Specimens of English Dramatic Criticism, XVII-XX Centuries

By A. C. Ward | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

FOR the earliest known dramatic criticism we turn back to the literature of ancient Greece, there to find in Aristotle's Poetics a statement of first principles which, in relation to tragedy, is still valid. But though it is likely that the Poetics will remain for all time the bible of the critics, not all its lessons have so far been learned.

In the present age it has become a fashionable practice in criticism first to conjure a theory from the nebular spaces of the mind and then to adjust the evidence to support the theory. That was not Aristotle's way. He was a deductive critic whose conclusions were based upon a close examination of the output of Greek dramatic poets. In this respect he did work which it has not been necessary to do again, but we need not carry intellectual modesty so far as to suppose that if Aristotle had not arrived at the doctrine of katharsis we should have failed to reach it in the meantime. Since the authority of a great man tends to have a deadening effect upon lesser ones who come after, it is well to consider from time to time the shortcomings of the great, though without intent to underestimate their achievements. Nowadays it is less necessary to recall what Aristotle did than what he left undone. In the extant plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides there is available a body of material sufficient for the extraction of a theory of tragedy if the Aristotelian theory did not happen to exist. Where Aristotle fails us as a theatre critic is in saying excessively little about acting and staging. He left us to grope in perpetual semi-darkness in relation to such matters and not all his

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Specimens of English Dramatic Criticism, XVII-XX Centuries
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • London Theatres in the 1660s 21
  • Betterton's Benefit 44
  • Thomas Betterton 46
  • Garrick's First Performance in London 60
  • Mr. Partridge Sees Garrick 63
  • 'the Beggar's Opera': 18th Century 69
  • Mrs. Siddons 84
  • Others--And Mrs. Siddons 89
  • 'the Beggar's Opera': 19th Century 93
  • Kean as Richard the Third 96
  • On Actors and Acting 101
  • On the Artificial Comedy of The Last Century 112
  • Phelps at Sadler's Wells 123
  • At the Pantomime 130
  • 'Caste' 132
  • On Natural Acting 142
  • Ellen Terry 154
  • Ellen Terry 159
  • Irving in Shakespeare 162
  • 'Ghosts' 182
  • 'Arms and the Man' 190
  • 'trilby' 198
  • Donkey Races 203
  • Forbes Robertson's Hamlet 208
  • 'trelawny of the "Wells"' 218
  • F. R. Benson's Richard II 222
  • Dan Leno 231
  • The Wild Duck' 237
  • 'the Playboy of the Western World'1 248
  • P. D. Kenny 254
  • Granville Barker's Production Of 'twelfth Night' 260
  • 'the Pretenders' 264
  • 'A Bill of Divorcement' 282
  • The Search for the Masterpiece 290
  • 'Peer Gynt' at the Old Vic 294
  • Marie Lloyd 297
  • 'the Way of the World' 302
  • 'Hamlet' in Modern Dress 307
  • A Creator 312
  • Biblical 'tobias and the Angel' 316
  • 'twelfth Night' at the Old Vic 321
  • 'Murder in the Cathedral' 326
  • 'As You like It' at the Old Vic 329
  • Editor's Note 331
  • Descriptive Index 333
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