Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/371

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lem or paint a set of social conditions, they have taken to merely drawing pictures or raising questions rather than attempting even to suggest an answer. As we have seen, in the eighteenth century the writer of sentimental comedy painted social conditions, but with a psychology purely intuitional. To-day we have swung to the other extreme. Recognizing the limited space of the dramatist, confused by contrasting psychological theories, puzzled by the baffling intricacies of the human soul, convinced that the great questions raised cannot be settled in a breath, or with any ready-made panacea, many a dramatist to-day merely pictures an evil condition, waiting for others to find its exact significance or, better still, a solution. "Justice" of Mr. Galsworthy, like "La Robe Rouge" of M. Brieux, offers no solution, yet both led to changes in the conditions portrayed—in the former, conditions of prison life; in the latter, evils attending the life of the petty judiciary of France.


A veritable passion for the theatre is shown by the younger generation to-day in the United States. It crowds the theatres—if we use the word to include not only places giving performances of legitimate drama but also vaudeville houses and picture shows—as in this country it never has crowded them before. To go to a theatre of the older type one must usually travel some distance and often one must save beforehand. Vaudeville and picture shows cheap enough for almost any purse are provided at our very doors. The difficulty is that what they offer is sometimes as low in art as in price. Yet surely, it may be said, there is good vaudeville, and surely proper legislation ought to dispose of what is poor or dangerous in it or the picture show. Granted, but there are inherent dangers which legislation cannot reach. In the first place, the balcony and galleries of our theatres are far less filled than they used to be before vaudeville and the picture show provided at much less expense and with greater comfort entertainment to many as satisfactory as the theatre itself. This decrease in attendance at the theatres naturally jeopardizes the chances of many a play which can be produced only if the manager feels reasonably sure of large houses or a public more general than usually frequents the orchestra. Vaudeville, too, like