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I. Amicable Literary Relations between France and

England from the Fourteenth to the Present

Century :

II. M. Jusserand on Shakespeare in France. French

Knowledge of English Literature in Shake-
speare's day. Shakespeare in Eighteenth-cen-
tury France. Eulogies of Victor Hugo and

Dumas père
III. French Misapprehensions of Shakespeare's Tragic

Conceptions. Causes of the Misunderstanding.

IV. Charles Nodier's Sympathetic Tribute. The Rarity

of his Pensées de Shakespeare, 1801 .

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I. Early Proposals for a National Memorial of Shake-

speare in London .
II. The Cenotaph in Westminster Abbey
III. The Failure of the Nineteenth-century Schemes
IV. The National Memorial at Stratford-on-Avon .

V. Shakespeare's Association with London .
VI. The Value of a London Memorial as a Symbol of

his Universal Infuence
VII. The Real Significance of Milton's Warning against

a Monumental Commemoration of Shakespeare .
VIII. The Undesirability of making the Memorial serve

Utilitarian Purposes

IX. The Present State of the Plastic Art. The Im-

perative Need of securing a Supreme Work of

Sculpture

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SHAKESPEARE AND THE

MODERN STAGE

I

SHAKESPEARE AND THE MODERN STAGE 1

I

WITHOUT “the living comment and interpretation of the theatre,” Shakespeare's work is, for the rank and file of mankind, “a deep well without a wheel or a windlass.” It is true that the whole of the spiritual treasures which Shakespeare's dramas hoard will never be disclosed to the mere playgoer, but “a large, a very large, proportion of that indefinite all” may be revealed to him on the stage, and, if he be no patient reader, will be revealed to him nowhere else.

There are earnest students of Shakespeare who scorn the theatre and arrogate to themselves in the library, often with some justification, a greater capacity for apprehending and appreciating Shakespeare than is at the command of the ordinary playgoer or actor. But let Sir Oracle of the study, however full and deep be his knowledge, "use all gently." Let him bear in mind that his vision also has its limitations, and that student, actor, and spectator

1 This paper was first printed in The Nineteenth Century, January, 1900.

of Shakespeare's plays are all alike exploring a measureless region of philosophy and poetry, “round which no comprehension has yet drawn the line of circumspection, so as to say to itself 'I have seen the whole.""

Actor and student may look at Shakespeare's text from different points of view; but there is always as reasonable a chance that the efficient actor may disclose the full significance of some speech or scene which escapes the efficient student, as that the student may supply the actor's lack of insight.

It is, indeed, comparatively easy for a student of literature to support the proposition that Shakespeare can be, and ought to be, represented on the stage. But it is difficult to define the ways and means of securing practical observance of the precept. For some years there has been a widening divergence of view respecting methods of Shakespearean production. Those who defend in theory the adaptability of Shakespeare to the stage are at variance with the leading managers, who alone possess the power of conferring on the Shakespearean drama theatrical interpretation. In the most influential circles of the theatrical profession it has become a commonplace to assert that Shakespearean drama cannot be successfully produced, cannot be rendered tolerable to any substantial section of the playgoing public, without a plethora of scenic spectacle and gorgeous costume, much of which the student regards as superfluous and inappropriate. An accepted tradition of the modern stage ordains that every revival of a Shakespearean play at a leading theatre shall base some part of its claim to public favour on its spectacular magnificence.

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