I was in the Lincoln Center performing arts library late last year searching for a book that would teach me about the fundamentals of a well-written play. I found one: The Whole Art of the Stage by François-Hédelin Aubignac (as if anyone would know him because he died over 300 years ago).
I’ve renewed the book 10 times now, and it’s due on March 31, 2016. I’m going to try to finish by the deadline this time.
The book is essential to anyone who wants to be connected to the core elements of what makes a play pleasing to an audience. I thought it was important for me to post this information here, so I can reference it later. Also, I hope to be able to share this book with anyone else who’s interested, because it’s available online through the University of Michigan: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A26187.0001.001?view=toc
I just finished another chapter and thought it would be useful to put up one quote to show the brilliance of this instructional manual (p.128):
In a word, I deliver here all that I can say of this matter, which is, that the Events are always precipitated, when there has been nothing said before from whence they might probably proceed, as when a man appears expressly in the end of the Play, of whom there has not been a word said along, and yet this man comes to make the winding up of the Plot. Or when towards the end, there is some important Action done, which has no coherence with all that passed before; for though the Spectators love to be surprised, yet it is still with probability; and they are not bound to suppose anything, but what follows naturally these things which the Poet shows.
The Theatre is a world by itself, where all is comprehended in the emotions and extent of the Actions represented, and has no communication with the great World, only so far as the Poet himself extends it, by the knowledge which with Art he dispenses abroad.
But the main thing to be remembered, is that all that is said or done as a Preparative or Seed for things to come must have so apparent a Reason, and so powerful a Colour to be said and done in that place, that it may seem to have been introduced only for that and that it never give hint to prevent those Incidents, which it is to prepared.