ADAPTING DICKENS TO THE MODERN EYE Nicholas Nickleby and Little Dorrit
There has always been a close symbiotic relationship between the story-telling arts. In a sense Aristotle was already fighting a losing battle when he argued that the epic and the dramatic were incompatible, each having distinct aesthetic requirements. The history of European - and, in particular, English - theatre is a record of creative interchange, with development fuelled by cross-fertilization. Shakespeare borrowed plots and dramatic situations from Italian novellas; Tchaikovsky based ballets on Shakespeare; Jacobean masques included tableaux modelled on allegorical paintings; eighteenth-and nineteenth-century narrative pictures took the stances or groupings of their figures from the stage; and more recently there has been the vogue for publishing 'the book of the film'. However, with Charles Dickens the connections between the novel and theatre became exceptionally close - a link that extended logically into cinema, one of the earliest silent movies being a 1903 version of the school scenes from Nicholas Nickleby.