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GEORGE WALLACE LOUDON, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this study was to discover and analyze the criteria of the critical method of Edward A. Dithmar (1854-1917), dramatic critic for the New York Times from 1884 to 1901. The main source for this study was Dithmar's reviews for the New York Times with additional material from his books, John Drew and Memoirs of Daly's Theatre. Also helpful were articles in Harper's Weekly, Forum, Bookman, and other periodicals from 1877, when Dithmar joined the Times, to 1917, when he died. A strong believer in the theatre as a reflection of its own time, Dithmar integrated classical values that upheld the theatre as ennobling and uplifting with an American theatre concerned with realism and the commercial spirit. Dithmar argued that the term "realism" properly applied to the treatment of character. He accepted the proliferation of the physically real in the late nineteenth-century American theatre as an appropriate expression of the period. He found Ibsen's structure flawless and his characters true-to-life, but was repelled by Ibsen's pessimistic view of life. He championed American drama and ardently supported Clyde Fitch, Augustus Thomas, and Bronson Howard. He thought Daly's theatre exemplary for its permanent stock company, ensemble acting, verisimilitude of its decors, and tasteful scripts. Dithmar considered himself a "judicious" critic. His critical methodology blended elements from the period's three main critical ideologies: classical, scientific, and impressionistic. His criticism reflects a classicist's concern for structure and ennobling ideals, the scientific's interest in biography and history, and the impressionist's susceptibility to new experiences. Dithmar distinguished an actor from an entertainer. An actor was an artist, an interpreter of the drama. The entertainer amused, his concern was with the audience. Like the variety show or extravaganza in which he appeared, he was beyond criticism.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

LOUDON, GEORGE WALLACE, "THE THEATRE CRITICISM OF EDWARD A. DITHMAR: "NEW YORK TIMES" DRAMA CRITIC, 1884-1901" (1981). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI8120167.