Presentation on theme: "Theatre in Context Lecture on Drama. The Middle Ages origins of theatre: myths, rites the Middle Ages: everyday theatre: mimes and minstrels liturgical."— Presentation transcript:
Theatre in Context Lecture on Drama
The Middle Ages origins of theatre: myths, rites the Middle Ages: everyday theatre: mimes and minstrels 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.
Masque 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 performed
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 ( ) 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)
Further London theatres ROSE ( , 1 st 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 coloumns) sometimes used for fencing matches
17 th 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 understand male characters: unambiguous heroism: rather unconvincing
Heroic drama John Dryden ( ) 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 audience
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” heroic-couplets/
The Age of Restoration The term Restoration period is applied to the decades from 1660 (the year Charles II was re-established as monarch) to the end of the century. Between 1660 and 1700 over 500 plays were written in 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 England. A few years later Oliver Cromwell was proclaimed Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland. His government was fiercely Puritan in religion and in administration. Until the Restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, there was very little of theatre in England.
Restoration Drama During this time the influence of French theatre, and through it, Italian notions of theatre architecture, was experienced by English actors and royalists in exile. Charles II, the king, had been in France during the 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 French influence was felt, particularly in the theatre.
Restoration Drama In August, 1660, Charles issued patents for two companies of players, and performances immediately 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 the area behind the proscenium was reserved for the display of scenery changes which were slid into view by means of panels on tracks. During this time theatre was designed specifically for the royal pleasure. Theatres began to be roofed in.
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 ( ), 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 ( ).
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 Dryden ( ). He brushed aside the grammar and syntax of Shakespeare as no more than one could expect from a popular writer.
Restoration Drama The Puritan closing of the theatres in 1642 did not mean the absolute disappearance of the English drama. Plays were performed in the private residences of country gentlemen. Some actors attempted public performances surreptitiously. Another and more effective circumvention of the authorities consisted of drolls, brief excerpts from dramas that could be quickly presented at fairs before a raid could be launched.
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 new birth. Upon his resumption of the throne in 1661 Charles II granted two patents, assigning the monopoly of London theatrical performances to the King’s Company, and to the Duke of York’s Company.
Restoration Drama The Audience The Restoration theatre was entirely the court’s 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 personally 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 exclusively courtiers and their hangers-on. Two theatres were sufficient for the metropolis of London. Performances started at three-thirty or four in the afternoon. The aristocrats looked upon the playhouse 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 York’s play-house, expecting a new play, and so stayed not no more than other people, but to the King’s house, to “The Mayd’s Tragedy;” but vexed all the while with two talking ladies and Sir Charles Sedley; yet pleased 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 leave to use all means to find out who she was, but pulling off her mask. He was mighty witty, and she also making sport with him very inoffensively, that a more pleasant ‘rencontre’ I never heard. But by that means lost the pleasure of the play wholly, to which now and then Sir Charles Sedley’s exceptions against both words and pronouncing were very pretty. So home and to the office, did much business, then home, to supper, and to bed.
Restoration Drama The Theatre William Davenant, head of the Duke of York’s Company, abandoned the Renaissance English stage in favour of the French one. The theatres were indoors. The forestage still projected into the audience but was significantly cut. The curtain was Davenant’s innovation. He also introduced painted backdrops. Gallants were seldom permitted on the stage, yet were on display in boxes set on either side of the forestage (apron).
Restoration Drama The Actors The limited patronage necessitated small professional companies and plays with relatively few roles. Performers obtained salaries. Boy apprentices vanished, and while a few males still took women’s roles, the first actresses appeared on stage. The very first was Mrs. Margaret Hughes, playing the role of Desdemona for the King’s Company in 1660.
Restoration Comedy The aftermath of Puritanism manifested itself in bawdy 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 themselves. 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 cross-dressing.
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 themes the behaviour and deportment of people living under specific social codes. It is preoccupied with the codes of the middle and upper classes and is often marked by elegance, wit and sophistication. Restoration comedies provide outstanding instances. Later examples of the genre are Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest (1895) or Noël Coward’s Private Lives (1930).
William Wycherley ( )
The Country Wife Plot summary by Robin Bates In Wycherley’s play, the one person who wants to tell the truth is pressured to be silent so that the society can continue to teeter along. Here’s 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 obliges.
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 “chaperoning.”
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 before? 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 ( )
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. – SCENE V. MRS. MILLAMANT, MIRABELL. 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 impossible—positively, 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 please. 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 familiar—I 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 18 th 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 grand, rhetorical and declamatory, at its worst bombastic. - The chief influence was French classical drama, especially the works of Pierre Corneille ( ). - It was staged in a spectacular and operatic fashion. - John Dryden’s The Indian Queen (1664), The Indian Emperor (1665) and All for Love (based on Shakespeare’s 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 reaction against what was regarded as immorality and licence in the latter. As Oliver Goldsmith put it, in it “the virtues of private life are exhibited, rather than the vices exposed, and the distresses rather than the frailty of mankind.”
