chapter  45
12 Pages

THEATER

ByJAMES R. HAMILTON

In a now familiar history of the rise of the concept of the ‘fine arts’ in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries (Kristeller 1951, 1952), theater as an artform was almost always discussed as a form of dramatic poetry or literature. Simply put, any values of the theatrical performance worth talking about were taken to be those of dramatic literature. If there were features of the performance that merited comment, such as the delivery or the persona of the actress, these were evaluated primarily in terms of their contribution to the audience’s grasp or appreciation of the literary work being presented. The few exceptions to this general practice were more nearly cases of social commentary, even mere items of gossip about actresses (usually), than contributions to the understanding of whatever values might actually attach to theatrical performance itself.