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The elements of drama

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  • 1. hat Are the Elements of DramaBy: Jenney CheeverArtistotle set down the elements of drama more than 2,000 years ago. Some of these elements arestill in use today, along with a few new ones that help define modern drama.Essential elements of drama are present in any play that you see. Aristotle was the first to writeabout these essential elements, more than two thousand years ago. While ideas have changedslightly over the years, we still discuss Aristotles list when talking about what makes the bestdrama.Aristotles Six Elements of DramaAristotle considered these six things to be essential to good drama. Plot: This is what happens in the play. Plot refers to the action; the basic storyline of the play. Theme: While plot refers to the action of the play, theme refers to the meaning of the play. Theme is the main idea or lesson to be learned from the play. In some cases, the theme of a play is obvious; other times it is quite subtle. Characters: Characters are the people (sometimes animals or ideas) portrayed by the actors in the play. It is the characters who move the action, or plot, of the play forward. Dialogue: This refers to the words written by the playwright and spoken by the characters in the play. The dialogue helps move the action of the play along. Music/Rhythm: While music is often featured in drama, in this case Aristotle was referring to the rhythm of the actors voices as they speak. Spectacle: This refers to the visual elements of a play: sets, costumes, special effects, etc. Spectacle is everything that the audience sees as they watch the play.
  • 2. In modern theater, this list has changed slightly, although you will notice that many of theelements remain the same. The list of essential elements in modern theater are: Character Plot Theme Dialogue Convention Genre AudienceThe first four, character, plot, theme and dialogue remain the same, but the following additionsare now also considered essential elements of drama. Convention: These are the techniques and methods used by the playwright and director to create the desired stylistic effect. Genre: Genre refers to the type of play. Some examples of different genres include, comedy, tragedy, mystery and historical play. Audience: This is the group of people who watch the play. Many playwrights and actors consider the audience to be the most important element of drama, as all of the effort put in to writing and producing a play is for the enjoyment of the audience.
  • 3. Drama on stage often reflects the drama of everyday life, but (just like other forms ofliterature and art) it concentrates life, focuses it, and holds it up for examination. Since playsare written with the intention of performance, the reader of the play must use herimagination to enact the play as she reads it. Readers of the play need to imagine not justfeelings or a flow of action, but how the action and the characters look in a theater, on astage, before a live audience.AudienceThe fact of a live audience also has an important impact on the way plays are created. Theessential feature of an audience involves the fact that they have, at a single instant, acommon experience; they have assembled for the explicit purpose of seeing a play. Dramanot only plays before a live audience of real people who respond directly and immediatelyto it, but drama is also conceived by the author with the expectation of a specific response.Authors calculate for the effect of a community of watchers rather than for the silentresponse. With this in mind, most plays written deal with topics that are timely.DialogueDialogue provides the substance of a play. Each word uttered by the character furthers thebusiness of the play, contributes to its effect as a whole. Therefore, a sense of DECORUMmust be established by the characters, i.e., what is said is appropriate to the role andsituation of a character. Also the exposition of the play often falls on the dialogue of thecharacters. Remember exposition establishes the relationships, tensions or conflicts fromwhich later plot developments derive.PlotThe interest generated by the plot varies for different kinds of plays. (See fiction elementson plot for more information regarding plot.) The plot is usually structured with acts andscenes. Open conflict plays: rely on the suspense of a struggle in which the hero, through perhaps fight a against all odds, is not doomed. Dramatic thesis: foreshadowing, in the form of ominous hints or symbolic incidents, conditions the audience to expect certain logical developments. Coincidence: sudden reversal of fortune plays depict climatic ironies or misunderstandings. Dramatic irony: the fulfillment of a plan, action, or expectation in a surprising way, often opposite of what was intended.
  • 4. StagecraftThe stage creates its effects in spite of, and in part because of, definite physical limitations.Setting and action tend to be suggestive rather than panoramic or colossal. Both setting andaction may be little more than hints for the spectator to fill out.ConventionThe means the playwright employs are determined at least in part by dramatic convention. Greek: Playwrights of the this era often worked with familiar story material, legend about gods and famous families that the audience was familiar with. Since the audience was familiar with certain aspects of these, the playwrights used allusion rather than explicit exposition. In representing action, they often relied on messengers to report off-stage action. For interpretation the Greeks relied on the CHORUS, a body of onlookers, usually citizens or elders, whose comments on the play reflected reactions common to the community. These plays were written in metered verse arranged in elaborate stanzas. This required intense attention from the audience. English Drama: Minor characters play an important role in providing information and guiding interpretation. The confidant, a friend or servant, listens to the complaints, plans and reminiscences of a major character. Minor characters casually comment among themselves on major characters and plot development. Extended SOLILOQUY enables a major character to reveal his thoughts in much greater detail than in natural dialogue. ASIDES, remarks made to the audience but not heard by those on the stage, are common. Realism: Toward the end of the nineteenth century, realistic depiction of everyday life entered the genre of drama, whereas the characters may be unconventional and their thoughts turbulent and fantasy-ridden. Contemporary: Experimentation seems to be the key word here. A NARRATOR replaces the messenger, the chorus and the confidant. FLASHBACKS often substitute for narration. Many contemporary playwrights have abandoned recognizable setting, chronological sequence and characterization through dialogue.GenresJust a there are various types of novels, i.e., western, romance, science fiction, there aredifferent genres of plays. While it is difficult at times to place many latter day plays into aspecific genre, seeing the attributes will enable the reader to understand the particular playbetter.Tragedy: In classic tragedy and the modern problem play, tragedy is a play in which acentral character faces, and is finally defeated by, some overwhelming threat or disaster.The hero or heroine is an active participant in the event through a tragic flaw, a shortcoming
  • 5. of the protagonist, i.e., pride, rashness, indecision. This reinforces the emphasis on action derived from character, which explains the psychological and moral interest of much great drama. Another common type of tragedy focuses not on how the protagonist brings about but on how he meets his fate. Tragedy so defined celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over physical necessity. Comedy: Different kinds of comedy illustrate different ways a playwright may leaven grim truth with humor or temper the playful with the serious. Traditionally comedy is defined as a play that bestows on its characters good fortune, or more popularly, a happy ending. It may deal with the loves and jealousies of the young, and the reluctance other elders to give their blessings or the necessary funds. Characterization A playwrights success ultimately depends on his ability to create a character that an actor can "bring to life." The playwrights ability to match the PROTAGONIST against an ANTAGONIST of some complexity and vitality can make the difference between a success and failure. Idiom, a character personal thoughts and feelings as reflected through dialogue.Contents within this site are copyrighted by both the author of essays and/or Jan Strever. The contents within these pages are solely those of the author and S.C.C. should not be held responsible. ©1999-2009 Last revised: November 19, 2009 by Jan Strever -- jstrever@scc.spokane.edu Personal site: http://www.js.spokane.wa.us/
