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Unit 7: Postwar Era Drama
Drama, instead of telling us the whole of a man’s life, must place him in such a situation, tie such a knot, that when it is untied, the whole man is visible. • —Leo Tolstoy
What is drama? • Drama is a story told through characters played by actors. • A script is the written form of a drama.
Who are your favorite dramatists? William Shakespeare August Wilson Lorraine Hansberry Arthur Miller Henrik Ibsen Eugene O’Neill Oscar Wilde Wendy Wasserstein
What are the purposes of drama? • Drama can • entertain viewers • enlighten viewers by sharing the human condition or experience • help viewers gain insight into themselves and others • teach viewers empathy • allow viewers to explore other visions of the world
Types of Drama • Most dramas can be categorized as either comedy or tragedy. • These classifications date back to the 5th century BCE in Greece. • However, the distinctions between these two types of drama have changed since earlier times.
Ancient Greek Comedies • Ancient Greek comedies were satires that mocked public figures for their foolish ways in solving problems. • Actors portrayed these figures as buffoons. • Public institutions and stereotypes were also made into objects of ridicule. • This was done through the recitation of dialogue and the singing of bawdy songs.
Contemporary Comedies • Today, the term comedy refers to any lighthearted or humorous literary work. • Contemporary stage comedies have leading characters whose foolish actions in solving problems lead to humorous situations. • Typically, contemporary comedies have happy endings.
Ancient Greek Tragedies • Ancient Greek tragedies were stories about the fall of strong individuals of high status, either by their own undoing or by the hand of Fate. • This tragic fall led to the ruination of some aspect of the noble individual’s life, such as • the tarnishing of virtuous character • the fracturing of relationships • the lowering of social status • the sealing of fate
Contemporary Tragedies • Today, the term tragedy describes both • a play about the downfall of a sympathetic character, or protagonist, and • a story with an unhappy ending • Contemporary stage tragedies have leading characters that represent common individuals. • Their weaknesses, or tragic flaws, become apparent as the drama unfolds.
Mixed Types of Drama • Other types of drama blur the lines between tragedy and comedy, including • Theater of the Absurd, in which characters are unpredictable, situations are improbable or meaningless, and dialogue is filled with wordplay • melodramas, in which characters triumph over serious or tragic circumstances in their lives • tragi-comedies, in which the dialogue and actions of characters provide insights into complicated issues, such as love, relationships, or death
Elements of Drama • A play contains many of the same elements as a work of fiction, including character, theme, and plot. • An author of a work of fiction can write long and detailed descriptions of these elements. • However, a playwright—an author of a play— must describe these elements solely through the dialogue and actions of the characters.
Elements of Drama • Another difference between a play and a work of fiction is the element of spectacle. • Spectacle is the visual portrayal of meaning. • To achieve spectacle, drama features unique elements, such as • lighting and costumes • set design and props • music and sound effects
Dramatic Structure • Like authors of fiction, playwrights create characters, setting, and plot structure for their works. • However, playwrights organize these elements differently. • While stories are divided into paragraphs and chapters, plays are divided into parts unique to drama: acts and scenes.
Acts and Scenes Acts are the major divisions of a play. Acts are often divided into scenes, or shorter sections that usually mark changes of time and place. PROGRAM ACT I Scene 1 Scene 2 Scene 3 ACT II
Stage Directions • Because every aspect of a drama is conveyed through performance, playwrights include stage directions in their scripts. • Stage directions are notes that describe how something should be performed on stage.
Stage Directions • Stage directions include notes on • the setting of the play, or the time and place in which it occurs • the staging of the play (set design, lighting, costumes, music) • how actors should deliver their lines • the physical traits of the characters • the action of the play, or how characters should move and behave
Dramatic Characters A character is an individual who takes part in the action of a literary work. Characters in a drama can be classified as major or minor characters protagonists or antagonists round or flat characters static or dynamic characters
Major Characters Major characters play important roles in the plot of a drama are multi-faceted or round characters are dynamic characters who undergo some type of change during the course of a drama
Protagonist and Antagonist Major characters can be classified as protagonists or antagonists. The protagonist has the central role in a dramatic script. The antagonist works against the protagonist, and this friction or tension creates the conflict in the story line.
