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Theatre in Context


Theatre in Context Lecture on Drama G. B.Shaw Mrs. Warren s Profession Written in 1894, produced in 1902, privately. The censor put ban on the play that was not ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Theatre in Context

Theatre in Context
  • Lecture on Drama

The Middle Ages
  • origins of theatre myths, rites
  • the Middle Ages everyday theatre mimes and
  • liturgical drama
  • esp. at Easter (also other church festivals)
  • Mystery plays religious theatre for the people
    from sacred drama to profane
  • (pro fano before the temple
  • from church to marketplace

Later medieval developments
  • Miracle Plays Medieval plays treating
  • the lives of saints, or Bible stories.
  • Morality Plays Allegorical medieval plays, like
    Everyman, that depict the eternal struggle
    between good and evil that transpires in this
    world, using characters like Vice, Virtue, Wisdom

Commedia dell'arte
  • Italian popular comedy of the 15th to 17th cc.
    Featured performances improvised from scenarios
    by a set of stock characters, and repeated from
    play to play and troupe to troupe.
  • Scenario in general, the prose description of a
    play's story. In the commedia dell'arte, the
    written outlines of plot and characters from
    which the actors improvised the particular
    actions of a performance.

Stock characters
(No Transcript)
  • Spectacular theatrical form, especially of the
    Renaissance and the Neoclassical periods, usually
    associated with court theatres or special events.
    Emphasis was put on costumes and effects, with
    much music and dancing amateur actors frequently

The London scene
  • Bankside medieval centre of dissipation brothels
    and bear baiting within the estates of the
    Bishops of Winchester
  • in 1546 Henry VIII had brothels closed
  • 17th c. reopened, together with theatres

London theatres
  • GLOBE (1598-99) now Park Street. Sign Hercules
    World. Used only in summer no roof except for
    stage galleries
  • In the winter Blackfriars Theatre (1578) as
    private theatre for choir boys to practise
    Farrant on ground floor, theatre upstairs
  • Shakespeare shareholder and player
  • HOPE in Bear Gardens former bear and bull
    baiting arena (modelled on Swan movable stage)

The Globe
Further London theatres
  • ROSE (1586-87, 1st Bankside playhouse) in Rose
    Lane octagonal building of wood and plaster,
    partly thatched
  • built by Henslowe played Marlowe's plays
  • SWAN in Paris Gardens (flint stones and wooden
  • sometimes used for fencing matches

17th century
  • 1642 Puritans ban theatres - even demolish them
    - for moral reasons
  • baroque opera
  • Restoration she-tragedies with a woman in the
    leading role
  • even Dryden's All for Love's Anthony heart
    torn by feelings which he cannot control or
  • male characters unambiguous heroism rather

Heroic drama
  • John Dryden (1631-1700) exponent of the golden
    mean in art, politics and morality,
  • Poet Laureate from 1668
  • Heroic couplet (a closed and balanced pair of
    rhyming iambic pentameters)
  • against blank verse in much English drama
  • works against dramatic illusion
  • Italian and French influence
  • audience face actors, rather than surround them
  • criticism presented outside the space of

blank verse vs heroic couplet
  • blank verse unrhymed iambic pentameter
  • All the world's a stage,
  • And all the men and women merely players.
  • They have their exits and their entrances,
  • And one man in his time plays many parts,
  • His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant
  • Shakespeare "As You Like It" II.vll.
  • heroic couplet 2 iambic pentameters

Blank verse vs heroic couplet
  • heroic couplet 2 rhyming iambic pentameters
  • (vs blank verse unrhymed iambic pentameter)
  • And since that plenteous autumn now is past,
  • Whose grapes and peaches have indulged your
  • taste,
  • Take in good part, from our poor poet's board,
  • Such rivelled fruits as winter can afford.
  • Dryden, All for Love, Prologue
  • http//

The Age of Restoration
  • The term Restoration period is applied to the
  • from 1660 (the year Charles II was re-established
  • monarch) to the end of the century.
  • Between 1660 and 1700 over 500 plays were written
  • England, more than half of them comedies.

