A Natural Perspective: Development of Shakespearean Comedy and Romance

Northrop Frye, A Natural Perspective: Development of Shakespearean Comedy and Romance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965)

From a review in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1971:

It is unfair to ask a book to be something other than what it sets out to be; it does not seem unfair to ask of a theory that it come down, finally, to cases. Northrop Frye’s wonderfully strategic, organizing essay, “The Argument of Comedy,” first appeared in 1948 and was restated and located within his great scheme for literature in his Anatomy of Criticism. The four Columbia University lecture of 1963, extended into essays to make A Natural Perspective, might have been the occasion for Mr. Frye to enter at least some of the plays and show them in, moment by moment, in the concrete, complex texture of the individual work, versions of the comic movement he has described typically. But Mr. Frye does not come down to the cases; he hovers over all the cases at once, glancing now at this telling feature, now that. What the telling features tell is the affinity of all with the argument or archetype or mythic structure of comedy. This procedure radically reverses our normal assumption that the individual work is everything, our interpretative frames heuristic scaffoldings.