  • 6. 1THE ELEMENTSOF DRAMAA toolbox for diagnosing problems with performanceThe elements of drama provide a useful checklist for students and teachers working on student performance.As the elements are the building blocks of a performance, teachers will find it invaluable to focus on each ofthem when diagnosing problems with a performance. When students become skilled and confident with theuse of the elements of drama, the facilitator has a ready reference point to work from. As students continueworking with the elements, they will begin to refer to them in their reflection and the development of theirown performance work.In a successful performance the focus will be clear, tension will be thoughtfully manipulated and managed.This will contribute to the successful creation of an appropriate atmosphere or mood. Actors, props and setswill be organised in the space in a way that is aesthetically appropriate and creates meaning. Roles will besustained in a convincing and appropriate way. Devices like contrast and symbol are also central to thedevelopment of a performance.The following exercises may assist students to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their piece by usingand understanding the elements of drama in an active way. By using the elements, students can develop theskills needed in a successful performance.FOCUS“The frame that directs attention to what is most significant and intensifies the dramatic meaning”.A strong performance piece will have a clear intent which influences the performers’ motivation and channelsthe attention of the audience. In other words the piece has a clear focus which determines the focus of thecharacter and actor and directs the focus of the audience.There are 4 closely related areas of focus:1. the focus of the scene2. the focus of the audience3. the focus of the character4. the focus of the actor.To simply demonstrate the concept of focus and tension, the class observes three mini-performances, thendiscusses and compares them.(a) Two people walking around the acting space.(b) Two people searching in the acting space for a pen.(c) Two people searching for a bomb in the acting space, time limit 20 seconds, defuse by count of 4.The second performance has a focus; the third has heightened tension.Activities to develop the focus of the actor/student(a) The whole group move in the working space.An object thrown onto the floor alternatively repels then attracts them, providing a whole-group focus.(b) The whole group point to a corner above their heads and move towards it purposefully.Repeat, focusing attention without finger point.Walk away from the corner with the focus remaining behind them.Extract from Curriculum Support for teaching in Creative Arts 7-12 Vol 5 No 1 20002(c) “Nectar of the gods” or “dungeons”.This creeping up game may be played as a tribe retrieving the nectar of life or prisoners escaping thedungeon. One person stands at one end of the room with the “key” or the “nectar” on the floor at feet.When he or she turns his or her back the rest of the group creep up to get the “key” or “nectar”. Anyoneseen moving must return to the start. The group use tactics to pass the object back to the start which setsthem free or empowers the tribe. Variations of this sort of game requiring a freeze help to develop focus.(d) Group counting 1-21.Anyone may call out a number at any time in an attempt to reach 21 without an overlap of voices.(e) Group clap.The aim is to clap as a group simultaneously without a signal. Anyone may initiate the move.
  • 7. (f) “Edelweiss clap.”Group stand in a circle with right hand facing up at right side and left hand facing down at left side. A clapis passed around the circle from hand to hand.(g) “Ray gun”.An initial ray gunner is nominated. When the person touches another, he/she is hit by the ray gun. The raygunner points to a person and moves to touch. The victim must call someone else’s name before beingtouched to save his/her life. The named person becomes the new ray gunner.TENSION“The force that engages the performers and audience in the dramatic action”.Every performance contains the element of tension. In the first activity on focus, where actors wandered inthe space, the tension was very low. The second performance, searching for a pen, raised the tension slightlyand the third, searching for a bomb, heightened the tension.To demonstrate and define tension:(a) String tensionTwo people play a scene. A string is stretched across the front of the space. When it is tight they play thescene with high tension; when it is loose they play with low tension.e.g. a doctor presents results of teststudent in principal’s officeopening a birthday presentgrocery shopping with kids.(b) Jewel thief and security guard (introduces concept of dramatic tension)Group form protective circle around two blindfolded performers.One is a thief searching for jewels; the other is the security guard attempting to capture him.SPACE“The personal and general space used by the actors. It focuses on the meaning of the size and shape ofdistances between actor and actor, actor and objects (props and sets) and actor and audience.”To demonstrate and define the element:(a) Build some statues of frozen moments e.g. “Don’t speak to your mother like that!”Discuss: “What is the focus of this scene?”, “How do we know?”Remove facial expression and gestures.(b) Discuss: “How does the space between the people and the objects on the stage convey meaning?”Demonstrate the power of the space to carry meaning by moving people around without altering theirgestures or expression.In small groups build a statue which indicates status and relationships through the use of “space”, e.g. afamily, a court, a gang, an argument, a peace treaty.Extract from Curriculum Support for teaching in Creative Arts 7-12 Vol 5 No 1 20003MOOD“The atmosphere created. Mood concentrates the dramatic action and moves the audience in emotionallyappropriate directions.”To demonstrate and define mood:(a) Form small groups. Listen to an allocated piece of music. Select some scarves from the props box whichreflect the mood, atmosphere or feelings created by the music.(b) Develop 3 freeze frame statues which capture this mood. Find a way to move from one freeze frame tothe next, using the scarves to emphasise the mood. Punctuate the movement by occasionally calling outa word which reflects the mood that you are working on.CONTRAST“The use of difference to create dramatic meaning.”Contrast is an effective means to emphasise, heighten or intensify. Contrasting colours stand out on thestage. Contrasting sizes, shapes and sounds draw attention.To demonstrate and define contrast:(a) From the previous exercise select two pieces of music which you feel offer a useful contrast, to createeither a serious or humorous effect. Mime a scene which illustrates this contrast.(b) Explore the effect of improvising with characters who have contrasting characteristics e.g. fat/thin, loud/soft, rough/gentle, tall/short, fast/slow,
  • 8. wise/silly.The contrast exaggerates the feature, throwing emphasis on it.SYMBOL“The use of objects, gestures or persons to represent meaning beyond the literal.”Every culture has developed an elaborate series of signals where objects are endowed with meaning. It ispossible to signal complex ideas through commonly recognised symbols.To demonstrate and define symbols:Work in pairs. Select an object from a collection of symbols; develop a brief scene which relies on thesymbolic strength of the object to convey meaning, e.g. rose, heart, flag, treasure chest, suitcase, lipstickon collar, walking stick, pipe, dove, teddy bear, cross, stethoscope, heart, skull, peace sign, ring, brokendoll, sunset, infinity. Gestures: handshake, salute, turned back.ROLETaking on a role requires performers to accept the physicality, attitudes and beliefs of the characters they areplaying. Laban movement exercises provide an excellent springboard for developing the physicality of character.A range of exercises to develop skill in other aspects of role may be found in Dramawise by Haseman andO’Toole.As students become familiar with each of these elements and devices, they are better able to identify forthemselves the areas of their work which need attention. It is often helpful to step away from the performancebriefly and revisit key elements in order to see the work afresh.Teachers can use the elements as a checklist as they observe and provide students with meaningful feedbackon their performance work.Lindy Croft-PigginDistrict Creative Arts ConsultantAlbury/DeniliquinExtract from Curriculum Support for teaching in Creative Arts 7-12 Vol 5 No 1 2000