The Age of Restoration
  • In 1642, six years before the execution of
    Charles I in
  • 1649, the Parliament closed the theatres in
  • A few years later Oliver Cromwell was proclaimed
  • Protector of the Commonwealth of England,
  • and Ireland. His government was fiercely Puritan
  • religion and in administration.
  • Until the Restoration of Charles II to the throne
  • 1660, there was very little of theatre in

Restoration Drama
  • During this time the influence of French theatre,
  • through it, Italian notions of theatre
    architecture, was
  • experienced by English actors and royalists in
  • Charles II, the king, had been in France during
  • greater part of the Protectorate, together with
    many of
  • the royalist party, all of whom were familiar
    with Paris
  • and its fashions. Upon the return of the court
  • influence was felt, particularly in the theatre.

Restoration Drama
  • In August, 1660, Charles issued patents for two
  • companies of players, and performances
  • began.
  • Theatre was beginning to focus more on the
  • mechanics of scenery and spectacle. The plays
  • themselves were often masques in which costume,
  • dance and clever scenery and scene changes were
  • more emphasized than acting and plot.

Restoration Drama
  • Theatres began to display the proscenium style of
  • architecture, although the forestage remained the
  • principal place where the acting took place, and
  • area behind the proscenium was reserved for the
  • display of scenery changes which were slid into
  • by means of panels on tracks.
  • During this time theatre was designed
    specifically for
  • the royal pleasure. Theatres began to be roofed

Restoration Drama
  • It was at the time of the Restoration of the
    Crown in
  • England, that women first began to appear on
    stage (a
  • convention borrowed from the French), instead of
  • female roles being played by boys and young men.
  • Theatres were again licensed and controlled
  • by the state, yet there occurred a broadening of
  • theatre's appeal first to property owners and
  • merchants, and ultimately to the masses.

Nell Gwynn (1650-1687), was one of the first
actresses (and the mistress of Charles II).
Restoration Drama
  • This period also saw the
  • first professional woman
  • playwright, Aphra Behn
  • (1640-1689).

Age of Restoration Language
  • The earlier Renaissance drive to enrich
    vocabulary was
  • superseded by efforts at refinement and
    regulation of
  • language. The language of polite conversation,
    with its
  • emphasis on clarity and precision, was set as a
  • standard.
  • Chief spokesman for the new spirit was John
  • (1631-1700). He brushed aside the grammar and
  • of Shakespeare as no more than one could expect
  • from a popular writer.

Restoration Drama
  • The Puritan closing of the theatres in 1642 did
  • mean the absolute disappearance of the English
  • drama. Plays were performed in the private
  • of country gentlemen. Some actors attempted
  • performances surreptitiously. Another and more
  • effective circumvention of the authorities
    consisted of
  • drolls, brief excerpts from dramas that could be
  • presented at fairs before a raid could be

Restoration Drama
  • Yet the theatrical tradition was essentially
    broken. Most
  • actors of the Caroline stage were dead or out of
  • practice when the Restoration gave the stage a
  • birth.
  • Upon his resumption of the throne in 1661 Charles
  • granted two patents, assigning the monopoly of
  • London theatrical performances to the Kings
  • Company, and to the Duke of Yorks Company.

Restoration Drama The Audience
  • The Restoration theatre was entirely the courts
  • preserve. Charles II was the first English
    monarch who
  • regularly attended the public theatre (even
    though he
  • had his own private theatre at Whitehall). He
  • interested himself in the preparation of scripts
    and in
  • the running of the acting companies.

Restoration Drama The Audience
  • The spectators at the two theatres were
  • courtiers and their hangers-on. Two theatres were
  • sufficient for the metropolis of London.
  • Performances started at three-thirty or four in
  • afternoon. The aristocrats looked upon the
  • as a social assembly where they had an
    opportunity to
  • disport themselves.

