April 20, 2007

Intro To Drama Final

Thank you Shannen and Dad for proofing it!

And to Molly for the quote.

I'm done for the semester. Woo.

(And no, the Second Shepherds' Pageant is disappointenly non-multiorgasmic.  Its rather dull and lame in my opinion.)

Mookie

Clinton

Intro to Drama >>

March 29, 2007 >>

Antigone, The Second Shepherds’ Pageant, A Doll House,>>

 The Importance of Being Earnest, and How I Learned To Drive

            Most theatre is about issues that concern people and what would happen to humanity if people acted like this all the time.  Whether or not the plays focus on elite members of society, like Sophocles’ Antigone and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest; the middle class, such as Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House and Paul Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive; or the working class, such as The Second Shepheds’ Pageant by the anonymous Wakefield Master; there are often common threads running through the plays.  Common thoughts of plays are death, control, and identity.  The examination of these five plays will reveal common thoughts about death and tyranny that are expressed through the action of the characters and the events of the plot.

The plots of many plays follow Freytag's pyramid and without fail, each of these five plays do as well.  Each of the plays is also self-contained although there is assumed cultural knowledge associated with each, such as the Greek mythos for Antigone, and basic Catholic dogma for The Second Shepherds’ PageantAntigone conforms to Freytag's pyramid except that the inciting event happens before the action of the play starts.  The inciting event is the death of the two brothers when they fight each other with the main conflict being Kreon's inability to bend his own rules, and the climax comes when Kreon runs to free Antigone and fails to arrive in time. The Second Shepherds’ Pageant does slightly deviate from Freytag's pyramid in that there are two plot lines, but it fits into two parallel pyramids beautifully. The two pyramids are related by similar concepts, such as the lamb that Mak steals, and then the lamb of God, ie the Christ child. The inciting incident for the first plot line of The Second Shepherds’ Pageant is when Mak arrives, and the second plot line's inciting incident is when the Angel arrives.  The climaxes of the play happen when Mak and Gil are found out and when the shepherds give the presents to the Christ child.   The plot is event driven and it does not follow the Aristotelian idea that grand figures should be the main characters.  As Aristotle's elements of theatre became known in the western world it became nearly impossible to find plays with non-elite leads until recent times.

            Of the five plays, A Doll House is the earliest that does not feature elite members of society; How I Learned To Drive also focuses on non-elite characters, as it is centered on a middle class family.  A Doll House's inciting incident is Krogstag's arrival to threaten Nora in an attempt to keep his job, and the climax is when Torvald fails to rise up to Nora's expectations when he finds out about her forgery.  A Doll House is rather similar to melodrama in that it focuses on middle class people and middle class issues but it deviates from the melodrama format when instead of a happy ending, Nora leaves Torvald.  A late comedy of manners, The Importance of Being Earnest is a very tight play where everything is placed in specific spots for a reason.  Wilde was very meticulous with his plays and it shows in the self-contained event-driven plot where every event has a cause and effect relationship with the next or the previous event.  The main conflict of this show is Jack's identity, and the inciting event is like Antigone in that it happens before the action of the play starts.  The inciting event is when Algernon reads the inscription on Jack's cigarette case, whereas Jack is known in the town, and thus to Algernon, as Earnest. The climax is when Jack's identity as Algernon's older brother is found out and that his real name is in fact Earnest.

How I Learned To Drive also has a standard Freytag pyramid, though it is made more complicated because the story is not told in chronological order.  This is similar to Antigone where Antigone tells her sister Ismene that she is going to bury their brother before Kreon's pronouncement, but How I Learned To Drive takes the irregular story timeline to a whole new level.  How I Learned To Drive fits into the pyramid as long as one keeps in mind that the story is separate from the plot.  The inciting incident of the plot is in the opening monologue where Li'l Bit says that she is teaching a lesson, and the climax of it is the second to last scene where Peck molests Li'l Bit for the first time.  Li'l Bit acts as the narrator in this memory play because she is rehashing the events of when she was younger and relationship with Peck.  In order to teach herself how to forgive Peck and just appreciate his gift of confidence when she drives she recounts the memories in a non-chronological order so that instead of being focused on the events unfolding she, and the audience, can focus on the cause.

