The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0813  Friday, 15 March 2002

From:           Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 14 Mar 2002 22:15:33 -0000
Subject:        Laws of Theatre

Diligently comprehensive followers of SHAKSPER will have noticed that I
am re-reading "Biographia Literaria", and I am finding it a sobering and
rewarding experience (again). Here's Coleridge on the "Laws of Theatre"
as they apply to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, in response to
Alexander Pope:

"[Mr. Pope's error] consists... in mistaking for the essentials of the
Greek stage certain rules, which the wise poets imposed upon themselves,
in order to render all the remaining parts of the drama consistent with
those, that had been forced upon them by circumstances independent of
their will; out of which circumstances the drama itself arose. The
circumstances in the time of Shakespeare, which it was equally out of
his power to alter, were different, and such as, in my opinion, allowed
far wider sphere, and a deeper and more human interest. Critics are too
apt to forget, that rules are but means to an end; consequently where
the ends are different, the rules must be likewise so. We must have
ascretained what the end is, before we can determine what the rules
ought to be. Judging under this impression, I did not hesitate to
declare my full conviction, that the consummate judgement of
Shakespeare, not only in the general construction, but in all the
detail, of his dramas impressed me with greater wonder, than even the
might of his genius, or the depth of his philosophy."

BL, Cap.II


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