  • 9. CharacterMost simply a character is one of the persons who appears in the play, one of the dramatis personae(literally, the persons of the play). In another sense of the term, the treatment of the character is the basicpart of the playwrights work. Conventions of the period and the authors personal vision will affect thetreatment of character.Most plays contain major characters and minor characters. The delineation and development of majorcharacters is essential to the play; the conflict between Hamlet and Claudius depends upon the characterof each. A minor character like Marcellus serves a specific function, to inform Hamlet of the appearanceof his fathers ghost. Once, that is done, he can depart in peace, for we need not know what sort ofperson he is or what happens to him. The distinction between major and minor characters is one ofdegree, as the character of Horatio might illustrate.The distinction between heroes (or heroines) and villains, between good guys and bad guys, betweenvirtue and vice is useful in dealing with certain types of plays, but in many modern plays (and some not somodern) it is difficult to make. Is Gregers Werle in The Wild Duck, for example, a hero or a villain?Another common term in drama is protagonist. Etymologically, it means the first contestant. In the Greekdrama, where the term arose, all the parts were played by one, two, or three actors (the more actors, thelater the play), and the best actor, who got the principal part(s), was the protagonist. The second bestactor was called the euteragonist. Ideally, the term "protagonist" should be used only for the principalcharacter. Several other characters can be defined by their relation to the protagonist. The antagonist ishis principal rival in the conflict set forth in the play. A foil is a character who defines certaincharacteristics in the protagonist by exhibiting opposite traits or the same traits in a greater or lesserdegree. A confidant(e) provides a ready ear to which the protagonist can address certain remarks whichshould be heard by the audience but not by the other characters. In Hamlet, for example, Hamlet is theprotagonist, Claudius the antagonist, Laertes and Fortinbras foils (observe the way in which each goesabout avenging the death or loss of property of his father), and Horatio the confidant.Certain writers-- for example, Moliere and Pirandello--use a character type called the raisonneur, whosecomments express the voice of reason and also, presumably, of the author. Philinte and the Father areexamples of the raisonneur.Another type of character is the stereotype or stock character, a character who reappears in variousforms in many plays. Comedy is particularly a fruitful source of such figures, including the miles gloriosusor boastful soldier (a man who claims great valor but proves to be a coward when tested), the irascibleold man (the source of elements in the character of Polonius), the witty servant, the coquette, the prude,the fop, and others. A stock character from another genre is the revenger of Renaissance tragedy. Therole of Hamlet demonstrates how such a stereotype is modified by an author to create a great role,combining the stock elements with individual ones.Sometimes group of actors work together over a long period in relatively stable companies. In such asituation, individual members of the group develop expertise in roles of a certain type, such as leadingman and leading lady (those who play the principal parts), juveniles or ingénues of both sexes (those whospecialize as young people), character actors (those who perform mature or eccentric types), and heaviesor villains.The commedia dellarte, a popular form of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, employed actorswho had standard lines of business and improvised the particular action in terms of their establishedcharacters and a sketchy outline of a plot. Frequently, Pantalone, an older man, generally a physician,was married to a young woman named Columbine. Her lover, Harlequin, was not only younger and morehandsome than her husband but also more vigorous sexually. Pantalones servants, Brighella,
  • 10. Truffaldino, and others, were employed in frustrating or assisting either the lovers in their meetings or thehusband in discovering them.A group of actors who function as a unit, called a chorus, was a characteristic feature of the Greektragedy. The members of the chorus shared a common identity, such as Asian Bacchantes or old men ofThebes. The choragos (leader of the chorus) sometimes spoke and acted separately. In some of theplays, the chorus participated directly in the action; in others they were restricted in observing the actionand commenting on it. The chorus also separated the individual sins by singing and dancing choral odes,though just what the singing and dancing were like is uncertain. The odes were in strict metrical patterns;sometimes they were direct comments on the action and characters, and at other times they were moregeneral statements and judgments. A chorus in Greek fashion is not common in later plays, althoughthere are instances such as T.S. Eliots Murder in the Cathedral, in which the Women of Canterbury serveas a chorus.On occasion a single actor may perform the function of a chorus, as do the aptly named Chorus inShakespeares Henry V and the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilders Our Town. Alfieri in the View fromthe Bridge functions both as a chorus and a minor character in the action of the play.Reference:The Norton Introduction to Literature (Combined Shorter Edition) Edited by Carl E. Bain, Jerome Beaty &J. Paul Hunter Copyright 1973 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. and published simultaneously inCanada by Goerge J. McLeod Limited, TorontoBack to TopPlotby: Eduardo M. Tajonera Jr.The interest generated by the plot varies for different kinds of plays. (See fiction elements on plot for moreinformation regarding plot.) The plot is usually structured with acts and scenes.Open conflict plays: rely on the suspense of a struggle in which the hero, through perhaps fight against allodds, is not doomed. Dramatic thesis: foreshadowing, in the form of ominous hints or symbolic incidents,conditions the audience to expect certain logical developments. Coincidence: sudden reversal of fortuneplays depict climatic ironies or misunderstandings. Dramatic irony: the fulfillment of a plan, action, orexpectation in a surprising way, often opposite of what was intended.Reference:Encarta EncyclopediaPrevious TopicBack to Top
  • 11. ThemeThe plot has been called the body of a play and the theme has been called its soul. Most plays have aconflict of some kind between individuals, between man and society, man and some superior force orman and h imself. The events that this conflict provokes make up the plot. One of the first items of interestis the playwrightrquote s treatment of the plot and what them he would draw from it. The same plots havebeen and will be used many times; it is the treatment that supplies each effort with originality or artisticworth. Shakespeare is said to have borrowed all but one of his stories, but he presented them so muchbetter than any of the previous authors that he is not seriously criticized for the borrowing. Th e treatmentof theme is equally varied.The same theme or story may be given a very serious or a very light touch. It may be a severe indictmentor a tongue-in- cheek attack. It could point up a great lesson or show the same situation as a handicap toprogress. The personality, background an d social or artistic temperament of the playwright areresponsible for the treatment that he gives to his story or theme. We must, therefore, both understandand evaluate these factors.To endure, a play should have a theme. It is sometimes suggested in the title as in Loyalties, Justice, orStrife, You cant Take It With You, or The Physician in Spite of Himself. At other times it is found in theplay itself, as in Craigs Wife when the aunt says to Mrs. Craig, "People who live to themselves are oftenleft to themselves." Sometimes theme is less obvious, necessitating closer study.If a play has a theme, we should be able to state it in general terms and in a single sentence, even at therisk of oversimplification. The theme of Hamlet is usually stated as the failure of a youth of poetictemperament to cope with circumstances that demand action. The theme of Macbeth is that too muchambition leads to destruction; a Streetcar Named Desire, that he who strives hardes t to find happinessoftentimes finds the least; and of Green pastures, that even God must change with the universe.Of course the theme, no matter how fully stated, is not the equivalent of the play. The play is a complexexperience, and one must remain open