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REVIEW
Ripley, John. Julius Caesar on stage in England and America,
1599 - 1973. Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 1980.


Thesis: Near the end of his "Introduction" to this stage history, Ripley explains his method:
My approach is the same for all productions. I have attempted to determine what text was spoken, to record distribution of speeches, reduction of cast, major cuts and their impact on theatrical form, and additions on the rare occasions when they occur. Stagecraft receives equal attention — settings, costumes stage business, crowd scenes, and lighting when it is noteworthy. The interpretation of the four major roles — Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, and Antony — constitutes a third area of interest.  (10)
A little farther on, Ripley remarks, "The general reader may find the detail excessive, while the specialist may wish for more." I'm on the side of the general reader. I could not wade through page after page of details about the heights of various actors, the architectural style of the sets, reviewers' reactions, etc. Occasionally I found a tidbit of some interest, such as the comment of "Theatricus," a drama critic in the early days of the American Republic, who found value in Julius Caesar because of "'the growing spirit of liberty it breathes'" (100). I would have welcomed much more of this sort of thing, more analysis of why actors performed the play, and why audiences came to the performances.

My tepid interest in Ripley's book doesn't mean it's not a great accomplishment. Ripley does what he sets out to do very thoroughly; he has consulted thousands of sources and he reports his findings in clear English.

Bottom Line: Excellent, if you find the subject matter engaging.
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   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 22 June 2005