An Entry from the Diary of Samuel Pepys Monday
18 February 1666/67
  • Thence away, and with my wife by coach to the
    Duke of
  • Yorks play-house, expecting a new play, and so
  • not no more than other people, but to the Kings
  • to The Mayds Tragedy but vexed all the while
  • two talking ladies and Sir Charles Sedley yet
  • to hear their discourse, he being a stranger. And
    one of
  • the ladies would, and did sit with her mask on,
    all the
  • play, and, being exceeding witty as ever I heard
  • woman, did talk most pleasantly with him but
    was, I
  • believe, a virtuous woman, and of quality. He
    would fain
  • know who she was, but she would not tell

Pepys, cont.
  • yet did give him many pleasant hints of her
  • knowledge of him, by that means setting his
    brains at
  • work to find out who she was, and did give him
  • to use all means to find out who she was, but
  • off her mask. He was mighty witty, and she also
  • making sport with him very inoffensively, that a
  • pleasant rencontre I never heard. But by that
  • lost the pleasure of the play wholly, to which
    now and
  • then Sir Charles Sedleys exceptions against both
  • words and pronouncing were very pretty. So home
  • to the office, did much business, then home, to
  • and to bed.

Restoration Drama The Theatre
  • William Davenant, head of the Duke of Yorks
  • Company, abandoned the Renaissance English stage
  • in favour of the French one. The theatres were
  • The forestage still projected into the audience
    but was
  • significantly cut. The curtain was Davenants
  • innovation. He also introduced painted
  • Gallants were seldom permitted on the stage, yet
  • on display in boxes set on either side of the
  • (apron).

Restoration Drama The Actors
  • The limited patronage necessitated small
  • companies and plays with relatively few roles.
  • Performers obtained salaries. Boy apprentices
  • vanished, and while a few males still took
  • roles, the first actresses appeared on stage. The
  • first was Mrs. Margaret Hughes, playing the role
  • Desdemona for the Kings Company in 1660.

Restoration Comedy
  • The aftermath of Puritanism manifested itself in
  • comedies, self-conscious indecency on stage where
  • bedroom and assignation scenes were blatant and
  • adultery was a commonplace representation.

Restoration Comedy
  • The kind of drama which prevailed during the
    Age of Restauration, often referred to as comedy
    of manners, chiefly concerned with presenting a
    society of elegance and stylishness.
  • Its characters were gallants, ladies and
    gentlemen of fashion and ranks, fops, rakes,
    social climbers and country bumpkins.
  • The tone was witty, urbane, licentious.
  • The plot dealt with the intricacies of sexual
    and marital intrigue, with adultery and cuckoldry.

Restoration Comedy
  • The main goal of these comedies of manners in the
    period of Restoration is to entertain and to mock
    society. The audience was supposed to laugh at
  • However, many critiques of marriage that we see
    in the play are devastating, and the game of love
    is not much more hopeful. Although the endings
    are happy and the man invariably gets the woman,
    we see marriages without love.

Restoration Comedy
  • Typically, one of the major themes of
    restoration comedy is marriage and the game of
    love. The plot would involve a dashing, witty
    hero trying to have sex with as many women as
    possible without getting into trouble, with funny
    consequences. Restoration comedies include bawdy
    humour, witty dialogues, recursive

Restoration Comedy
  • Women were allowed to perform on stage for the
    first time, and the mostly male audiences were
    attracted by the idea of seeing women acting out
    seduction scenes and the possibility of seeing a
    bit of shapely leg on stage. Clothes were often
    several sizes too small so as to emphasize the
    curves of their bodies.

Restoration Comedy
  • Chief representatives and plays
  • William Wycherley The Country Wife (1672 or
    1673) The Plain Dealer (1674)
  • George Etheredge The Man of Mode (1676)
  • William Congreve The Double Dealer (1694) Love
    for Love (11695) The Way of the World (1700)
  • John Vanbrugh The Provoked Wife (1697)
  • George Farquhar The Beaux Strategem (1707)
  • Thomas Shadwell The Libertine (1676), The
    Volunteers, or Stockjobbers (1693)

Comedy of Manners
  • A genre which has for its main subjects and
  • the behaviour and deportment of people living
  • specific social codes. It is preoccupied with the
  • of the middle and upper classes and is often
    marked by
  • elegance, wit and sophistication.
  • Restoration comedies provide outstanding
  • Later examples of the genre are Oscar Wildes The
  • Importance of Being Ernest (1895) or Noël
  • Private Lives (1930).