to its manifold suggestions.As indicated above, the statement of the play in specific terms is the plot presented. Plot and themeshould go hand in hand. If the theme is one of nobility, or dignity, the plot must concern events andcharacters that measure up to that theme. As we a nalyze many plays, we find that some posses anexcellent theme, but are supported by an inconsequential plot. One famous play of this nature, AbiesIrish Rose, held the stage for many years. The theme said: Difference of r eligion need not hinder a happymarriage. The plot was so thin and both characters and situation so stereotyped, that justice was notdone to the theme. This weakness was most obvious in the plays revival after twenty years.Examples of the frequent fault of superior plot and little or no theme come to us in much of the work of ourcurrent playwrights. Known for their cleverness in phrasing and timing, and their original extremely wittyconceptions, these plays are often ver y successful. More often than not, however, they are utterly lackingin a theme or truth that will withstand more than momentary analysis. They are delightful but ephemeral.An audience believes them only while watching in the theatre. Consequently, the author, although nowamong ou r most popular, will not endure as artists, nor are their plays likely to be revived a hundredyears hence. They but emphasize more strongly the axiom that a good plot or conflict is needed fortransitory success, but a great theme is more likely to assu re a play a long life.Reference:Wright, E.A. (1969). A PRIMER FOR PLAYGOERS. Englewood Cliffs; PRENTICE-HALL, INC., pp.156-158
  • 12. Previous TopicBack to TopDialogueDialogue provides the substance of a play. Each word uttered by the character furthers the business ofthe play, contributes to its effect as a whole. Therefore, a sense of DECORUM must be established bythe characters, ie., what is said is appropriate to the role and situation of a character. Also the expositionof the play often falls on the dialogue of the characters. Remember exposition establishes therelationships, tensions or conflicts from which later plot developments derive.Any artificial picture of life must start from the detail of actuality. An audience must be able to recognize it;however changed; we want to check it against experience. Death for exampl e, is something we cannotknow. In every man it is represented as an embodying some of our feelings about it. So Death is partlyhumanized, enough, anyway, for us to be able to explore what the dramatist thinks about it.Conversely, the detail of actuality in realistic drama can be chosen and presented in such a way as tosuggest that it stands for more on the stage than it would in life. The Cherry Orchard family, in theexcitement of their departure, overlook s their old servant Firs. Placed with striking force at the end of theplay, this trivial accident becomes an incisive and major comment on everything the family has done.So it is dramatic speech. A snatch of phase caught in everyday conversation may mean little, Used by anactor on a stage, it can assume general and typical qualities. The context into which it is put can make itpull more than its conversation al weight, no matter how simple words. Consider Othellorquote s barerepetition: Put out the light, end then put out the light. In its context the repetition prefigures precisely thecomparison Shakespeare is about to make between the lam Othello is holding and Desdemonas life andbeing. Its heavy rhythm suggests the strained tone and obsessed mood of the man, and an almostpriestlike attitude behind the twin motions. We begin to see the murder of Desdemona in the largergeneral terms of a ritualistic sacrifice. Poetry is made of words, which can be in use in more prosaic ways;dramatic speech, with its basis in ordinary co nversation, is speech that has had a specific pressure puton it.Why do words begin to assume general qualities, and why do they become dramatic? Here are twoproblems on either side of the same coin. The words in both cases depend upon the kind of attention wegive them. The artist using them, whether aut hor or actors, force them upon us, and in a variety of waystry to fix the quality of our attention.If dialogue carefully follows the way we speak in life, as it is likely to go i n a naturalistic play, the first steptowards understanding how it departs from actuality can be awkward. It is helpful to cease to submit thepretence for the moment. An apparent reproduction of ordinary conversation will be, in good drama, aconstructio n of word setup to do many jobs that are not immediately obvious. Professor Erick Bently haswritten of Ibsens opaque, uninviting sentences :An ibsenite sentence often performs four or five function at once. It shed light on the character spo kenabout, it furthers the plot; it functions ironically is conveying to the audience a meaning different from thatconveyed to the characters.It is true that conversation itself can sometimes be taken to do this thing. Whatever you think. Im going totell him what you said. is a remark which in its context can shed light on the speaker, the person spoken
  • 13. to and the spoken about. For a fourth person listening, as spectator witnesses a play, there may also bean element of that mean something only to himself as observer. In the play the difference lies first in aninsistence that the words go somewhere, move towards a predetermined end. It lies in a charge ofmeaning that will advance the action.This is argued in a statement in Strindbergs manifesto for the naturalistic theatre. He says of hischaracters that he has permitted he minds to work irregularly as they do in reality, where, duringconversation, the cogs of mind seem more or less haphazardly to engage those of another one, an whereno topic is fully exhausted. But he adds that. While the dialogue seems to stray a good deal in theopening scenes, lquote it acquires a material that later on is worked over, picked up again repeated,expounded, and built up the theme in a musical composition.It is a question of economy. The desultory and clumsy talk of real life, with its interruptions, overlapping, indecisions and repetitions, talk without direction, wastes our interestemdash unless, like the chatter givento Jane Austenrquote s Miss Bates, it hides relevance in irrelevance. It follows the dialogue which the witand vitality in Shaws dialogue yet ignore the question of its relevance to the action.When the actor examines the text to prepare his part, he looks for what makes the words different fromconversation, that is he looks for the structural elements of the building, for links of characteristic thoughtin the character, and so on . He persists till he has shaped in his mind a firm and workable pattern of hispart. Now the clues sought by the actor hidden beneath the surface of the dialogue are the playgoersguides too. The actor and producer Stanislavsky have called these clues the subtext of a play.The subtext is a web of innumerable, varied inner patterns inside a play and a part, woven from magic ifs, given circumstances, all sorts of figments of the imagination, inner movements, objects of attention,smaller and greater truths and a belief in them, adaptations, adjustmen ts and other similar elements. It issubtext that makes us say the words we do in a play.And in another place he says that the whole text of the play will be accompanied by a sub textual streamof images, like a moving picture constantly thrown on the screen of our inner vision, to guide us as wespeak and act on the stage. Once we admit that the words must propose and substantiate theplayrquote s meaning, we shall find in them more and more of the authors wishes.For dramat ic dialogue has other work to do before it provides a table of words to be spoken. In theabsence of the author it must provide a set of unwritten working directives to the actor on how to speak itsspeeches. And before that, it has to teach him how to think and feel them: the particularly of a playrequires this if is not to be animated by a series of cardboard stereotypes.Dramatic dialogue works by a number of instinctively agreed codes. Some tell the producer how toarrange the figures on the stage. Others tell him what he should hear as the pattern of sound echoing andcontradicting, changing tone, rising and falling. These are directives strongly compelling him to hear thekey in which a scene should be played, and the tone and temp of the melody. Others oblige him to startparticular rhythmic movements of emotion flowing between the stage and the audience. He is th en left tomarry the colour and shape of the stage picture with the music he finds recorded in the text.Good dialogue works like this and throws out a substextual stream of images; Even if the limits withinwhich these effects work are narrow, even if the effect lies in the barest or simplest of speeches, we mayexpect to hear the text humming the tune as it cannot in real life. Dialogue should be read and heard as adramatic score.Reference:The Elements of Drama by J.L. Styan