Sentimental Comedy The characters, both good and bad, were luminously simple. A chief instance is Oliver Goldsmith’s The Good Natured Man (1768) and She Stoops to Conquer, or The 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 (1751–1816), 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 fraudulent London high society.
Romanticism (mainly in German theatre): need for historical consistency (no precision, though) for imaginative & plausible presentation (realism) mid-19th c. France: return to the tradition of middle class dramas good acting: move with the natural elegance of gentry 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 London drama granted to Covent Garden and Drury Lane by the Act of The modern theatre was free to develop. The expansion was devoted to a popular clientele, lower 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 ( ) In the guise of the „well-made play” of the period, i.e. neatly and economically constructed play which works with mechanical efficiency, Wilde’s 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 Doctor’s Dilemma (1906) and other plays.
George Bernard Shaw ( ) Staunch vegetarian, pacifist, antivivisectionist, socialist, 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 truth. Lengthy speeches and prolonged stage conversations
Mrs. Warren’s Profession Written in 1894, produced in 1902, privately. The censor 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 distressed when she understands that her mother had escaped from poverty by prostitution. She insists that her mother retire from her position as the head of an international chain of brothels, financed by a respectable gentleman, Sir George Crofts. Mrs. Warren refuses, and Vivie renounces her mother to live by honest work in London.
Verse Drama Verse drama is a drama written as verse to be spoken; 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 Murder in the Cathedral (1935), brought a revival of the form. A postmodernist example is Serious Money (1987) by 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 realistic. 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 Osborne’s Look Back in Anger was a breakthrough, and the theatre added to their repertoire plays by Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and others.
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 of discontented young men often with working-class background, who were opposed to the establishment and disillusioned by post-second world war social situation. 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
Kitchen-Sink Comedy A term which became popular in Great Britain in the 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 is 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 full production until (Cuddon)
Comedy of Menace A term denoting a kind of lay in which one or more characters feel that they are threatened by some obscure and frightening force, power, personality. 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 (1930–2008)
Harold Pinter Comedy of Menace / Memory Plays Pinter's career as a playwright began with a production of The Room in His early works, such as The Birthday Part (1958), The Dumb Waiter (1959), and The Caretaker (1959) were described by critics as "comedy of menace". Later plays such as No Man's Land (1975) and Betrayal (1978) became known as "memory plays".
Memory Plays (1968–1982) From the late 1960s through the early 1980s, Pinter 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 Genet and others. The phrase 'theatre of the absurd' was probably coined by Martin Esslin, who wrote The Theatre of the 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 is traceable from Roman mime plays, through to aspects of comic business and technique in medieval and Renaissance drama and commedia dell'arte, and thence to the dramatic works of Alfred Jarry, August 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 the absurd, and so have Antonin Artaud's theories on the 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 Swift to Dickens. (Cuddon)
The Theatre of the Absurd However, the concept of homo absurdas has acquired a rather more specific meaning in the last hundred 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 is popularly imagined to have no discernible reason for existence. Mathematically, a surd is that which cannot be expressed in finite terms of ordinary numbers or quantities. Hence irrational rather than ridiculous. (Cuddon)
The Theatre of the Absurd The collection of essays The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) by Albert Camus and the existentialist philosophies of the mid-20th century not independent of the two world 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 of communicating) the representation of what may be called the absurd predicament. (Cuddon)
Samuel Beckett ( )
Samuel Beckett Plays of the Middle Period After World War II, Beckett used the French language as a vehicle. During the 15 years following the second world war years Beckett produced four major full-length stage plays: En attendant Godot (written 1948–1949; Waiting for Godot), Fin de partie (1955–1957; 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 and incomprehensible world.
Late Plays In the 1960s and into the 1970s, Beckett's dramatic 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 (1969) which lasts for only 35 seconds and has no characters.
Postmodernist Drama One of the he chief exponents of postmodernist drama is Tom Stoppard (1937) British playwright. His theatre has three main features: (1) brilliant language: verbal contests, verbal punning (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, Newton’s 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 William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Stoppard’s play is a play around a play. Stoppard places two miner characters from Hamlet into central position. Ros and Guil are no heroes, not even separate personalities. Taking two characters from a play, and testing their actions against a plot we all know well, Stoppard explores questions of predictability, i.e. determinism and free will. Also, explores questions of self-identity and possibilities of communication via 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. The scenes alternate until the very last one where the two time periods appear simultaneously on a divided stage. The present group of characters is doing research on 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 constituted 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, Henry Carr as he reminisces about Zürich in 1917 during the First World War, and his interactions with James Joyce when he was writing Ulysses, Tristan Tzara during the rise of Dada, and Lenin leading up to the Russian Revolution, all of whom were living in Zürich at that time. Carr's memories are couched in a Zürich production of Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest in which he had a starring role.
Tom Stoppard The Real Inspector Hound (1967) Stoppard takes great pleasure in ironically subverting dramatic conventions thus reacting against stage realism. In the opening scene of this play he parodies the pseudo-realistic dialogues in effort to to get across basic information concerning the characters in the 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 early 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 Muldoon and her houseguests, are here cut off from the world, 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.