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Play-Making A Manual of Craftsmanship   By: (1856-1924)

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PLAY MAKING

A Manual of Craftsmanship

by William Archer

1912

PREFATORY NOTE

This book is, to all intents and purposes, entirely new. No considerable portion of it has already appeared, although here and there short passages and phrases from articles of bygone years are embedded indistinguishably, I hope in the text. I have tried, wherever it was possible, to select my examples from published plays, which the student may read for himself, and so check my observations. One reason, among others, which led me to go to Shakespeare and Ibsen for so many of my illustrations, was that they are the most generally accessible of playwrights.

If the reader should feel that I have been over lavish in the use of footnotes, I have two excuses to allege. The first is that more than half of the following chapters were written on shipboard and in places where I had scarcely any books to refer to; so that a great deal had to be left to subsequent enquiry and revision. The second is that several of my friends, dramatists and others, have been kind enough to read my manuscript, and to suggest valuable afterthoughts.

LONDON

January , 1912

To

Brander Matthews

Guide Philosopher and Friend

CONTENTS

BOOK I

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER II THE CHOICE OF A THEME CHAPTER III DRAMATIC AND UNDRAMATIC CHAPTER IV THE ROUTINE OF COMPOSITION CHAPTER V DRAMATIS PERSONAE

BOOK II

THE BEGINNING

CHAPTER VI THE POINT OF ATTACK: SHAKESPEARE AND IBSEN CHAPTER VII EXPOSITION: ITS END AND ITS MEANS CHAPTER VIII THE FIRST ACT CHAPTER IX "CURIOSITY" AND "INTEREST" CHAPTER X FORESHADOWING, NOT FORESTALLING

BOOK III

THE MIDDLE

CHAPTER XI TENSION AND ITS SUSPENSION CHAPTER XII PREPARATION: THE FINGER POST CHAPTER XIII THE OBLIGATORY SCENE CHAPTER XIV THE PERIPETY CHAPTER XV PROBABILITY, CHANCE AND COINCIDENCE CHAPTER XVI LOGIC CHAPTER XVII KEEPING A SECRET

BOOK IV

THE END

CHAPTER XVIII CLIMAX AND ANTICLIMAX CHAPTER XIX CONVERSION CHAPTER XX BLIND ALLEY THEMES AND OTHERS CHAPTER XXI THE FULL CLOSE

BOOK V

EPILOGUE

CHAPTER XXII CHARACTER AND PSYCHOLOGY CHAPTER XXIII DIALOGUE AND DETAILS

BOOK I

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY

There are no rules for writing a play. It is easy, indeed, to lay down negative recommendations to instruct the beginner how not to do it. But most of these "don'ts" are rather obvious; and those which are not obvious are apt to be questionable. It is certain, for instance, that if you want your play to be acted, anywhere else than in China, you must not plan it in sixteen acts of an hour apiece; but where is the tyro who needs a text book to tell him that? On the other hand, most theorists of to day would make it an axiom that you must not let your characters narrate their circumstances, or expound their motives, in speeches addressed, either directly to the audience, or ostensibly to their solitary selves. But when we remember that, of all dramatic openings, there is none finer than that which shows Richard Plantagenet limping down the empty stage to say

"Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun of York; And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house In the deep bosom of the ocean buried"

we feel that the axiom requires large qualifications. There are no absolute rules, in fact, except such as are dictated by the plainest common sense. Aristotle himself did not so much dogmatize as analyse, classify, and generalize from, the practices of the Attic dramatists. He said, "you had better" rather than "you must." It was Horace, in an age of deep dramatic decadence, who re stated the pseudo Aristotelian formulas of the Alexandrians as though they were unassailable dogmas of art.

How comes it, then, that there is a constant demand for text books of the art and craft of drama? How comes it that so many people and I among the number who could not write a play to save their lives, are eager to tell others how to do so? And, stranger still, how comes it that so many people are willing to sit at the feet of these instructors? It is not so with the novel... Continue reading book >>




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