  • 14. Cambridge University Press 1960Previous TopicBack to TopConventionThe means the playwright employs are determined at least in part by dramatic convention. Greek:Playwrights of this era often worked with familiar story material, legend about gods and famous familiesthat the audience was familiar with. Since the audience was familiar with certain aspects of these, theplaywrights used allusion rather than explicit exposition. In representing action, they often relied onmessengers to report off-stage action. For interpretation the Greeks relied on the CHORUS, a body ofonlookers, usually citizens or elders, whose comments on the play reflected reactions common to thecommunity. These plays were written in metered verse arranged in elaborate stanzas. This requiredintense attention from the audience. English Drama: Minor chara cters play an important role in providinginformation and guiding interpretation. The confidant, a friend or servant, listens to the complaints, plansand reminiscences of a major character. Minor characters casually comment among themselves on majorcharacters and plot development. Extended SOLILOQUY enables a major character to reveal histhoughts in much greater detail than in natural dialogue. ASIDES, remarks made to the audience but notheard by those on the stage, are common. Realism: Toward the end of the nineteenth century, realisticdepiction of everyday life entered the genre of drama, whereas the characters may be unconventionaland their thoughts turbulent and fantasy-ridden. Contemporary: Experimentation seems to be the keyword here. A NARRATOR replaces the messenger, the chorus and the confidant. FLASHBACKS oftensubstitute for narration. Many contemporary playwrights have abandoned recognizable setting,chronological sequence and characterization through dialogue.Reference :Encarta EncyclopediaPrevious TopicBack to TopGenreEmil SyliantengGenre is a term that describes works of literature according to their shared thematic or structuralcharacteristics. The attempt to classify literature in this way was initiated by Aristotle in the Poetics, wherehe distinguishes tragedy, epic, and comedy and recognizes even more fundamental distinctions betweendrama, epic, and lyric poetry. Classical genre theory, established by Aristotle and reinforced by Horace, isregulative and prescriptive, attempting to maintain rigid boundaries that correspond to social differences.Thus, tragedy and epic are concerned exclusively with the affairs of the nobility, comedy with the middleor lower classes.
  • 15. Modern literary criticism, on the other hand, does not regard genres as dogmatic categories, but rather asaesthetic conventions that guide, but are also led by, writers. The unstable nature of genres does notreduce their effectiveness as tools of critical inquiry, which attempts to discover universal attributesamong individual works, and has, since classical times, evolved theories of the novel, ode, elegy,pastoral, satire, and many other kinds of writing.Previous TopicBack to TopAudienceManuel L. OrtizIt is the act or chance of hearing; a reception by a great person; the person to hear.Playhouse, script, actors, mise en scene, audience are inseparable parts of the theatre. The concept ofdrama put forward in this book insists that the audience have an indispensable role to play. WhileStanislavsky is right in saying that spectator come to the theatre to hear the subtext. They can read thetext at home; he is speaking as a man of the nineteenth century. We do not go to the play merely to havethe text interpreted and explained by the skills of the director and his actor. We do not go as in a learningsituation, but to share in a partnership without which the players cannot work. In his Reflaxions sur l; art,valery believed that a creator is one who makes other create: in art both the artist and the spectatoractively cooperate, and the value of the work is dependent on this reciprocity. If in the theatre there is nointeraction between stage and audience, the play is dead, bad or non-existent: the audience, like thecustomer, is always right.Every man, women, or child who has expressed an opinion concerning a dramatic performance has, in asense, proclaim himself to be a critic. Whether his reaction has been good or bad, his opinion will havesome effect on the thinking of those who have heard or read his comment, and what have been said willbecome a part of the productions history. The statement may have been inadvertent, biased, unfair,without thought or foundation, but once spoken or repeated, it cease to be just an opinion and is acceptedas a fact. Who has not heard, accepted, repeated, and been affected by such generalization as: "Theysay its terrible!" or " They say its terrific!"Another type of critic is the more powerful and frequently only slightly more qualified, individual who is-often for strange and irrelevant reasons-assigned to cover an opening for the school or community paper.He may be completely lacking in the knowledge required of even a beginner in dramatic criticisms, but,again, "Anyone can write up a play." Yet the power of the written words takes over, and what this novicewrite becomes the accepted authority for many. The hundreds of hour of work by the many personsinvolved in the production, their personal sacrifices, and their pride in their work-to say nothing of thefinancial outlay involved-far too often are condemned or praised for the wrong reasons or for logicalreason at all. As a further injustice, what the critic has written, although it is just a single opinion, becomesthe only record of the production and so catalogs the event of the future.It is doubtful if any other business or art is so much a victim of inept, untrained, illogical, and undeservedcriticism as is a dramatic performance. Whether the remarks have grown out of prejudice, meagerknowledge of the theatre, lack of understanding or sensitivity, momentary admiration or dislike foe someindividual participant, a poor dinner or disposition, an auditorium too hot or too cold, or any of a hundredincidents that could occurred during the production itself does not matter. Those whose effort are being
  • 16. discussed can console themselves only with the fact that criticism-good or bad-is much easier thancreation or craftsmanship for the same reason that the work is harder than talk.Having been a part of the theatre-professional, community, and educational-for more than four decades,we are well aware that criticism of the critics is frequently heard, and that this criticism includes those whowrite the drama section for the national magazine or the large daily newspaper report on the openingnight. This is inevitable, for total agreement on any phase of the theatre is impossible. We live in a worldwith out laws of logic or mathematical formulas to guide us. There are no yardsticks that will give us allthe same answer, but there are yardsticks that should be familiar to all of us. In this paper we propose topresent and to discuss some of these criteria. If the amateur critics just referred to had been familiar withsome basic dramatic principles and had used them honestly, there would be a greater feeling that justicehad been done. Any intelligent theatre person knows that each member of the audience views what isbefore him with different eyes and so sees something different from his neighbor. How each memberreacts will be determined by education, age, experience, nationality, maturity, background, temperament,heredity, environment, the rest of the audience, the weather, what he has done or eaten in the past fewhours, or his plans for after the performance. This list of imponderable could go indefinitely. Furthermore,if agreement on any one aspect of a given performance is impossible, then agreement is even morehopeless if different performances of the same play, in the same theatre, and with the same cast, areunder discussion; for a different audience makes for a different production.Previous TopicBack to TopStagecraftEduardo M. Tajonera JrThe stage creates its effects in spite of, and in part because of, definite physical limitations. Setting andaction tend to be suggestive rather than panoramic or colossal. Both setting and action may be little morethan hints for the spectator to fill out.Reference:Encarta EncyclopediaPrevious TopicBack to TopDesignFrancis CalangiTheater Space
