This chapter describes the decline of tragic drama and begins with George Steiner's credo: “I believe that literary criticism has about it neither rigor nor proof,” he writes. “Where it is honest, it is passionate, private experience seeking to persuade.” Steiner does not have a profoundly original thesis, which, along with the self-imposed limitation on his subject, keeps the author from placing Steiner's book in the company of such works of recent drama criticism as Eric Bentley's The Playwright as Thinker, Francis Fergusson's The Idea of a Theater, and H. D. F. Kitto's Form and Meaning in Drama. Steiner starts from the obvious fact that there has been no high tragic art since Corneille and Racine and the Elizabethans, and from the only slightly less evident truth that the history of the drama since then has been largely a simultaneous flight from the tragic and an unending attempt to resurrect it.
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