As a critic Bentley has virtues usually characteristic of fiction writers: he is exhilarating, inventive, witty; he is extremely secure both in style and sentiment; above all, he knows how to keep the scholarly gadgetry geared to a pleasing pace. His popularity, no doubt, is as much due to these graces as to what he actually says. The book here- his first non-reviewing work in some years, and an outgrowth of his recent Harvard lectures - is rather academic in format: a discussion of the ingredients and the kinds of drama known to us from the ancients to the moderns. It presents Bentley surprisingly in a somewhat Olympian mood, given to a reconciliation of all the contrary pulls of theatrical history, with little or no extreme stances anywhere. He does opt, as always, for ideas, but as defined now - the idea becoming the action, etc. Very few so-called anti-intellectual playwrights could take umbrage. He has good (and useful) things to say of melodrama and farce though considering them second-rate siblings to tragedy and comedy. He believes plot, dialogue, character, thought and enactment to be of equal (or almost equal) importance. For him the play presents a vision of life, and thus ""statements"" are inescapable, whether they be implicit (as Leavis would have it) or explicit (like the Marxists). He ranges smartly from Aristotle and Shakespeare to the Spanish and German classics, and Brecht, Ibsen, Shaw; he has clever asides from social psychology and the newspapers. Though he displays his dazzling effects by foregoing others - e.g., in-depth analyses - his book promises to be in demand for many, many years.