This is hardly the kind of companion I'd choose for a night out at the theater. Three of 10 chapters have something to say about a play: R.A. Foakes on "Playhouses and players," Margot Heinemann on "Political drama" and James Bulman on "Caroline drama."
The rest is either stuff that need never escape the academy, like Jill Levenson's endless carping about how English Renaissance comedies don't slip comfortably into any sort of rigorous classification system -- those dogs! -- or, much worse, the semi-comprehensible articles of the editors: A.R. Braunmiller on "The arts of the dramatist" and Michael Hattaway on "Drama and society."
Both editors are under the spell of ranid philosophy, with its expectable dire influence on coherence. I ran both essays through a Random Abstract Noun Generator analysis. The more nouns you can switch around without changing the meaning, the higher the score.
Neither scores as high as a typical sociological treatise, but they score high enough. Braunmiller spends nearly 40 pages to establish that people who paid their pennies to go into a playhouse understood that the play they were watching was a simulacrum, that they did not really imagine that while watching "Tamburlaine" they were in Damascus.
Robert N. Watson's essay on "Tragedy" does not score quite so high in a R.A.N.G. analysis but suffers from another ailment of po-mo lit. crit. -- science envy. This wasn't the place to bring in Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, especially since Watson does not understand that Godel's is not a general proposition but applies only to formal decidable systems, of which lit. crit. is not one.
Too bad, a lot has been unearthed and better understood about English drama since I studied it as an undergrad four decades ago. The bits and pieces collected here are not worth the time or the money.
Also, when did writers about English literature become turgid? Forty years ago, a good fraction of literary criticism was either nonsense or insignificant. But it was stylishly insignificant.
It does not help that some of the plays referenced here have not been reprinted in over a century, so unless you live near a very big library, you can hardly check it out. You will probably get more bang for your buck if you take the money you might spend on this book and use it to buy two tickets to a play and invite a charming member of the opposite sex to come.