The old drama and the new: conceptions of the nature of the theatrical experience in the work of William Archer, G.B. Shaw, W.B. Yeats, E.G. Craig and H. Granville-Barker.
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Two opposing philosophical outlooks can be discerned in the thought of the men discussed in this dissertation.. The humanist view, associated with Archer and Barker, sees life as centred solely on man; the religious thinkers, Yeats and Craig, are concerned with man's relationship with a power beyond himself. Shaw is unique in his advocacy of contradictory elements from both philosophies. The humanist thinkers are concerned in art with the communication of information about man; those of the religious party value an indescribable experience communicated by artistic symbols. These two kinds of communication can perhaps be seen in the English theatre of the nineteenth century; the theatre of the early part of the century made use of a traditional language of theatrical symbols, while the later theatres of Irving and the Bancrofts abandoned tradition in favour of new "realistic" portrayals of society and human psychology. Archer illustrates the humanist approach to art in his concern for the moral and psychological information conveyed by the play. In his humanist guise, Shaw emphasizes the need for drama to convey new social and philosophical ideas. For Barker, drama conveys, through the medium of the actor, a special kind of "subjective" truth. Each of the religious theorists seeks symbolic value in a different facet of the theatrical performance;, for Yeats, the religious communication is achieved by the traditional symbols of poetry; for Shaw, in his religious guise, the performer is the prime source of symbolic value; for Craig, purely visual symbols of natural process provide a glimpse of a world untainted by man's egotism. The theories are open to criticism. The humanist theories seem to deny the value of artistic form, while the religious theories seem to seek form without content. All the theories seem to show insufficient respect for the laws of audience psychology.
AuthorsArrell, Douglas Harrison
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