Minor Characters • Minor characters • play lesser roles in a drama • are flat characters who lack complexity • are static characters who typically remain unchanged throughout a play
Foils A foil is a minor character whose traits contrast with, and therefore highlight, those of another character. In The Crucible, Reverend Hale is a foil to John Proctor. What other characters serve as foils in The Crucible?
Dramatic Speech In a play, dramatic speech helps to reveal a character’s thoughts and motivations. There are four types of dramatic speech that playwrights use in their scripts: dialogue monologue soliloquy aside
Dialogue A dialogue is a conversation between two or more characters. Dialogue can reveal a character’s age personality and mood ethnic background educational level geographical roots relationships and their status motivations and aspirations
Dialogue • In this dialogue excerpt from Act 1 of The Crucible, the true nature of Abigail and John Proctor’s relationship is revealed. ABIGAIL: Give me a word, John. A soft word. Her concentrated desire destroys his smile. PROCTOR: No, no, Abby. That’s done with. ABIGAIL,tauntingly:You come five mile to see a silly girl fly? I know you better. PROCTOR, setting her firmly out of his path: I come to see what mischief your uncle’s brewin’ now. Put it out of mind, Abby. —from The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
Dialogue and Theme Besides establishing characterization, dialogue can also hint at the theme and tone of a drama. Theme is the central idea or perception about life that is revealed through a literary work. Tone is the emotional attitude toward the reader or toward the subject implied by a literary work.
Monologue Another type of dramatic speech is a monologue—a long speech made by one character. This type of speech is an expression of a character’s thoughts or feelings regarding another character or situation. A monologue typically can be heard by other characters on stage.
Monologue • In her monologue in Act 1, Abigail commands Mary and Betty to keep their activities a secret. ABIGAIL: Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!... —from The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
What is the purpose and tone of Abigail’s monologue on the previous slide? • What is revealed about Abigail in this monologue?
Soliloquy Soliloquy is another type of dramatic speech. A soliloquy is a speech that reveals a character’s true thoughts and feelings. A soliloquy is delivered when the character is alone on stage. Typically, a soliloquy offers an intimate glimpse into a character’s emotions or mind-set.
Soliloquy • John Proctor’s lines at the end of Act 2 can be considered a soliloquy. PROCTOR: …half to himself, staring, and turning to the open door: Peace. It is a providence, and no great change; we are only what we always were, but naked now. He walks as though toward a great horror, facing the open sky. Aye, naked! And the wind, God’s icy wind, will blow! —from The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
What is the purpose and tone of Proctor’s soliloquy on the previous slide? • What is revealed about Proctor in this soliloquy?
Aside An aside is another type of dramatic speech. In an aside, a character reveals to the audience his or her innermost thoughts and feelings about a topic. This technique allows the audience—and no other characters on stage—to hear the character’s desires and motivations.
Aside • Elizabeth Proctor delivers an aside in Act 4—the last line of the play. ELIZABETH, supporting herself against collapse, grips the bars of the window, and with a cry:He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him! —from The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
Verbal Irony • Dramatic speech may also include the use of verbal irony. • Verbal irony is when a character says one thing but means another. • Verbal irony is similar to sarcasm. • What examples of verbal irony can you find in The Crucible?
Dramatic Irony • Dramatic irony is when something is known by the reader or the audience but is not known by the characters. • Why is the following excerpt from Act 3 considered an example of dramatic irony? PROCTOR, as he takes out several papers:I am no lawyer, so I’ll— DANFORTH: The pure in heart need no lawyers. Proceed as you will. —from The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
Irony of Situation • Irony of situation is when an event occurs that violates the expectations of the characters, the reader, or the audience.
Irony of Situation • Why are Judge Danforth’s statements in this excerpt from Act 3 considered to be an example of situational irony? DANFORTH:…Do you know who I am, Mr. Nurse? FRANCIS: I surely do, sir, and I think you must be a wise judge to be what you are. DANFORTH: And do you know that near to four hundred are in the jails from Marblehead to Lynn, and upon my signature? FRANCIS: I— DANFORTH: And seventy-two condemned to hang by that signature? —from The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
SUMMARY: Drama • To gain a better understanding of drama, ask yourself the following questions: • How does the plot structure lend itself to the content and theme of the drama? • What do the stage directions reveal about the staging of the drama? • What are the individual roles of the dramatic characters? What are their objectives and motives? • How does the dramatic speech develop the characters and advance the plot?