A Short View of Tragedy and Rymer's proposals for regulating the English stage

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Abstract

Thomas Rymer's A Short View of Tragedy (1693) is one of the most infamous texts in the history of English literary criticism. Its adverse reception is largely attributable to the understandable but undue attention Rymer's contemporaries and modern scholars have paid to its most radical parts: Rymer's proposal for reinstating the ancient chorus and his attack on Shakespeare. But between these two sections are five chapters on the history of tragedy that are consistently neglected. Identifying the controlling thesis of Rymer's historical narrative reveals that, far from being a simple attack on Shakespeare or advocating naive subservience to the ancients, A Short View is an appeal for increased government support and regulation of the English stage. In this context, Shakespeare appears as a cautionary example demonstrating what Rymer believed were the ill effects of an unsupervised and selfserving playwright, and the chorus is offered as an effective and aesthetically pleasing means of regulating both the production and reception of drama. Considered in its entirety and with regard to method and purpose, A Short View reveals itself as an early and important contribution to a larger print debate about the reform of English drama.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-226
Number of pages20
JournalReview of English Studies
Volume52
Issue number206
DOIs
StatePublished - 2001

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