Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/372

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the collections of short stories we read in the train, is usually a mere time killer, making the least possible demand on our application and attention. In vaudeville, if something grips our interest we pay attention; if one "turn" does not interest us we simply wait for the next. Sooner or later, without any effort on our part, something will win our absorbed attention. Now drama that has literary value demands, when read, as I have pointed out, concentration, an effort to visualize. Acted drama requires surrender of one's self, sympathetic absorption in the play as it develops. These absolutely essential conditions grow less possible for the person trained by vaudeville. The moving picture show, too, is at best drama stripped of everything but motion. The greatest appeal of all, the voice, except in so far as the phonograph can reproduce it, is wanting. But can any combination of mechanical devices such as the cinematograph and the graphophone ever equal in human significance, in reality of effect, in persuasive power, the human being—most vividly seen and felt in drama at its best? A combination of the cinematograph and the phonograph can be at best only a dramatic Frankenstein's automaton. Dramatic literature is really threatened by the picture show and vaudeville.


All this would be discouraging were not these conditions somewhat counteracted by drama as we find it in our schools, colleges, and social settlements. As far back as the sixteenth century in England and on the Continent the value for pronunciation, enunciation, and deportment of acting by school children was recognized. Ralph Radcliffe, a schoolmaster of Hitchen in Hertfordshire, wrote many plays for his scholars. Nicholas Udall, successively a master of Eton and Westminster schools, left us one of the early landmarks of English drama, "Ralph Roister Doister," a mixture of early English dramatic practice and borrowings from the Latin comedy. On the Continent, fathers and mothers gathered often, fondly to watch their boys in similar Latin or vernacular plays. In like manner to-day, all over this country, in grammar and high schools, wise teachers are guiding their pupils in varied expression of their dramatic instinct. Many a high school to-day has, as part of its equip-