Looking at European drama through an ecological lens, this book chronicles nature and the environment as primary topics in major plays from ancient to recent times. Cless focuses on the few, yet well-known plays in which nature is at stake in the action or the environment is a dramatic force. Though theater predominantly explores human and cultural themes, these plays fully display the power of the other-than-human world and its endangerment during the history of Europe. While offering a broad overview, the book features extensive case studies of several playwrights, plays, and eco-theater productions: Aristophanes’ The Birds, Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest, and Giraudoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot. In each case, Cless connects nature in the play to nature in the life of the playwright based on biographical research into the understanding of natural philosophy and awareness of the immediate environment that influenced the specific play. The book is one of the first of its kind in a growing field of ecocriticism and emerging eco-studies of theater.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments 1: Introduction 2: Greek Tragedy 3: Aristophanes’ The Birds 4: From Menander to Moralities 5: Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus 6: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest 7: From Renaissance to Romanticism 8: Ibsen and Chekhov 9: Giraudoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot 10: Brecht, Beckett, and Beyond — A Conclusion Notes Bibliography Index
Downing Cless is Associate Professor of Drama at Tufts University.
"This newest addition to Routledge’s Advances in Theatre & Performance Studies series opens up a new, greener understanding of familiar works. As the first book-length ecocritical study of Western European drama, it contributes to a growing and lively discourse in theatre, performance and ecology… Cless is the first, however, to turn the light of ecocriticism back upon the earliest dramas of the canon, illuminating how these plays speak to the complex and multifaceted human/nature relationship." –Theresa J. May, Theatre Journal
"This is a bold and successful attempt at a comprehensive history of Western eco-theatre...Cless makes a convincing case for the value of eco-critical approaches to theatre, and he presents surprising and exciting insights, especially in the chapters on Aristophanes, Marlowe, and Shakespeare. After Cless's hardworking - witness also the useful, thematically arranged bibliography - and path-breaking book, we can confidently continue to advance in this direction." Jan L. Hagens, Text & Presentation Drama Conference Series