            Aristotle said that character may be the most important aspect of tragedy.  The characters are essential to moving the plot and giving the thoughts and themes of the play shape.  The protagonist in Antigone is not the title character, but it is actually Kreon with Antigone, Teiresias and Haimon as the antagonists.  Kreon and Antigone are both leads as well as opposing forces to each other.  Haimon and the other antagonists besides Antigone make up the supporting characters and as with most traditional Greek theatre there is a chorus.  The chorus for Antigone are the old men of lace w:st="on">Thebeslace>.  The relationships between Kreon and Antigone make their opposing wills to each other stand out more because the conflict becomes about more than just whether or not Antigone has to obey an unjust proclamation by the new King.  Antigone is engaged to Haimon, Kreon's son and there is the potential in performance for the creation of tension between future in-laws and daughter-in-law, as well as Uncle/Niece tension since Antigone is the daughter of Kreon's sister.  With all these family ties the situation becomes more complicated because Haimon uses his relationship with Kreon as his son to argue for Antigone to be pardoned, and the people of lace w:st="on">Thebeslace> also disapprove of both Kreon's proclamation and his insistence that Antigone be punished.  Kreon's decision to not kill Antigone directly, but to wall her up in a cave, does not make his hands any cleaner because it is easy to forsee Antigone's suicide.  Suicide is probably a much better choice then starvation or suffocation and there is a history of suicide in her family (her mother Jocasta).  Other character relationships include Antigone and her sister Ismene, who is the only family member of Kreon left alive at the end of the play.  She acts as a foil for Antigone during most of the play as well as giving Antigone's character more depth by helping to play the archetype of older and younger sisters. Vogel was a big fan of Greek Tragedy, and as such we see the return of the Greek Chorus in her show.  The chorus is lacking in most other plays, however Vogel does create three chorus' and while they could be performed as just one chorus the way the play is written seems to suggest three distinct groups.  There is the Female Greek Chrous, the Teenage Greek Chorus, and the Male Greek Chorus; the three chorus' in How I Learned To Drive take on a large plethora of roles ranging from school children to Li'l Bit's family.  Li'l Bit is the lead and the protagonist though the main conflict is with herself.   She simultaneously is the antagonist as well as she tries to learn to forgive Peck.  Uncle Peck as a character is very hard to pin down since, depending on the performance, he is still able to elicit emotion from the audience beyond revulsion at his actions. 

            In The Second Shepherds’ Pageant the two plot lines once again can create possible confusion.  In the first plot line the protagonist-antagonist relationship is between Mak and the shepherds, respectively, with Mak being the only lead and the shepherds (along with Gill) being supporting characters.  However in the second plot line Mak is not present so the Shepherds become the leads as well as the protagonists, with the abstract concept of poverty the antagonist as the shepherds try to figure out what presents to give to the Christ child.  Overall in both plot lines there are no minor characters nor a chorus as found in Sophocles’ Antigone.  Character depth is for the most part lacking with Mak receiving the most due to his relationship with Gill.  The shepherds do get a bit of depth when they go see the Christ child, but not much; most of the motivations of the characters are simplistic as well with Mak wanting a sheep so that he and Gill can eat, and the shepherds needing to keep their sheep since they are poor.

            Ibsen's A Doll House features Nora as the lead and protagonist since she is the center of the main conflict.  Opposing Nora as antagonists and acting as supporting characters are Torvald, Krogstag, and Kristine who all want to manipulate Nora for their own uses.  Krogstag wants to force Nora to influence Torvald so that he can keep his job, just as Kristine wants Nora to get her a job through Torvald.  Torvald simply wants Nora to be his entertainment and not much more then a pet.  Nora's motivations for most of the play is to keep Torvald from finding out about the forgery but at the very end when she leaves, she changes motivations and believes that she needs to leave Torvald in order to become more then a facade of a person. 

            Jack is the lead in The Importance of Being Earnest, with Algernon, Gwendolyn, Cecily, Lady Bracknell, and Miss Prism forming the supporting cast.  The minor characters are the two servants and Chasuble.  For this show the protagonist-antagonist method of analysis is not as useful as in the previous plays, but Jack as the lead gets the most character depth and his motivation is to really "have it all". Saying that Jack gets the most character depth is actually pretty sad because there is very little depth even though his motivations are pretty clear.  Also, since identity, among other things, is at the heart of what the play focuses on, all of the relationships are very fluid and fluctuate depending on what "identity" Jack (and to some extent Algernon) are adopting.

            Death is highly present in Antigone, The Second Shepherd's Pageant, and How I Learned To Drive, if the idea of death is expanded beyond the physical shutdown of the human body and includes abstract concepts such as the end of an identity or the end of a relationships.  Death is present in The Importance of Being Earnest and A Doll's House as well.  The Second Shepherds’ Pageant does not exhibit any physical death but the threat of death looms because Mak's thievery is punishable by death and it is only through the kindness of the three shepherds that Mak is spared.  Because the shepherds spared Mak they were allowed to visit the Christ child which will save their souls and allow them to go to heaven after their own deaths.  The shepherdsare concerned with their afterlife in a passing way until the beginning of the second plot line, but before that they are more concerned with living.  Antigone herself is concerned with her afterlife and how it will be affected if she does not bury her brother.  This contrasts with Kreon who is concerned with the mortal happenings around him and securing his power base.  Kreon is forced to confront death when his entire family (except Ismene) is dead, and like Mak he had to learn a lesson, although Kreon's lesson had a higher toll. 