  • 17. Theater can also be discussed in terms of the type of space in which it is produced. Stages andauditoriums have had distinctive forms in every era and in different cultures. New theaters today tend tobe flexible and eclectic in design, incorporating elements of several styles; they are known as multiple-use or multiple-form theaters.A performance, however, need not occur in an architectural structure designed as a theater, or even in abuilding. The English director Peter Brook talks of creating theater in an "empty space." Many earlierforms of theater were performed in the streets, open spaces, market squares, churches, or rooms orbuildings not intended for use as theaters. Much contemporary experimental theater rejects the formalconstraints of available theaters and seeks more unusual spaces. In all these "found" theaters, the senseof stage and auditorium is created by the actions of the performers and the natural features of the space.Throughout history, however, most theaters have employed one of three types of stage: end, thrust, andarena. An end stage is a raised platform facing the assembled audience. Frequently, it is placed at oneend of a rectangular space. The simplest version of the end stage is the booth or trestle stage, a raisedstage with a curtained backdrop and perhaps an awning. This was the stage of the Greek and Romanmimes, the mountebanks and wandering entertainers of the Middle Ages, commedia dellarte, andpopular entertainers into the 20th century. It probably formed the basis of Greek tragic theater andElizabethan theater as well.The Proscenium TheaterSince the Renaissance, Western theater has been dominated by an end stage variant called theproscenium theater. The proscenium is the wall separating the stage from the auditorium. Theproscenium arch, which may take several shapes, is the opening in that wall through which the audienceviews the performance. A curtain that either rises or opens to the sides may hang in this space. Theproscenium developed in response to the desire to mask scenery, hide scene-changing machinery, andcreate an offstage space for performers exits and entrances. The result is to enhance illusion byeliminating all that is not part of the scene and to encourage the audience to imagine that what theycannot see is a continuation of what they can see. Because the proscenium is (or appears to be) anarchitectural barrier, it creates a sense of distance or separation between the stage and the spectators.The proscenium arch also frames the stage and consequently is often called a peep-show or picture-frame stage.The Thrust StageA thrust stage, sometimes known as three-quarter round, is a platform surrounded on three sides by theaudience. This form was used for ancient Greek theater, Elizabethan theater, classical Spanish theater,English Restoration theater, Japanese and Chinese classical theater, and much of Western theater in the20th century. A thrust may be backed by a wall or be appended to some sort of end stage. The upstageend (back of the stage, farthest from the audience) may have scenery and provisions for entrances andexits, but the thrust itself is usually bare except for a few scenic elements and props. Because no barrierexists between performers and spectators, the thrust stage generally creates a sense of greater intimacy,as if the performance were occurring in the midst of the auditorium, while still allowing for illusionisticeffects through the use of the upstage end and adjacent offstage space.The Arena StageThe arena stage, or theater-in-the-round, is a performing space totally surrounded by the auditorium. Thisarrangement has been tried several times in the 20th century, but its historical precedents are largely innondramatic forms such as the circus, and it has limited popularity. The necessity of providing equal sightlines for all spectators puts special constraints on the type of scenery used and on the movements of theactors, because at any given time part of the audience will inevitably be viewing a performers back.Illusion is more difficult to sustain in arena, since in most setups, entrances and exits must be made in fullview of the audience, eliminating surprise, if nothing else. Nonetheless, arena, when properly used, cancreate a sense of intimacy not often possible with other stage arrangements, and, as noted, it is wellsuited to many nondramatic forms. Furthermore, because of the different scenic demands of arenatheater, the large backstage areas associated with prosceniums can be eliminated, thus allowing a moreeconomical use of space.Variant Forms
  • 18. One variant form of staging is environmental theater, which has precedents in medieval and folk theaterand has been widely used in 20th-century avant-garde theater. It eliminates the single or central stage infavor of surrounding the spectators or sharing the space with them. Stage space and spectator spacebecome indistinguishable. Another popular alternative is the free, or flexible, space, sometimes called ablack-box theater because of its most common shape and color. This is an empty space with movableseating units and stage platforms that can be arranged in any configuration for each performance.The Fixed Architectural StageMost stages are raw spaces that the designer can mold to create any desired effect or location; incontrast, the architectural stage has permanent features that create a more formal scenic effect. Typically,ramps, stairs, platforms, archways, and pillars are permanently built into the stage space. Variety inindividual settings may be achieved by adding scenic elements. The Stratford Festival Theater inStratford, Ontario, for example, has a permanent "inner stage"-a platform roughly 3.6 m (12 ft) high-juttingonto the multilevel thrust stage from the upstage wall. Most permanent theaters through the Renaissance,such as the Teatro Olimpico (1580) in Vicenza, Italy, did not use painted or built scenery but relied onsimilar permanent architectural features that could provide the necessary scenic elements. The No andkabuki stages in Japan are other examples.AuditoriumsAuditoriums in the 20th century are mostly variants on the fan-shaped auditorium built (1876) by thecomposer Richard Wagner at his famous opera house in Bayreuth, Germany. These auditoriums areshaped like a hand-held fan and are usually raked (inclined upward from front to back), with staggeredseats to provide unobstructed sight lines. Such auditoriums may be designed with balconies, and sometheaters, such as opera houses, have boxes-seats in open or partitioned sections along the sidewalls ofthe auditorium-a carry-over from baroque theater architecture.Set DesignIn Europe, one person, frequently called a scenographer, designs sets, costumes, and lights; in the U.S.these functions are usually handled by three separate professionals. Set design is the arrangement oftheatrical space; the set, or setting, is the visual environment in which a play is performed. Its purpose isto suggest time and place and to create the proper mood or atmosphere. Settings can generally beclassified as realistic, abstract, suggestive, or functional.Stage FacilitiesThe use and movement of scenery are determined by stage facilities. Relatively standard elementsinclude trapdoors in the stage floor, elevators that can raise or lower stage sections, wagons (rollingplatforms) on which scenes may be mounted, and cycloramas-curved canvas or plaster backdrops usedas a projection surface or to simulate the sky. Above the stage, especially in a proscenium theater, is thearea known as the fly gallery, where lines for flying-that is, raising-unused scenery from the stage aremanipulated, and which contains counterweight or hydraulic pipes and lengths of wood, or battens, fromwhich lights and pieces of scenery may be suspended. Other special devices and units can be built asnecessary. Although scene painting seems to be a dying art, modern scene shops are well equipped towork with plastics, metals, synthetic fabrics, paper, and other new and industrial products that untilrecently were not in the realm of theater.Lighting DesignLighting design, a more ephemeral art, has two functions: to illuminate the stage and the performers andto create mood and control the focus of the spectators. Stage lighting may be from a direct source suchas the sun or a lamp, or it may be indirect, employing reflected light or general illumination. It has fourcontrollable properties: intensity, color, placement on the stage, and movement-the visible changing ofthe first three properties. These properties are used to achieve visibility, mood, composition (the overallarrangement of light, shadow, and color), and the revelation of form-the appearance of shape anddimensionality of a performer or object as determined by light.Until the Renaissance, almost all performance was outdoors and therefore lit by the sun, but with indoorperformance came the need for lighting instruments. Lighting was first achieved with candles and oillamps and, in the 19th century, with gas lamps. Although colored filters, reflectors, and mechanical
