This important new collection is keyed to a fresh analysis of the ways in which meaning can be examined and the caution with which critics should proceed. Writing with his customary extraordinary clarity, Hume argues for a move beyond the kinds of interpretation prevalent for the last 30 years based upon close reading. With subtlety and fine sense, Content and Meaning in the Drama," chapter one, outlines how to identify and analyze the meaning" of plays in ways that go beyond questions of effective impact and enter the realm of ideas and commentary upon real-life material. In urging this move he cautions against lapsing into relativism or losing sight of the lessons to be learned from generic and historical context. His essays present a survey of the drama of this period (concentrating on comedy), focusing on matters of content, ideology and values, impact, and genre. He presents a case for the study of some fine but neglected plays, demolishes some misleading clichés, and offers a view of the plays unwarped by inherited assumptions or personal preferences. To an extent quite unusual in a collection, his first essay provides a purpose and point for the subsequent essays and their concern with the values to be found in the plays and the impact they seem designed to have on an audience. As Hume states in the Preface, I have assembled this collection of essays in the belief that they represent a coherent approach to the plays, and in the hope that they will prove provocative. I will be content if my arguments serve to focus future debate, whether they are accepted, rejected, or modified by later writers."