William Wycherley (1640-1706)
The Country Wife Plot summary by Robin
Bates http//
  • In Wycherleys play, the one person who wants to
    tell the truth is pressured to be silent so that
    the society can continue to teeter along. Heres
    the plot.
  • The lead character is Horner, a predatory rake
    who wants to cuckold as many husbands as he can.
    Because the husbands are so leery of him,
    however, he has a doctor (Quack) leak the news
    that he has been rendered impotent by venereal
    disease. Since he is now safe, Sir Jasper
    Fidget wants Horner to chaperone his wife as he
    goes about his business. Horner more than
  • http//

The Country Wife, cont.
  • But Horner also has an affair with Marjorie
    Pinchwife, the country wife of the title, who is
    innocent to the ways of the city and who believes
    that two people who love each other should be
    together. She likes Horner much better than her
    jealous husband and is prepared, in a burst of
    sincerity, to publicly declare Horner her lover
    and leave her husband for him. In doing so, of
    course, she would reveal that he has been faking
    his disease.
  • Suddenly, the whole society is in danger of
    imploding. Sir Jasper will be revealed to have
    been a cuckold, as will Pinchwife. Their wives,
    meanwhile, will lose their honor, as will all
    the other women that Horner has been

The Country Wife, cont.
  • So what do they do? Do they admit that the
    husbands are neglecting or abusing their wives
    and that the wives prefer outer appearance to
    inner virtue? Do they question the drive for
    gratification and look to spiritual connection
    with another human being over mere sexual trysts?
    Do they view the threatened crisis as an
    opportunity to rethink their priorities?
  • Or do they persuade the one truthful, trusting,
    and non-cynical character, the country wife, to
    tell a lie so that society can continue on as
  • Marjorie realizes she is condemned to a loveless
    marriage. In all likelihood she will learn how to
    counterfeit virtue and tell lies while engaging
    in clandestine affairs. She has been trained to
    be corrupt like the rest of them.

William Congreve (1670-1729)
The Way of the World
  • The play is based around the two lovers Mirabell
    and Millamant. In order for the two to get
    married and receive Millamant's full dowry,
    Mirabell must receive the blessing of Millamant's
    aunt, Lady Wishfort. Unfortunately, she is a
    bitter lady, who despises Mirabell and wants her
    own nephew, Sir Wilful, to wed Millamant.
  • Mirabell and Millamant, equally strong-willed,
    discuss in detail the conditions under which they
    would accept each other in marriage (otherwise
    known as the "proviso scene"), showing the depth
    of feeling for each other. Mirabell finally
    proposes to Millamant and Millamant accepts.

The Way of the World, cont.
  • The love expressed in the play tends to be
    centred on material gain rather than the love of
    the partner. This can be seen in the scene where
    Millamant and Mirabell effectively carry out a
    pre-nuptial agreement, Millamant insisting on
    having all manner of liberties and powers, quite
    unusual for the time.
  • None of the characters in the play can really be
    seen as 'good', and as such it is difficult to
    find a hero or heroine, or indeed anybody whom
    one would find deserving of sympathy.

William Congreve The Way of the World ACT IV.
  • MILLA. My dear liberty, shall I leave thee?
    My faithful solitude, my darling contemplation,
    must I bid you then adieu? Ay-h, adieu. My
    morning thoughts, agreeable wakings, indolent
    slumbers, all ye DOUCEURS, ye SOMMEILS DU MATIN,
    adieu. I can't do't, 'tis more than
    impossiblepositively, Mirabell, I'll lie a-bed
    in a morning as long as I please.
  • MIRA. Then I'll get up in a morning as early as I
  • MILLA. Ah! Idle creature, get up when you will.
    And d'ye hear, I won't be called names after I'm
    married positively I won't be called names.
  • MIRA. Names?

