Art of the Play: An Anthology of Nine Plays

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Fb&c Limited, 15.06.2015 - 467 Seiten
Excerpt from Art of the Play: An Anthology of Nine Plays

The dedication of this book is a necessary acknowledgment. Many years ago, in Barker's lectures On Dramatic Method, I met for the first time the agreeable proposition that a playwrights work must be approached through the theater of his time rather than the codes of later criticism. And in his celebrated Prefaces to Shakespeare he had demonstrated that his various talents and experiences as actor, playwright, director, and scholar collaborated to shed new light on old and much abused texts. However, it was almost accidentally that the more general value of his understanding of dramatic art was revealed to me.

One blacked-out and comfortless winter night during World War II he was discussing some of the prefaces to Shakespeare that he would never have time to write. Not without a recognition of both irony and the "pathetic fallacy," our conversation turned to The Tempest. By coincidence we had both been reading, or rereading, some of the critical essays this last work in the Shakespearean canon had provoked, and were struck by the variety and occasional absurdity of the critical conclusions. Is it a romantic image of the artist surrendering his powers at the end of his career? or a Christian allegory? Can its unity be discovered through the analysis of Freudian symbols? or by applying Marxist dialectic? Or is it, as Dr. Johnson seemed to think, a mere exercise of the fancy, and - "of these trifles enough."

Barker was at once intrigued and baffled by these critical propositions, but his bafflement did not proceed from an imperfect sympathy with the premises of the authors. His constant question was, how would such-or-such interpretation be conveyed by Shakespeare's actors in Shakespeare's theater? As the most progressive of producers in his own active years in the English theater he was not of course suggesting a return to the horse-and-buggy conditions of Shakespeare's stage. But he was constantly aware of the drama as an art and of the text of the play as only a partial record of the artistic whole.

To say that the drama is an art is to imply that it does something more than follow the course of events of a narrative, something more than hold a simple reflector up to mankind.

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