In A Doll's House death is not a physical presence, though the death of Nora's father is an important antecedent event that allows Krogstag to catch Nora's forgery. The actual death is of Nora and Torvald's marriage is when Nora leaves in order to make a new life for herself and in order to become more than a doll. Nora leaving also has widespread ramifications for both herself and Torvald because Torvald's social reputation will be severely damaged and Nora will be outcast from most polite society.  The final sound of the door slam as Nora leaves Torvald is a highly effective sound effect that loses its effectiveness in reading because in performance the sound of a door slam could sound very similar to a coffin slamming shut.  The Importance of Being Earnest has a similar death because Jack's identity as Jack Worthing is "killed" at the end of the play in order for him to become Earnest Moncrieff, Jr. 

            Vogel's How I Learned To Drive thinks about the death of the relationship between Uncle Peck and Li'l Bit as well as Peck's physical death from falling down a flight of steps, caused by his return to alcoholism after Li'l Bit kills their relationship.  As with A Doll House, the death of the relationship is very real and almost physical for Li'l Bit and was Uncle Peck's main motivation for staying away from alcohol. 

Tyranny is evident in each of the five plays and the tyrant is a family member and usually causes death.  In Antigone the tyrant is King Kreon who decides that the state is more important than his family.  Kreon also decides to ignore the orders of the Gods that all dead should be buried, and it's not very sensible and it is very silly unwise to ignore Godly decree because it keeps all sorts of horrid diseases and plagues from spreading.  Kreon's insistence of the State being first and his inability to bend his principles, even when they are wrong, causes the death of three of his family members.  Kreon's tyranny is similar to Torvald's from A Doll House because Torvald's unbending and oppressive control on Nora forces her to leave him. Torvald is a worse tyrant than Kreon because Kreon was at least concerned about the state and the people as a whole, even if he disregarded his own family members until it was too late.  Torvald however is a tyrant for his own purposes and his own power.  Furthermore, Torvald is a petty tyrant in that he is willing to punish people for small infractions such as Krogstage calling him by his Christian name - for that Krogstag loses his job to a woman.  Krogstag losing his job to a woman in the Victorian Era (footnote: 1836-1860, with the Late Victorian era spanning approximately the years 1860-1900), is possibly one of the worst things that could happen to a man in this era, and it is made worse because Krogstag never learns the real reason within the confines of the play and it is such a petty reason to begin with.  Torvald's absolute control over Nora and his selfish concern for himself is what leads Nora to kill their relationship.

            The tyrant of The Second Shepherds’ Pageant is Mak over his wife Gill, though he is a friendly tyrant to her and he is only able to keep control over her because that was the social norm of the time.  In some aspects of their relationship Gill is more dominant for she is able to call him silly and stupid without any reprisal.  The tyrant in the second plotline of The Second Shepherds Pageant is not physically present, but the Christ child will lead to the creation of a tyrannical organization for centuries after.  The Catholic Church will be the power behind the thrones of lace w:st="on">Europelace> and at times will be both a gentle and horrific tyrant as they try to convert the entire world to Christianity and thus increase their power base and tolerate no deviation from what they decree.[1]

In The Importance of Being Earnest we get the humorous tyrant Lady Bracknell who is insistent that her daughter Gwendolen can only marry an appropriate person of rank and status and that Jack is not appropriate, even though he was adopted by an aristocrat and has become a Justice of Peace. Lady Bracknell's tyranny caused no ultimate harm, though her refusal to let Gwendolen marry Jack does lead to Gwendolen’s visit to the Manor house, where Lady Bracknell follows.  Thus Lady Bracknell is able to confront Miss Prism and the result of the confrontation allows Jack to assume his real name of Earnest Moncrieff.  Vogel's tyrant in How I Learned To Drive is Uncle Peck who controls Li'l Bit through his careful manipulation of her and his asking that she constantly keep the secret.  He keeps their relationship going because he is the only family member that Li'l Bit feels she can talk to or be understood by.  Li'l Bit's ostracization from her peers due to her large bosomalso gives Peck more power because she really has no one else she can turn to for friendship or comfort, no matter how twisted it may be.  Nearly everyone has at least one sexual-kink that is probably not fit for polite company, and it is unfortunate that Peck's is harmful to the other party involved and that he allows himself to act on it.  Peck's own sexual abuse as a child was unfortunate, and it was just as unfortunate that he lacked the personal will power to withstand carrying on the tradition.

            Most theatre is based off of Aristotle and the plots follow Freytag’s Pyramid to some degree, even plays such as The Second Shepherds’ Pageant which was written in a time where little was known of Aristotle.  The fact that all five of these plays think about death and tyranny just show that they have been important concepts for humanity for at least 2500 years.  Plot, Character and Thought are part of Aristotle’s elements of theatre and these three are very closely tied together because the thoughts of the play are enacted and presented to audiences through the action of the characters and the events of the plots.

