The Plays of Henry Fielding: A Critical Study of His Dramatic Career
University of Virginia Press, 1989 - 170 pages
Henry Fielding was one of the most interesting playwrights of his time because of his historical position, similar to that of George Bernard Shaw, and his awareness of what it meant to be a playwright at a time when the native dramatic tradition appeared to have settled down for a long sleep and when the only hope for an awakening lay in such low crowd-pleasers as farces, puppet shows, "laughing" tragedies, and ballad operas.
By focusing on the plays themselves, Rivero tells the story of Fielding's dramatic career without burdening the reader with an exhaustive history of contemporary plays and playwrights. He provides us with a clear, critical account of Fielding's dramatic career in terms of trends in contemporary dramatic affairs that help to account for his artistic choices in individual plays.
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This book makes clear just how relevant Fielding's plays are today: "Rape upon Rape...a play which, whilst exhibiting many features of regular drama, shows Fielding's use of the theatre to address specific social issues.... the play wittily exposes the flaws in a legal system that lets a convicted rapist go free." (4)
This is not only one of the best books on Henry Fielding's plays, but one that accurately places the drama of the 1720s and 30s where it belongs: in the theatre. Rivero accurately identifies Cibber as the person most responsible for the failure of new English playwrights in the mid-eighteenth century. Rivero accurately identifies the powers of the Patentees as Manager and censor of all new plays staged Drury Lane in this regard. The politics of play performance at this time have been set out pragmatically by Rivero very clearly indeed. Rivero sensibly cites the writings of Robert D. Hume. Rivero makes clear the politics that new playwrights faced in trying to get their works on stage during the decade before the 1737 Stage Licensing Act (or "Playhouse Bill" as it was known to contemporaries) finally crushed the liberty of new playwrights and play performers in the U. K. till as recently as 1969.
Mark A. Howell
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References to this book
The Dunciad: In Four Books
Snippet view - 1999
A Henry Fielding Companion
Martin C. Battestin
Snippet view - 2000