Aristotelian Theatre

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ITS Fall 2011
Section 5
12/19/2011
Multiple Truths of the Theater
For many people the theatre is merely a means of pure entertainment; its either a comedy, drama, love story, or tragedy that people are attracted to in the theater. Everyone in attendance finds some sort of connection with the events taking place on stage. The events of the stage are not solely just to connect but rather, I believe that there is a deeper, more truthful purpose. I strongly agree with Aristotle’s theory of tragedy in The Poetics, as he argues that “drama is more truthful than history.” Whilst history serves as a means to inform, theatre allows us to act upon the truth of history, allowing theatre-makers such as Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud to reflect these truths through their theoretical texts and plays such as Mother Courage and Her Children and Jet of Blood.

In The Poetics, Aristotle distinguishes the differentiation between history and tragedy as he states, “It is, moreover, evident from what has been said, that it is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened, but what may happen- what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity” (Aristotle, Poetics, XI). History serves as the basis for theatre to exist, giving theatre a platform to exist upon. The separation between history and theatre lies in their purpose; history is narrowly focused on a specific event, whilst theatre broadens and uses the event to create a myriad of possibilities of thoughts, words, and actions. The events that occurred in history may not have been due to a specific happening of events, or a cycle of causes and effects. Due to this, historical events may not be relevant to one another and therefore it is the duty of the theater to propose a connection (cause and effect) of possible events that may have occurred. The deeper purpose for this is for the audience to view themselves within society as part of this cause and effect cycle. Theater-makers keep within the lines of reality and history because that which is possible must therefore also be credible, and for the same reason that which has not occurred is difficult to accept. History is accepted in the realm of theater for there is a necessity for historical events to succumb to the forces of what is probable and possible. I can further identify the historical and social aspects of society working in conjunction with the theater, in the works of Bertolt Brecht.

Brecht sets forth a theory based upon the foundation of what he calls, “The Street Scene”. This scene consists of a natural-occurring traffic accident that is possible to have taken place on any street corner, of which an observer of the incident demonstrates how the event occurred. It may be the case that the witness did not fully observe the event or perhaps have an alternative opinion, but the underlying idea is that the bystander must “demonstrate” or enact the characteristics of the those involved in the accident. The objective of this idea is to allow the spectators of this demonstration to develop their own personal bias of the situation. Brecht writes, “The theater must therefore be in a position to say that its ‘individual’ is a special case and to indicate the surroundings in which the relevant social processes come into existence.” (Bertolt Brecht, “A Model for Epic Theater”, 430). I believe that Brecht is correct in asserting this because just as Aristotle emphasized that history is basis for theatre to build upon and explore in order to find truth, Brecht searches for truth through social factors. In terms of “The Street Scene”, the demonstrator must take into account the realities of all the individuals involved in the circumstances. For instance, the driver of the car must fear the consequences; revoking of his license or even imprisonment and victim must fear hospital bills, injuries, or even paralyzation. It is imperative for the demonstrator to derive his behavior on stage from the social...
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