Books: Black Comedy

SEVEN PLAYS (587 pp.) — Bertolt Brecht—Grove ($8.50).

Most major playwrights leave an unmistakable identifying mark on their work. It may be smaller than theme or plot or character; often it is apt to be a recurring vignette, a typical moment. In Greek tragedy, that moment is the hero smiting his brow, discovering a new wrinkle in Fate's design. The Shakespearean moment, in the tragedies, is the restoration of order after individual or civil turmoil; in the comedies, it is the lover's mistaken identity. In Ibsen, it is self-doubt besetting the stolid bourgeois; in...

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