The Way of the World, cont.
  • MILLA. Ay, as wife, spouse, my dear, joy, jewel,
    love, sweet-heart, and the rest of that nauseous
    cant, in which men and their wives are so
    fulsomely familiarI shall never bear that. Good
    Mirabell, don't let us be familiar or fond, nor
    kiss before folks, like my Lady Fadler and Sir
    Francis nor go to Hyde Park together the first
    Sunday in a new chariot, to provoke eyes and
    whispers, and then never be seen there together
    again, as if we were proud of one another the
    first week, and ashamed of one another ever
    after. Let us never visit together, nor go to a
    play together, but let us be very strange and
    well-bred. Let us be as strange as if we had been
    married a great while, and as well-bred as if we
    were not married at all.

The Way of the World, cont.
  • MIRA. Have you any more conditions to offer?
    Hitherto your demands are pretty reasonable.
  • MILLA. Trifles as liberty to pay and receive
    visits to and from whom I please to write and
    receive letters, without interrogatories or wry
    faces on your part to wear what I please, and
    choose conversation with regard only to my own
    taste to have no obligation upon me to converse
    with wits that I don't like, because they are
    your acquaintance, or to be intimate with fools,
    because they may be your relations. Come to
    dinner when I please, dine in my dressing- room
    when I'm out of humour, without giving a reason.
    To have my closet inviolate to be sole empress
    of my tea-table, which you must never presume to
    approach without first asking leave. And lastly,
    wherever I am, you shall always knock at the door
    before you come in. These articles subscribed, if
    I continue to endure you a little longer, I may
    by degrees dwindle into a wife.

The Way of the World, cont.
  • MIRA. Then we're agreed. Shall I kiss your hand
    upon the contract?

Comedy of manners Summary
  • the social habits (manners and mores) of a given
    society, usually the dominant one at the time,
    typically the upper classes
  • Often cold caricature, witness to lack of moral
    standards in society at the time
  • Restoration comedy 1660 to early 18th century
  • sexual and marital intrigue
  • (Comedy of manners term not restricted to drama)

Heroic Drama
  • - A form of tragedy which was fashionable at the
  • beginning of the Restoration period.
  • - Its themes were love and honour, its mode
  • rhetorical and declamatory, at its worst
  • - The chief influence was French classical drama,
  • especially the works of Pierre Corneille
  • - It was staged in a spectacular and operatic
  • - John Drydens The Indian Queen (1664), The
  • Emperor (1665) and All for Love (based on
  • Shakespeares Antony and Cleopatra) are good
  • examples.

Sentimental Comedy The Age of Neoclassicism
  • Also known as the drama of sensibility, it
    followed on
  • from Restoration comedy and was a kind of
  • against what was regarded as immorality and
    licence in
  • the latter.
  • As Oliver Goldsmith put it, in it the virtues of
  • life are exhibited, rather than the vices
    exposed, and
  • the distresses rather than the frailty of

Sentimental Comedy
  • The characters, both good and bad, were
  • simple.
  • A chief instance is Oliver Goldsmiths The Good
  • Natured Man (1768) and She Stoops to Conquer, or
  • Mistakes of a Night (1773).
  • Goldsmith, however, mocks sentimental comedy
  • continually, revealing sensiblity as hypocrisy.

Neoclassicist comedy of manners
  • Another exponent of neoclassicist comedy of
    manners was
  • Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan (17511816), an
  • Irish-born playwright and poet and long-term
    owner of the
  • London Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. His masterpiece
    is The
  • School for Scandal (1777) in which he attacks
  • sentimentalism and criticizes frivolous and
  • London high society.

Romanticism (mainly in German theatre)
  • need for historical consistency (no precision,
    though) for imaginative plausible presentation
  • mid-19th c. France return to the tradition of
    middle class dramas
  • good acting move with the natural elegance of
  • touring companies disappear

New Historicism
  • Interrogate the relationship between history and
    literature especially concerning the
    Renaissance and Romantic period

Victorian Drama
  • The Theatre Act of 1843 broke the monopoly of
  • drama granted to Covent Garden and Drury Lane by
  • Act of 1737. The modern theatre was free to
  • The expansion was devoted to a popular clientele,
  • middle class and some of the working classes.
  • For them Victorian stage provided melodrama.

