Issue 4.1

The Transitional Renaissance

Jean Howard


In the Autumn 2018 Critical Inquiry, Richard Halpern writes about “Collateral Damage and Tragic Form,” arguing that tragedy always makes some figures peripheral to the main tragedy even though they too experience devastating loss and even death.  In Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Cassandra is such a peripheral figure.  She is, in Halpern’s terms, collateral damage, not important in the same way that the tragic forms of the time allowed Agamemnon to be central, to be the subject of tragedy.  Writing partly in an historical vein, Halpern argues that the tragic figures of modernity are ironically classical tragedy’s collateral victims.  In the democratizing move that has made Willy Lohman a tragic protagonist, the average man or average woman leaves the peripheral position and becomes the subject of tragedy.  But, Halpern implicitly asks, is there ever an end to collateral damage?  Are there not always those whose deaths are made peripheral, unimportant, unmarked?...

Stable Apes

Paul Menzer


When Wadeson is bad, which is almost always, I forget his plays while they're playing. Some character comes on stage and I can't remember if he's the Dutch Uncle or Welsh Cousin. Turns out it barely matters since Wadeson doesn't seem quite sure himself. So the heart deflates when the Earl of Huntington walks on stage at the opening of his new one, Look About You. Yes, Huntington again. The Admiral’s seem obsessed with this mediocre figure of intermittent interest. Still, there’s a pretty good gag when he asks his groom to tie up his horse in the off stage stable with all the other horses that all the other plays keep just off the stage. Then there’s a pretty lively interchange with a hermit called “Skink,” a disguised hermit of course since hermits and friars are always something else. So far, so good, since Wadeson seems finally to have put his nose to the wind and realized that the only things that should ever happen in a play are things that can only happen in a play....

Hard Pastoral

Jeremy Lopez


The Faithful Shepherdess, recently and unjustly much disliked at the Blackfriars, is a charming and beautiful play. Much of it you’ve seen and heard before: it is self-consciously a throwback, to Spenser, to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to Italian and Latin pastoral. Because it’s this kind of throwback, and a really committed one at that, it’s also not like anything you’ve seen recently. Who is John Fletcher and what does he think he’s doing, thrusting a pastoral romance, positively gleaming with allegorical self-righteousness, into a theatrical culture currently reveling in such decadent potboilers as The Revenger’s Tragedy and The Rape of Lucrece—and at a theatre best known for plays like Eastward Ho and Law Tricks? This certainly seemed to be the question many spectators were asking themselves a little less than halfway through the...