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Modern Drama

By fawonsionsi Apr 27, 2005 1313 Words
What is Realism? Realism is the movement toward representing reality as it actually is, in art. Realistic drama is an attempt to portray real life on stage, a movement away from the conventional melodramas and sentimental comedies of the 1700s. It is expressed in theatre through the use of symbolism, character development, stage setting and storyline and is exemplified in plays such as Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House and Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters. The arrival of realism was indeed good for theatre as it promoted greater audience involvement and raised awareness of contemporary social and moral issues. It also provided and continues to provide a medium through which playwrights can express their views about societal values, attitudes and morals. A Doll's House, for example, is the tragedy of a Norwegian housewife who is compelled to challenge law, society and her husband's value system. It can be clearly recognized as a realistic problem drama, for it is a case where the individual is in opposition to a hostile society. Ibsen's sympathy with the feminine cause has been praised and criticized; as he requires the audience to judge the words and actions of the characters in order to reassess the values. For another example we can look within the text of Brian Friel's play Translations. In this play we can see most, if not all of the characteristics of Realism. Let us dissect the show through the characters and touch on Friel's usage of symbolism, character development, stage setting and storyline to see his connections with realism. Symbolism, "the term Symbolism means the systematic use of symbols or pictorial conventions to express an allegorical meaning. Symbolism is an important element of most religious arts and reading symbols plays a main role in psychoanalysis." At the opening of the text, Manus one of the main players is teaching Sarah to speak. He is being very patient with her because he believes that it is very important to teach her to articulate, 'Come on, Sarah. This is our secret'. When we see how hard Sarah is finding it to speak English it makes us feel that she is the symbol for Ireland's backward positions on English, and English influence. Jimmy another character on the other hand, represents the educated civilized tradition of old Ireland. He is a scholar, however Sarah is the opposite. She is a contemporary Ireland, as she has no voice to speak out. She has no capacity for taking part in the modern world. Sarah just wants to become part of the society. The way Manus is pushing Sarah to speak, for example, 'Raise your head. Shout it out. Nobody's listening'. You feel that Manus does not want Sarah to be a nobody in the community, so he is helping her. This is also a direct cry to Irish culture to stand up and fight back. Sarah does not know how to speak so she mimes what she wants to say and Manus translates for her. This makes you feel that they have a close relationship, as Manus understands whatever Sarah does. She goes over to the straw and gets out some flowers that she has hidden there. Jimmy does not see any of this as he is indulged in the book he is reading and has lost touch with reality. He does not know what is happening around him. "Again we are faced with bold symbolism. The old ways of Ireland do not want to be challenged, and if they do not pay attention to the changes happening around them, they won't have to deal with them emotionally." He only pays attention to what is happening around him when he wants to know what something means in his book and so he asks Manus, 'o oi biotoio malista kedeto - what's that, Manus?' Character Development, Jimmy is reading The Odyssey. As he is a scholar he can read books in Greek as well as other languages. He sees himself as a person in the story, 'Sure look at what the same turf-smoke has done to myself!' This is not very scholarly of Jimmy as he relates the text in a very un-scholar like way to himself. He also says things that are very sexually orientated, 'if you had a woman like that about the house, it's not stripping a turf-bank you'd be thinking about-eh?' and 'she can't get her fill of men'. Jimmy asks Manus whom he would pick out of Athena, Artemis and Helen. All of these people are characters from the book Jimmy is reading. This shows that Jimmy has a very limited view and conception of what he is reading. Manus asks Sarah whom he should pick; this shows that he considers her view to be important. The way Jimmy acts in this part of the play makes you feel that he is very intellectual but he is living his life in a book, and that he might not have street or applicable knowledge. Again we see young Ireland looking to each other for assistance. Stage Setting is another way of defining realism. From the opening paragraph of the play Friel tells us in great detail about where the play is set, and how it should feel. It does not have any absurdist qualities to it, like a flying pineapple for instance. In fact, it is set in a hedge-school, which was a disused barn or hay-shed. At the opening of the play and we see that there are two means of isolation in the characters world, the language which binds together the community and the physical setting. Within this play we will see how differences in language split society. We will also be faced with the barn; being the only unit on stage we are isolated and restricted to the characters physical reality. We can not see any other actions of the characters world unless it is described to us through their experiences. Therefore the storyline is a slice of life type of play. We are shown segments and portions of one world and how influences can change and mold it. The story line of Translations is realistic in style. We are faced with a historical event in Irish History and in order to produce this drama one needs to do all aspects of research into historical accuracy. When working with an actual event in history it is difficult to stray into other forms of expression and still do the event justice. Although, the main storyline is one that may or may not have occurred "kind of like the movie Titanic", it is still feasible. The plot is based on the characters having multiple catharses. Love is realized and lost, importance of heritage is found and lost, and death occurs. Realism has had a profound effect on fiction from places as far-flung as Russia and the Americas. The novel, which had been born out of the romance as a more or less fantastic narrative, settled into a realistic mode which is still dominant today. Aside from genre fiction such as fantasy and horror, we expect the ordinary novel today to be based in our own world, with recognizably familiar types of characters endowed with no supernatural powers, doing the sorts of things that ordinary people do every day. It is easy to forget that this expectation is only a century and a half old, and that the great bulk of the world's fiction before departed in a wide variety of ways from this standard, which has been applied to film and television as well. Even comic strips now usually reflect daily life. Repeated revolts against this standard by various postmodernist and magical realist varieties of fiction have not dislodged the dominance of realism in fiction.

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