3 FEBRUARY 1956, Page 27

THESE volumes, which contain a catalogue of plays and playwrights

of the Jacobean and Caroline theatre, bring Mr. Bentley's mam- moth work almost to completion. There is one more volume to come on theatres and theatrical customs. When that appears we shall have more than adequate reference books for the whole period of the English drama up to the closing of the theatres by the Puritans. One effect of even a cursory inspection of Mr. Bentley's lists of authors and plays is to make one feel that this abrupt termination of the Caroline stage was no particular catastrophe. Whatever the future vicissitudes of taste, it is unlikely that Davenant or Cartwright or even Shirley will ever be performed again. Perhaps the old judgement was the just one. The roots of the achievement of the English stage in the early seventeenth century were in the reign of Elizabeth, and by the time the tradi- tion had reached the Caroline era it had run