Victorian Drama
  • Plays were characterized by
  • suspenseful plot (characterization was
    subordinated to it)
  • pseudo-realism (contemporary setting, persuasive
    realism, elegant splendour)
  • stereotyped figures (valiant seamen, virtuous
    shopgirls, cruel mortgage holders, etc.)
  • sentimentalism
  • naive moral concepts (the virtuous are rewarded)
  • Stagecraft electric lighting was first
    introduced in the
  • Savoy Theatre in1881

Oscar Wilde (1856-1900)
  • In the guise of the well-made play of the
    period, i.e. neatly and economically constructed
    play which works with mechanical efficiency,
    Wildes dramas restored the sparkling comedy of
    manners which disappeared with Sheridan. His
    theatre is sometimes termed as the epigrammatic
    theatre, since the dialogues move forward by
    rapid exchanges of witty statements.
  • The Importance of Being Ernest (1895) Wilde
    termed it A Trivial Comedy for Serious People

Oscar Wilde and photographs from the first
production of the play
Twentieth-Century Drama
  • Strongly individualistic as opposed to the epochs
    of previous drama
  • Emphasized sociological problems

Comedy of Ideas
  • A term loosely applied to plays which tend to
    debate, in
  • a witty and humorous fashion, ideas and theories.
  • George Bernard Shaw is an outstanding exponent in
  • Man and Superman (1905), The Doctors Dilemma
  • (1906) and other plays.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
  • Staunch vegetarian, pacifist, antivivisectionist,
  • champion of the Irish over the English.
  • The chief Shavian quality is the ability to make
    people think
  • by compelling them to laugh.
  • His key technique was turning everything
    topsy-turvy and
  • forcing the audience to see the other half of the
  • Lengthy speeches and prolonged stage conversations

G. B.Shaw
Mrs. Warrens Profession
  • Written in 1894, produced in 1902, privately. The
  • put ban on the play that was not lifted until
  • The satiric play is a dramatic representation of
    the Marxist
  • contention that virtue is impossible in a
    capitalistic society.
  • Vivie Warren, a modern independent girl is
  • when she understands that her mother had escaped
  • poverty by prostitution. She insists that her
    mother retire
  • from her position as the head of an international
  • of brothels, financed by a respectable gentleman,
  • George Crofts. Mrs. Warren refuses, and Vivie
  • her mother to live by honest work in London.

Verse Drama
  • Verse drama is a drama written as verse to be
  • another possible general term is poetic drama.
    For a
  • very long period, it was the dominant form of
    drama in
  • Europe.
  • During the twentieth century verse drama fell
  • almost completely out of fashion with dramatists
  • writing in English.
  • However the plays of T. S. Eliot, most notably
  • in the Cathedral (1935), brought a revival of the
  • A postmodernist example is Serious Money (1987)
  • Caryl Churchill.

Post-War Theatre
  • Reaction against the realist conventions
    dominating the stage. (The opening of the curtain
    seemed to remove the fourth wall of a fully
    furnished middle-class or upper middle-class
    sitting-room. The dialogues had to seem
  • The English stage was ruled by the commercial
    theatre, management fulfilled their task of
    providing entertainment which had a proven
    saleability. There was no place for plays of
    questionably commercial values regardless of
    their artistic merits.
  • By the mid-50s0 it seemed inevitable that English
    theatre was about to be transformed.

Post-War Theatre
  • It was the English Stage Company at the Royal
    Court Theatre that finally created opportunity
    for fresh talent and experimental performances.
  • John Osbornes Look Back in Anger was a
    breakthrough, and the theatre added to their
    repertoire plays by Samuel Beckett, Harold
    Pinter, and others.
  • http//

Angry Young Man Movement Kitchen-Sink Drama
  • Middle and late 1950s trend
  • Main exponent on stage was John Osborne
  • Look Back in Anger (1956) spoke for a generation
  • discontented young men often with working-class
  • background, who were opposed to the establishment
  • disillusioned by post-second world war social
  • Jimmy Porter represents the anti-hero.