  • 19. dimming devices were used for effects, lighting served primarily to illuminate the stage. By currentstandards the stage was fairly dim, which allowed greater illusionism in scenic painting. Gas lightingfacilitated greater control, but only the advent of electric lighting in the late 19th century permitted thebrightness and control presently available. It also allowed the dimming of the house-lights, plunging theauditorium into darkness for the first time.Lighting design, however, is not simply aiming the lighting instruments at the stage or bathing the stage ina general wash of light. Audiences usually expect actors to be easily visible at all times and to appear tobe three-dimensional. This involves the proper angling of instruments, provision of back and side lightingas well as frontal, and a proper balance of colors. Two basic types of stage-lighting instruments areemployed: floodlights, which illuminate a broad area, and spotlights, which focus light more intensely on asmaller area. Instruments consist of a light source and a series of lenses and shutters in some sort ofhousing. These generally have a power of 500 to 5000 watts. The instruments are hung from battens andstanchions in front of, over, and at the sides of the stage. In realistic settings, lights may be focused tosimulate the direction of the ostensible source, but even in these instances, performers would appeartwo-dimensional without back and side lighting.Because so-called white light is normally too harsh for most theater purposes, colored filters called gelsare used to soften the light and create a more pleasing effect. White light can be simulated by mixing red,blue, and green light. Most designers attempt to balance "warm" and "cool" colors to create propershadows and textures. Except for special effects, lighting design generally strives to be unobtrusive; justas in set design, however, the skillful use of color, intensity, and distribution can have a subliminal effecton the spectators perceptions.The lighting designer is often responsible for projections. These include still or moving images thatsubstitute for or enhance painted and constructed scenery, create special effects such as stars ormoonlight, or provide written legends for the identification of scenes. Images can be projected from theaudience side of the stage onto opaque surfaces, or from the rear of the stage onto specially designedrear-projection screens. Similar projections are often used on scrims, semitransparent curtains stretchedacross the stage. Film and still projection, sometimes referred to as mixed media, was first usedextensively by the German director Erwin Piscator in the 1920s and became very popular in the 1960s.The lights are controlled by a skilled technician called the electrician, who operates a control or dimmerboard, so called because a series of "dimmers" controls the intensity of each instrument or group ofinstruments. The most recent development in lighting technology is the memory board, a computerizedcontrol system that stores the information of each light cue or change of lights. The electrician need nolonger operate each dimmer individually; by pushing one button, all the lights will change automatically tothe preprogrammed intensity and at the desired speed.Costume DesignA costume is whatever is worn on the performers body. Costume designers are concerned primarily withclothing and accessories, but are also often responsible for wigs, masks, and makeup. Costumes conveyinformation about the character and aid in setting the tone or mood of the production. Because mostacting involves impersonation, most costuming is actual or re-created historical or contemporary dress; aswith scenery, however, costumes may also be suggestive or abstract. Until the 19th century, littleattention was paid to period or regional accuracy; variations on contemporary dress sufficed. Since then,however, costume designers have paid great attention to authentic period style.As with the other forms of design, subtle effects can be achieved through choice of color, fabric, cut,texture, and weight or material. Because costume can indicate such things as social class and personalitytraits, and can even simulate such physical attributes as obesity or a deformity, an actors work can besignificantly eased by its skillful design. Costume can also function as character signature, notably forsuch comic characters as Harlequin or the other characters of the commedia dellarte, Charlie ChaplinsLittle Tramp, or circus clowns.In much Oriental theater, as in classical Greek theater, costume elements are formalized. Based originallyon everyday dress, the costumes became standardized and were appropriated for the stage. Colors,designs, and ornamentation all convey meaningful information.Mask
  • 20. A special element of costume is the mask. Although rarely used in contemporary Western theater, maskswere essential in Greek and Roman drama and the commedia dellarte and are used in most African andOriental theater. The masks of tragedy and of comedy, as used in ancient Greek drama, are in fact theuniversal symbols of the theater. Masks obviate the use of the face for expression and communicationand thus render the performer more puppetlike; expression depends solely on voice and gesture.Because the masks expression is unchanging, the characters fate or final expression is known from thebeginning, thereby removing one aspect of suspense. The mask shifts focus from the actor to thecharacter and can thus clarify aspects of theme and plot and give a character a greater universality. Likecostumes, the colors and features of the mask, especially in the Orient, indicate symbolically significantaspects of the character. In large theaters masks can also aid in visibility.MakeupMakeup may also function as a mask, especially in Oriental theater, where faces may be painted withelaborate colors and images that exaggerate and distort facial features. In Western theater, makeup isused for two purposes: to emphasize and reinforce facial features that might otherwise be lost underbright lights or at a distance and to alter signs of age, skin tone, or nose shape.Technical ProductionThe technical aspects of production may be divided into preproduction and run of production.Preproduction technical work is supervised by the technical director in conjunction with the designers.Sets, properties (props), and costumes are made during this phase by crews in the theater shops or, inthe case of most commercial theater, in professional studios.Props are the objects handled by actors or used in dressing the stage-all objects placed or carried on theset that are not costumes or scenery. Whereas real furniture and hand props can be used in manyproductions, props for period shows, nonrealistic productions, and theatrical shows such as circuses mustbe built. Like sets, props can be illusionistic-they may be created from papier-mâché or plastic forlightness, exaggerated in size, irregularly shaped, or designed to appear level on a raked stage; they mayalso be capable of being rolled, collapsed, or folded. The person in charge of props is called the propsmaster or mistress.Sound and Sound EffectsSound, if required, is now generally recorded during the preproduction period. From earliest times, mosttheatrical performances were accompanied by music that, until recently, was produced by live musicians.Since the 1930s, however, use of recorded sound has been a possibility in the theater. Although music isstill the most common sound effect, wind, rain, thunder, and animal noises have been essential since theearliest Greek tragedies. Any sound that cannot be created by a performer may be considered a soundeffect. Such sounds are most often used for realistic effect (for example, a train rushing by or city soundsoutside a window), but they can also assist in the creation of mood or rhythm. Although many sounds canbe recorded from actual sources, certain sounds do not record well and seem false when played throughelectronic equipment on a stage. Elaborate mechanical devices are therefore constructed to simulatethese sounds, such as rain or thunder.Technicians also create special aural and visual effects simulating explosions, fire, lightning, andapparitions and giving the illusion of moving objects or of flying.Reference:Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia copyright 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation.Previous Topic
