This book looks at the belief held by many nineteenth-century writers, that the best tragedy should be read rather than performed. They have often been attacked for their views by later critics. The author argues that this attitude was not mere eccentricity on the part of the Roamntics. Instead, shows the extent to which they were influenced by an established and intellectually justifiable tradition in dramatic criticism, reaching back to the writings of Aristotle and Plato. She also examines the extent to which the Romantics objected to the elaborate dramatic spectacles of the 19th century, which they believed made an audience passive by appealing only to the senses. Instead, Coleridge, Lamb, and Hazlitt argued that great literature should help people to transcend the senses by actively engaging the imagination. Thus, these three writers designed theie own essays and books to challenge readers and to provoke more dynamic thinking. Through detailed analysis of Coleridge's ""Shakespearean Criticism"" Lamb's ""On the Tragedies Of Shakespeare"" and Hazlitt's ""Characters of Shakespeare's Plays"", the author shows that in their own concern with educating the reader these Romantics anticipate twentieth-century reader response criticism, educational theory, and film criticism.
Janet Ruth Heller currently serves as president of the Michigan College English Association. In addition to Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama, she has written an award-winning children's book about bullying, How the Moon Regained Her Shape (2006), and the poetry books Traffic Stop (2011), Folk Concert: Changing Times (2012), and Exodus (2014). She recently published a middle-grade fiction chapter book, The Passover Surprise (2015). Heller served as the editor of the literary anthology Primavera from 1974 to 1982 and is the author of numerous articles in Theatre Journal, The Eighteenth Century, Poetics, Shakespeare Bulletin, Nineteenth-Century Prose, Twentieth Century Literature, College English, and other journals. Her website is http: //www.janetruthheller.com/