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Plays, Acting and Music A Book Of Theory   By: (1865-1945)

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First Page:






To Maurice Maeterlinck in friendship and admiration


When this book was first published it contained a large amount of material which is now taken out of it; additions have been made, besides many corrections and changes; and the whole form of the book has been remodelled. It is now more what it ought to have been from the first; what I saw, from the moment of its publication, that it ought to have been: a book of theory. The rather formal announcement of my intentions which I made in my preface is reprinted here, because, at all events, the programme was carried out.

This book, I said then, is intended to form part of a series, on which I have been engaged for many years. I am gradually working my way towards the concrete expression of a theory, or system of æsthetics, of all the arts.

In my book on "The Symbolist Movement in Literature" I made a first attempt to deal in this way with literature; other volumes, now in preparation, are to follow. The present volume deals mainly with the stage, and, secondarily, with music; it is to be followed by a volume called "Studies in Seven Arts," in which music will be dealt with in greater detail, side by side with painting, sculpture, architecture, handicraft, dancing, and the various arts of the stage. And, as life too is a form of art, and the visible world the chief storehouse of beauty, I try to indulge my curiosity by the study of places and of people. A book on "Cities" is now in the press, and a book of "imaginary portraits" is to follow, under the title of "Spiritual Adventures." Side by side with these studies in the arts I have my own art, that of verse, which is, after all, my chief concern.

In all my critical and theoretical writing I wish to be as little abstract as possible, and to study first principles, not so much as they exist in the brain of the theorist, but as they may be discovered, alive and in effective action, in every achieved form of art. I do not understand the limitation by which so many writers on æsthetics choose to confine themselves to the study of artistic principles as they are seen in this or that separate form of art. Each art has its own laws, its own capacities, its own limits; these it is the business of the critic jealously to distinguish. Yet in the study of art as art, it should be his endeavour to master the universal science of beauty.

1903, 1907.



An Apology for Puppets 3


Nietzsche on Tragedy 11

Sarah Bernhardt 17

Coquelin and Molière 29

Réjane 37

Yvette Guilbert 42

Sir Henry Irving 52

Duse in Some of Her Parts 60

Annotations 77

M. Capus in England 93

A Double Enigma 100


Professional and Unprofessional 109

Tolstoi and Others 115

Some Problem Plays 124

"Monna Vanna" 137

The Question of Censorship 143

A Play and the Public 148

The Test of the Actor 152

The Price of Realism 162

On Crossing Stage to Right 167

The Speaking of Verse 173

Great Acting in English 182

A Theory of the Stage 198

The Sicilian Actors 213


On Writing about Music 229

Technique and the Artist 232

Pachmann and the Piano 237

Paderewski 258

A Reflection at a Dolmetsch Concert 268

The Dramatisation of Song 277

The Meiningen Orchestra 284

Mozart in the Mirabell Garten 290

Notes on Wagner at Bayreuth 297

Conclusion: A Paradox on Art 315



After seeing a ballet, a farce, and the fragment of an opera performed by the marionettes at the Costanzi Theatre in Rome, I am inclined to ask myself why we require the intervention of any less perfect medium between the meaning of a piece, as the author conceived it, and that other meaning which it derives from our reception of it... Continue reading book >>

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