It is known as one of theatre's greatest periods today. The modern drama period is shaped by world-changing forces, such as industrial-technological revolution, democratic revolutions, and an intellectual revolution that would disrupt earlier conceptions of time, space, the divine, human psychology, and social order. As a result, a theatre of challenge and experimentation emerged. Realism, the movement with the most pervasive and long-lived effect on modern theatre, was conceived as a laboratory in which the ills of society, familial problems, and the nature of relationships could be "objectively" presented for the judgment of impartial observers.
Its goal, of likeness to life, demanded that settings resemble their prescribed locales precisely and seem like rooms from real life in which one wall have been removed. Henrik Ibsen, a playwright, initiated the realistic period with plays focused on contemporary, day-to-day themes that skillfully reveal both sides of a conflict through brilliantly capturing psychological detail. An independent but concurrent movement, naturalism, would be an even more extreme attempt to dramatize human reality without the appearance of dramaturgical shaping.
While realist plays would address well-defined social issues, naturalist plays offered a simple "slice of life" free from dramatic convention. With the same reverence for nature, the human being was conceived as a mere biological phenomenon whose behavior was determined by heredity and environment. A counterforce to realism, initiated by symbolism, began in the late nineteenth century that would expand into what might be called antirealism theatre. Symbolism would contest realism's apparent spiritual bankruptcy with a form that would explore, through images and metaphors, the inner realities of human experience that cannot be directly perceived.
A focus on traditional aesthetic values, such as poetry, imagery, and profundity would reflect the...