6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2001
This book kept me going as I researched a dissertation on English Renaissance Tragedy several years ago. These days, one wades through tons of writing on the tragic genre in which none of the principal themes of tragedy are discussed. Watson argues for the primacy of psychological over political factors in literary experience. Since death extinguishes the individual, and since we are all individuals destined to extinction if not distinction, tragedy's representations of the extinction of carefully drawn personalities that dramatists make us care about, are narcissistic exercises for the spectator, and for the culture, to contemplate. Death, argues, Watson, must be repressed for life to be conducted, but we crave tragedy's message because it tears that veil back, if only temporarily. Watson did not have to convince me, but he did give me comfort against the rabid politicization of this genre, and of the entire literary production of the English Renaissance. He talks first of The Spanish Tragedy, then does some Shakespeare plays, and then does an extended discussion of John Donne. I think I recall that Herbert makes his way in there, too. It is a wonderful book. His essay, "Tragedy," in the CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO RENAISSANCE DRAMA, is a digest of his thinking on this topic. An excellent source for this kind of work is also Thomas F. Van Laan's "The Death-of-Tragedy Myth" in ... Journal of Dramatic Criticism, or something like that. Also Bert O. States' book, The Pleasure of the Play."