Look Back in Anger 1989 performance by the
Renaissance Theatre Company with Emma Thompson
and Kenneth Branagh, directed by Judy Dench
John Osborne
Kitchen-Sink Comedy
  • A term which became popular in Great Britain in
  • middle and late 1950s. Often used derogatorily,
    it applied
  • to plays which, in a realistic fashion, showed
    aspects of
  • working-class life at the time. The implication
    was that the
  • play centred, metaphorically (or psychologically)
    and in
  • some cases literally, on the kitchen sink. The
    works of John
  • Osborne, Arnold Wesker were all so described. It
  • doubtful if the term derives in any way from
    Wesker's play
  • The Kitchen because this was first presented in a
  • production without décor in 1958, and not given a
  • production until 1961.
  • (Cuddon)

Comedy of Menace
  • A term denoting a kind of lay in which one or
  • characters feel that they are threatened by some
  • obscure and frightening force, power,
  • The fear and menace become a source of comdey,
  • albeit grim or black.
  • Harold Pinter exploited the possibilities of such
  • situation in his early plays.

Harold Pinter (19302008)
Harold Pinter Comedy of Menace / Memory Plays
  • Pinter's career as a playwright began with a
  • of The Room in 1957. His early works, such as The
  • Birthday Part (1958), The Dumb Waiter (1959), and
  • Caretaker (1959) were described by critics as
  • of menace".
  • Later plays such as No Man's Land (1975) and
  • (1978) became known as "memory plays".

Memory Plays (19681982)
  • From the late 1960s through the early 1980s,
  • wrote a series of plays and sketches that explore
  • complex ambiguities, elegiac mysteries, comic
  • vagaries, and other "quicksand-like"
    characteristics of
  • memory.

The Theatre of the Absurd
  • A term applied to many of the works of a group of
  • dramatists who were active in the 1950s Samuel
  • Beckett, Harold Pinter, Eugène Ionesco, Jean
  • and others.
  • The phrase 'theatre of the absurd' was probably
  • coined by Martin Esslin, who wrote The Theatre of
  • Absurd (1961).

The Theatre of the Absurd
  • The origins of this form of drama are obscure,
    but it
  • would be reasonable to suppose that its lineage
  • traceable from Roman mime plays, through to
  • of comic business and technique in medieval and
  • Renaissance drama and commedia dell'arte, and
  • thence to the dramatic works of Alfred Jarry,
  • Strindberg and Bertolt Brecht.
  • (Cuddon)

The Theatre of the Absurd
  • The work of Jarry is vital and the possibilities
    of a
  • theatre of the absurd are already apparent in
    Ubu Roi
  • (1896). Almost certainly dadaism and surrealism
  • influenced the development of the theatre of
  • absurd, and so have Antonin Artaud's theories on
  • theatre of cruelty.
  • (Cuddon)

The Theatre of the Absurd
  • An awareness of the essential absurdity of much
  • human behaviour has been inherent in the work of
  • many writers from Aristophanes to Cervantes to
  • to Dickens.
  • (Cuddon)

The Theatre of the Absurd
  • However, the concept of homo absurdas has
  • a rather more specific meaning in the last
  • years or so. This is partly, no doubt, owing to
    the need
  • to provide an explanation of man's apparently
  • purposeless role and position in a universe which
  • popularly imagined to have no discernible reason
  • existence.
  • Mathematically, a surd is that which cannot be
  • expressed in finite terms of ordinary numbers or
  • quantities. Hence irrational rather than
  • (Cuddon)

The Theatre of the Absurd
  • The collection of essays The Myth of Sisyphus
  • by Albert Camus and the existentialist
    philosophies of
  • the mid-20th century not independent of the two
  • wars gave an impetus to the vision of human life
    as a
  • struggle with the irrationality of experience.

