far back in the forgotten past to the pictorial complexity of the present day, has not hitherto been told in a single volume. Most of the existing histories of dramatic literature are unduly distended with critical biographies of distinguished playwrights. Some of them -- in particular, Schlegel's -- are filled with the echoes of bygone controversies. No one of them, moreover, has taken into account the threefold influence exerted on the form of the drama of every epoch by the demands of the actors, by the size and shape and circumstances of the theaters of that time, and by the changing prejudices of the contemporary audiences.
Each of these influences has been kept in mind constantly in the present attempt clearly to trace the development of the drama itself, down through the ages, without ever delaying to narrate the lives of the leading writers who found in this form of literary art their chief means of self-expression. Such criticism as there may be in