Blood on the Stage, 480 B.C. to 1600 A.D.: Milestone Plays of Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem

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9781442235472: Blood on the Stage, 480 B.C. to 1600 A.D.: Milestone Plays of Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem

In four volumes of Blood on the Stage, Amnon Kabatchnik examined more than 400 crime-themed plays produced in the 20th century. As any theater lover knows, however, depicting acts of wrong-doing is not a recent phenomenon. The stark, violent plays of Seneca in ancient Rome were followed by liturgical dramas of the Dark Ages that drew on both the Old and New Testaments. The golden age of Elizabethan drama boasted masterful plays drenched with treachery, bloodshed, and horror.

In Blood on the Stage, 480 B.C. to 1600 A.D.: Milestone Plays of Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem: An Annotated Repertoire, Kabatchnik analyzes more than fifty blood-splattered plays that have withstood the test of time. Beginning with masterpieces like Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, Oedipus theKing by Sophocles, and Medea by Euripides, this volume spans centuries of equally compelling dramas such as The Haunted House (200 B.C.), Phaedra (c. 60 A.D.), and The Killing of Abel (mid-15th century). Later works include Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, as well as several plays by Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, notably The Tragedy of Julius Caesar and Hamlet.

The plays in this book—a “prequel” to the other four volumes of Blood on the Stage—represent ancient Greece, ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, and Elizabethan England. The entries are arranged in chronological order and include plot synopses, biographical sketches of playwrights and actors, details about productions, and critical reception, if available. From the killing of Abel by his brother Cain to Hamlet’s revenge of his father’s murder, Blood on the Stage, 480 B.C. to 1600 A.D. provides a critical overview of some of the most significant dramatizations of criminal behavior.

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About the Author:

Amnon Kabatchnik, now retired, was a professor of theatre at SUNY Binghamton, Stanford University, Ohio State University, Florida State University, and Elmira College. He is the author of the four previous Blood on the Stage volumes: 1900-1925 (2008), 1925-1950 (2009), 1950-1975 (2011), and 1975-2000 (2012), as well as the author of Sherlock Holmes on the Stage (2008), all published by Scarecrow Press.

Review:

This is the latest volume in a groundbreaking reference series on theatrical crime and mystery drama by off-Broadway director and former theater professor Kabatchnik. Like its four companion works. . . .this monograph provides a comprehensive listing of the most important ancient to early-modern plays that feature crime or mystery plotlines. Kabatchnik begins this work by introducing readers to the mysteries and crime dramas of ancient Greece. Then, starting with Aeschylus and ending with Shakespeare, each play is highlighted in a fully comprehensive article, and each playwright is given full biographical treatment within the context of his or her historical era. Appendixes cover incidental material that highlights aspects of theatrical mystery, including articles on poison; early trial plays; and modern plays, including O’Neill’s Mourning BecomesElectra and Goethe’s Faust. This volume is a must for any academic (or public) library reference collection, particularly those libraries already holding the four companion volumes and those libraries hosting a comprehensive theater collection. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers. (CHOICE)

Although this is the latest to be published in the five-volume set that covers important plays dealing with crime and (usually) punishment, its coverage is the first chronologically as it deals with the years 480 B.C.E. through 1600 C.E. The other four volumes (all published by Scarecrow), mainly dealing with plays written in English that have had Broadway runs, cover the years 1900-1925, 1925-1950-, 1950-1975, and 1975-2000, respectively. . . .The purpose in each of the existing volumes was not to give an exhaustive history of the period, but, instead to discuss representative, important plays of the genre. The present volume contains an analysis of 50 plays: about 20 from ancient Greece and Rome, 4 from the Middle Ages, and the remainder from fifteenth- and sixteenth-century England. Some examples from the classical period include Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Electra , Euripides’ Medea, Plautus’ The Pot of Gold , and Seneca’s Phaedra . The plays from Tudor England cover works by Wilson, Marlowe, Kyd, and Shakespeare The five plays included by Shakespeare include Julius Caesar and Hamlet (the 1660 cutoff date precludes the villainous doings of Macbeth of 1606 or the gullibility of Othello of 1604). The average length of each entry is about 5 to 10 pages, although a few are much longer (e.g., the entry for Hamlet is over 30 pages). Entries include a scene-by-scene analysis of the play, its stage history including important revivals (coverage ends early 2014), directorial and acting considerations unique to the play, material on important people (including playwrights, actors, and directors) associated with the work, plus a critical analysis of the work, audience reactions throughout history, and an analysis on why the play remains important. The material is accurate and well documented (each chapter ends a section of bibliographic notes). The writing style is informal and the material is presented in an interesting and entertaining way. As a bonus there are six appendixes on such topics as the use of poison in plays of the period, early plays in which trials are featured, Eugene O’Neil’s version of the Electra legend (Mourning Becomes Electra), and Goethe’s Faust. The book concludes with a thorough 35-page name index. This is not only a well-researched, valuable reference tool, but also an entertaining, enjoyable book for browsing. It is highly recommended. (American Reference Books Annual)

Blood on the Stage, 480 B.C. to 1600 A.D. by Amnon Kabatchnik is a fascinating book for those interested in theatre in general, and for those interested in theatrical works about murder, mystery and mayhem in particular. The book is easy to read and understand, and you don’t have to have previous knowledge of the plays presented in the book. If this is the case, you may want to read the original play or go and see the play after reading each entry. The book is rather complex, demonstrating profound knowledge of the field and extensive research skills. I enjoyed reading this book, as not only did it refresh my knowledge of some of the plays I had read a long time ago, but I also learned about theatrical works and playwrights which now I want to read and/or view. (Readers' Favorite)

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