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Published March 1910

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This book is a study of the technic of the drama. It is intended, not for those who want to write plays, but for those who wish to learn how plays are written now, and how they have been written in the past. It is the result of a belief that the fundamental principles of the drama are the same throughout the ages, and that they can be discovered as well in the plays of Sophocles as in the plays of Shakspere, as well in the plays of Molière as in the plays of Ibsen. And therefore the author has not confined his attention to the English drama alone; he has preferred to consider the whole history of the theater, ancient and medieval and modern, in the belief that this is the only method which will result in a real understanding of the dramatic practices of any particular period and of any particular people. He has held fast also to the conviction that all the masterpieces of the dramatic art were originally written to be performed by actors, in a theater, and before an audience of the dramatist's own contemporaries; and he has therefore kept in mind always the theatrical circumstances which conditioned the work of the dramatist. In other words, this study is devoted mainly to an examination of the structural framework which the great dramatists of various epochs have given to their plays; and it discusses only incidentally the psychology, the philosophy, and the poetry which we now admire in these pieces. Although the author had no intention of neglecting the content of the masterpieces of the drama, he has centered his attention rather on the form wherein this content is presented, since it is only by so doing that he can set before the student certain of the secrets of the art of the stage.

In the preparation of this volume, in which he has endeavored to consider the differing aspects of the playwright's craft, the author has availed himself freely of the various papers which he has published during the past few years in the North American Review and the Forum, the Atlantic and the Century, Scribner's and Putnam's; but, of course, this material has been unhesitatingly rehandled to adjust it to the ampler scheme of this more comprehensive treatment of the subject.

The author takes pleasure in recording here his indebtedness to the friends who have kindly lent him their aid as this book was passing through the press, , – Professors Ashley H. Thorndike and William W. Lawrence of Columbia University, and Professor Charles Sears Baldwin of Yale University.


February 21, 1910.

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