Perhaps more contributive than either the older story of romantic adventure or the character sketch, was the drama. The seventeenth century had seen, especially in comedy, the drama descending from heroic themes of kings and princes to pictures of contemporary life in ordinary society, not highly realistic as we understand the term, yet reproducing many of the types and much of the atmosphere existing around the author. It had cultivated the sense of a well-knit plot, of effective situation, and of the interplay of character and action—all elements transferable to prose narrative. And when, in the middle of the eighteenth century, we find the novel beginning to take the place of the stage as the dominant kind of imaginative entertainment, it is easy to see how much the younger form owed to the elder. There had long been an interchange of material between the two species. In the time of Shakespeare, to go no farther back, the playwrights frankly dramatized familiar stories from history, romance, and novella, and occasionally the story of a popular play was retold in prose narrative. Both processes are familiar to-day. Many successful novels appear later on the stage, and not a few successful plays are “novelized.” There are, of course, marked differences in the kind of thing that can be best told by narrative or action respectively, and the failure to recognize these differences accounts for the frequent ill success of this kind of translation. But, after all allowance for this has been made, many of the elements of effective story-telling remain common to both novel and play.

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