The Theatre of the Absurd
  • The plays themselves lack a formal logic and
  • conventional structure, so that both form and
  • content support (while emphasizing the difficulty
  • communicating) the representation of what may be
  • called the absurd predicament.
  • (Cuddon)

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
Samuel Beckett Plays of the Middle Period
  • After World War II, Beckett used the French
  • as a vehicle.
  • During the 15 years following the second world
  • years Beckett produced four major full-length
  • plays En attendant Godot (written 19481949
  • for Godot), Fin de partie (19551957 Endgame),
  • Krapp's Last Tape (1958), and Happy Days (1961).
  • These deal in a very blackly humorous way with
  • the subject of despair and the will to survive in
    spite of
  • that despair, in the face of an uncomprehending
  • incomprehensible world.
  • http//

Late Plays
  • In the 1960s and into the 1970s, Beckett's
  • works exhibited an increasing tendency towards
  • compactness. He reduced his plays to the utmost
  • essentials. These works are often described as
  • minimalist. The extreme example of this Breath
  • which lasts for only 35 seconds and has no
  • characters.

Postmodernist Drama
  • One of the he chief exponents of postmodernist
  • is Tom Stoppard (1937) British playwright.
  • His theatre has three main features
  • (1) brilliant language verbal contests, verbal
  • (2) weird theatrical ideas e.g. play around the
    action of another play (Hamlet in Rosencrantz and
    Guildenstern), double plot in Arcadia, the
    present researching the past
  • (3) an intellectual frame of reference
    Wittgenstein language philosophy, Chaos theory,
    Newtons physics, thermodynamics, both
    intellectually entertaining and with serious
    moral considerations

Tom Stoppard
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)
  • The reverse of the play within the play scene in
  • Shakespeares Hamlet, Stoppards play is a play
  • around a play. Stoppard places two miner
  • from Hamlet into central position.
  • Ros and Guil are no heroes, not even separate
  • personalities. Taking two characters from a play,
  • testing their actions against a plot we all know
  • Stoppard explores questions of predictability,
  • determinism and free will. Also, explores
    questions of
  • self-identity and possibilities of communication
  • language.

Tom Stoppard
  • Arcadia (1993) brings together two time periods,
  • 1809/12 and the present. The setting is Sidley
    Park, a
  • large country house owned by the Coverly family.
  • scenes alternate until the very last one where
    the two
  • time periods appear simultaneously on a divided
  • The present group of characters is doing research
  • the past group of characters and their
    activities, but
  • their assumptions turn out to be almost wholly
  • mistaken.

Tom Stoppard
  • Stoppard parodied theatrical conventions in many
  • ways. The main plot of Jumpers (1972) is
  • by a murder story, but the dialogues are occupied
    by a
  • series of very entertaining philosophical
    perception so
  • the murder case is almost completely ignored.

Tom Stoppard
  • Travesties concerns an English consular official,
  • Carr as he reminisces about Zürich in 1917 during
  • First World War, and his interactions with James
  • when he was writing Ulysses, Tristan Tzara during
  • rise of Dada, and Lenin leading up to the Russian
  • Revolution, all of whom were living in Zürich at
  • time. Carr's memories are couched in a Zürich
  • production of Oscar Wilde's play The Importance
  • Being Earnest in which he had a starring role.

Tom Stoppard
  • The Real Inspector Hound (1967)
  • Stoppard takes great pleasure in ironically
  • dramatic conventions thus reacting against stage
  • realism. In the opening scene of this play he
  • the pseudo-realistic dialogues in effort to to
    get across
  • basic information concerning the characters in
  • play.

Tom Stoppard
  • Mrs Drudge the cleaning woman happens to be
    dusting the
  • phone when it rings. He answers informatively.

The phone rings. MRS DRUDGE seems to have
been waiting for it do so and for the last few
seconds has been dusting it with an intense
concentration. She snatches it up
  • MRS DRUDGE Into the phone. Hello, the
    drawing-room of
  • Lady Muldoon's country residence one morning in
  • spring? ... Hello!--the draw----Who? Who did you
    wish to
  • speak to? I'm afraid there is no one of that name
    here, this
  • is all very mysterious and I am sure it's leading
    up to
  • something, I hope nothing is wrong for us. Lady
  • and her houseguests, are here cut off from the
  • including Magnus, the wheelchair-ridden
    half-brother of her
  • ladyship's husband Lord Albert Muldoon. Ten years
    ago, he
  • went out for a walk on the cliffs and was never
    seen again-
  • and all alone, for they had no children.