  • 21. Back to TopConversionsMa. Criselda De LeonConversions, closely examined, will be found to fall into two classes: changes of volition, and changes ofsentiment. It was the former class that Dryden had in mind; and, with reference to this class, the principlehe indicates remains a sound one. A change of resolve should never be due to mere lapse of time---tothe necessity for bringing the curtain down and letting the audience go home. It must always be renderedplausible by some new fact or new motive; some hitherto untried appeal to reason or emotion. This rule,however, is too obvious to require enforcement. It was not quite superfluous so long as the old conventionof comedy endured. For a century and a half after Drydens time, hard-hearted parents were apt towithdraw their opposition to their childrens "felicity" for no better reason than that the fifth act was drawingto a close. But this formula is practically obsolete. Changes of will, on the modern stage, are not alwaysadequately motived; but that is because of individual inexpertness, not because of any failure torecognize theoretically the necessity for adequate motivation.Changes of sentiment are much more important and more difficult to handle. A change of will can alwaysmanifest itself in action; but it is very difficult to externalize convincingly a mere change of heart. Whenthe conclusion of a play hinges (as it frequently does) on a conversion of this nature, it becomes a matterof the first moment that it should not merely be asserted but proved. Many a promising play has gonewrong because of the authors neglect, or inability, to comply with this condition.It has often been observed that of all Ibsens thoroughly mature works, from A Dolls House to JohnGabriel Borkman, The Lady from the Sea is the loosest in texture, the least masterly in construcion. Thefact that it leaves this impression on the mind is largely due, I think, to a single fault. The conclusion of theplay---Ellidas clinging to Wangel and rejection of the Stranger---depends entirely on a change inWangels mental attitude, of which we have no proof whatever beyond his bare assertion. Ellida, in heroverwrought mood, is evidently inclining to yield to the uncanny allurement of the Strangers claim uponher, when Wangel, realizing that her sanityis threatened, says:WANGEL: It shall not come to that. There is no other way of deliverance for you---at least I see none. Andtherefore---therefore I---cancel our bargain on the spot. Now you can choose your own path, in full---fullfreedom.ELLIDA: (Gazes at him awhile, as if speechless): Is this true---true---what you say? Do you mean it---fromyour inmost heart?WANGEL: Yes---from the inmost depths of my tortured heart, I mean it.... Now your own true life canreturn to its---its right groove again. For now you can choose in freedom; and on your own responsibility,Ellida.ELLIDA: In freedom---and on my own responsibility? Responsibility? This---this transforms everything.---and she promptly gives the Stranger his dismissal. Now this is inevitably felt to be a weak conclusion,because it turns entirely on a condition of Wangels mind of which he gives no positive and convincingevidence. Nothing material is changed by his change of heart. He could not in any case have restrainedEllida by force; or, if the law gave him the abstract right to do so, he certainly never had the slightestintention of exercising it. Psychologically, indeed, the incident is acceptable enough. The saner part of
  • 22. Ellidas will was always on Wangels side; and a merely verbal undoing of the "bargain" with which shereproached herself might quite naturally suffice to turn the scale decisively in his favour. But what maysuffice for Ellida is not enough for the audience. Too much is made to hang upon a verbally announcedconversion. The poet ought to have invented some material---or, at the very least, some impressivelysymbolic---proof of Wangels change of heart. Had he done so, The Lady from the Sea would assuredlyhave taken a higher rank among his works.Let me further illustrate my point by comparing a very small thing with a very great.The late Captain Marshall wrote a "farcical romance" named The Duke of Killiecrankie, in which thatnobleman, having been again and again rejected by the Lady Henrietta Addison, kidnapped the obduratefair one, and imprisoned her in a crag-castle in the Highlands. Having kept her for a week in deferentialdurance, and shown her that he was not the inefficient nincompoop she had taken him for, he threw openthe prison gate, and said to her: "Go! I set you free!" The moment she saw the gate unlocked, andrealized that she could indeed go when and where she pleased, she also realized that had the least wishto go, and flung herself into her captors arms. Here we have Ibsens situation transposed into the key offantasy, and provided with the material "guarantee of good faith" which is lacking in The Lady from theSea. The Dukes change of mind, his will to set the Lady Henrietta free, is visibly demonstrated by theactual opening of the prison gate, so that we believe in it, and believe that she believes in it. The play wasa trivial affair, and is deservedly forgotten; but the situation was effective because it obeyed the law that achange of will or of feeling, occurring at a crucial point in a dramatic action, must be certified by someexternal evidence, on pain of leaving the audience unimpressed.This is a more important matter than it may at first sight appear. How to bring home to the audience adecisive change of heart is one of the ever-recurring problems of the playwrights craft. In The Lady fromthe Sea, Ibsen failed to solve it: in Rosmersholm he solved it by heroic measures. The whole catastropheis determined by Rosmers inability to accept without proof Rebeccas declaration that Rosmersholm has"ennobled her, and that she is no longer the same woman whose relentless egoism drove Beata into themill-race. Rebecca herself puts it to him: "How can you believe me on my bare word after to-day?" Thereis only one proof she can give---that of "going the way Beata went." She gives it: and Rosmer, whocannot believe her if she lives, and will not survive her if she dies, goes with her to her end. But the casesare not very frequent, fortunately, in which such drastic methods of proof are appropriate or possible. Thedramatist must, as a rule, attain his end by less violent means; and often he fails to attain it at all.A play by Mr. Haddon Chambers, The Awakening, turned on a sudden conversion---the "awakening," infact, referred to in the title. A professional lady-killer, a noted Don Juan, has been idly making love to acountry maiden, whose heart is full of innocent idealisms. She discovers his true character, or, at anyrate, his reputation, and is horror-stricken, while practically at the same moment, he "awakens" to theerror of his ways, and is seized with a passion for her as single-minded and idealistic as hers for him. Buthow are the heroine and the audience to be assured of the fact? That is just the difficulty; and the authortakes no effectual measures to overcome it. The heroine, of course, is ultimately convinced; but theaudience remains skeptical, to the detriment of the desired effect. "Sceptical," perhaps is not quite theright word. The state of mind of a fictitious character is not a subject for actual belief or disbelief. We arebound to accept theoretically what the author tells us; but in this case he has failed to make us intimatelyfeel and know that it is true.In Mr. Alfred Sutros play The Builder of Bridges, Dorothy Faringay, in her devotion to her forger brother,has conceived the rather disgraceful scheme of making one of his official superiors fall in love with her, inorder to induce him to become practically an accomplice in her brothers crime. She succeeds beyond herhopes. Edward Thursfield does fall in love with her, and, at a great sacrifice, replaces the money thebrother has stolen. But, in a very powerful peripety-scene in the third act, Thursfield learns that Dorothyhas been deliberately beguiling him, while in fact she was engaged to another man. The truth is, however,that she has really come to love Thursfield passionately, and has broken her engagement with the other,for whom she never truly cared. So the author tells us, and so we are willing enough to believe---if he candevise any adequate method of making Thursfield believe it. Mr. Sutros handling of the difficulty seems tome fairly, but not conspicuously, successful. I cite the case as a typical instance of the problem, a partfrom the merits or demerits of the solution.
  • 23. It may be said that the difficulty of bringing home to us the reality of a revulsion of feeling, or radicalchange of mental attitude, is only a particular case of the playwrights general problem of convincinglyexternalizing inward conditions and processes. That is true: but the special importance of a conversionwhich unties the knot and brings the curtain down seemed to render it worthy of special consideration.