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Works Cited

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll House. Translated by Rolf Fjelde The lace w:st="on">Bedfordlace> Introduction to Drama. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. lace w:st="on">New Yorklace>: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.

Johnston, Clinton. “Elements of Theatre.” Intro to Drama. lace w:st="on">lacename w:st="on">Marylacename> lacename w:st="on">Baldwinlacename> lacetype w:st="on">Collegelacetype>lace>.  lace w:st="on">Staunton, VAlace>, Jan 18, 2007.

Johnston, Clinton. “Antigone – Music and Chorus.” Intro to Drama. lace w:st="on">lacename w:st="on">Marylacename> lacename w:st="on">Baldwinlacename> lacetype w:st="on">Collegelacetype>lace>.  lace w:st="on">Staunton, VAlace>, Jan 23, 2007.

Johnston, Clinton. “Antigone – The Four Questions.” Intro to Drama. lace w:st="on">lacename w:st="on">Marylacename> lacename w:st="on">Baldwinlacename> lacetype w:st="on">Collegelacetype>lace>.  lace w:st="on">Staunton, VAlace>, Jan 25, 2007.

Johnston, Clinton. “Second Shepherd’s Play – The Four Questions.” Intro to Drama. lace w:st="on">lacename w:st="on">Marylacename> lacename w:st="on">Baldwinlacename> lacetype w:st="on">Collegelacetype>lace>.  lace w:st="on">Staunton, VAlace>, Jan 30, 2007.

Johnston, Clinton. “The Second Shepherds Play – Plot & Character.” Intro to Drama. lace w:st="on">lacename w:st="on">Marylacename> lacename w:st="on">Baldwinlacename> lacetype w:st="on">Collegelacetype>lace>.  lace w:st="on">Staunton, VAlace>, Feb 1, 2007.

Johnston, Clinton. “A Doll House – The Four Questions.” Intro to Drama. lace w:st="on">lacename w:st="on">Marylacename> lacename w:st="on">Baldwinlacename> lacetype w:st="on">Collegelacetype>lace>.  lace w:st="on">Staunton, VAlace>, Feb 15, 2007.

Johnston, Clinton. “The Importance of Being Earnest – Four Questions.” Intro to Drama. lace w:st="on">lacename w:st="on">Marylacename> lacename w:st="on">Baldwinlacename> lacetype w:st="on">Collegelacetype>lace>.  lace w:st="on">Staunton, VAlace>, Mar 8, 2007.

Johnston, Clinton. “Importance of Being Earnest - Breakdown.” Intro to Drama. lace w:st="on">lacename w:st="on">Marylacename> lacename w:st="on">Baldwinlacename> lacetype w:st="on">Collegelacetype>lace>.  lace w:st="on">Staunton, VAlace>, Mar 13, 2007.

Johnston, Clinton. “How I Learned to Drive – Four Questions.” Intro to Drama. lace w:st="on">lacename w:st="on">Marylacename> lacename w:st="on">Baldwinlacename> lacetype w:st="on">Collegelacetype>lace>.  lace w:st="on">Staunton, VAlace>, Mar 29, 2007.

Smith, Molly. "Seven Angry Penguins." Seven Angry Penguins. 18 Apr 2007. Mee.Nu - Websites for Me and You. 18 Apr 2007 <http://sevenangrypenguins.mee.nu>.

Sophocles. Antigone. Translated by Duddley Fitts and Robert Fitsgerald. The lace w:st="on">Bedfordlace> Introduction to Drama. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. lace w:st="on">New Yorklace>: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.

"Wicked Lyrics - Wonderful." ST Lyrics. 20 Apr 2007. ST Lyrics. 20 Apr 2007 <http://Stlyrics.com>.

Wakefield Master.  The Second Shepherds’ Pageant. Ed. A. C. Crawley. The lace w:st="on">Bedfordlace> Introduction to Drama. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. lace w:st="on">New Yorklace>: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.

Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest.   The lace w:st="on">Bedfordlace> Introduction to Drama. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. lace w:st="on">New Yorklace>: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.

Vogel, Paula. How I Learned To Drive.  The lace w:st="on">Bedfordlace> Introduction to Drama. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. lace w:st="on">New Yorklace>: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.

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[1]There is little to no historical evidence besides the New Testament that the birth of Christ ever happened. Also as Schopenhauer states "Clio, the muse of history, is as thoroughly infected with lies as a street whore with syphilis"; As the wizard in Wicked sums it up "A man's called a traitor - or liberator/ A rich man's a thief - or philanthropist, Is one a crusader - or ruthless invader? / It's all in which label/ Is able to persist"

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