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Unities and Plastic Theatre in A Streetcar Named Desire
Transcript of Unities and Plastic Theatre in A Streetcar Named Desire
There is a strong sense of unity of place in the play, as all the action takes place in the Kowalskis’ apartment or directly outside it. The action remains centered around the tragically intertwined lives of Stella, Blanche, Mitch and Stanley and the time of the play stretches over several months, starting in May, reaching its climax in September, with the tragic aftermath happening some weeks later. The focus on character and place allows us to see the disintegration that happens to those characters over a period of time as the strong and masculine, represented by Stanley, tramples on the more delicate and weakvsurrounding him, like Blanche.
Unity of place (the apartment and the portières) helps to give the play a tense, claustrophobic feel, reflecting the pressures that threaten to shatter Blanche's illusions.
Unity of Time emphasizes Blanche's descent into madness over these months.
Unity of Action means that there is more focus on the plot and Blanche's deterioration from external forces. The only other couple in the play, Steve and Eunice, don't even contrast the Kowalskis but actually mirror them, reflecting that realism, violence and brutality was common place in all of New Orleans.
What are Unities?
Unities come from the three principles derived by French classicists from Aristotle’s Poetics. In drama, Unities required a play to have a single action occurring in a single place and within the course of a certain amount of time. These tenets were called unity of action, unity of place, and unity of time.
What is Plastic Theatre?
Plastic Theatre is the use of props, noises and stage directions to convey parallels with the characters and their states of mind on stage. Plastic Theatre is mostly symbolic, non-realist, and a metaphorical form of theatre that uses objects, music, costumes, props, theatrical space and various other theatrical devices to create an all round sensory (not just visual) experience for the audience that suggests furthers various meanings in the play. A Streetcar named Desire was one of the earliest and most famous plays which represented the Plastic Theatre genre.
The state of Blanche’s mind, emotions, and memories converted into the stage setting.
The Varsouviana Polka - This is the polka tune which reminds Blanche of the last day she spent with her young husband when he committed suicide. The polka music reflects a sense of loss and regret for Blanche, and is increasingly heard after then, as Blanche loses mental control. The music also plays when Stanley gives Blanche the Greyhound ticket to return home in Scene 8 - the music foreshadows the imminent disaster for her. When Blanche is discovered alone in Scene 9, the polka is rapid and draws upon the mental deterioration of Blanche.
Blue piano - The Blue piano represents ‘the spirit of life’ in the setting. This is prominent in the first scene when Blanche recalls the unfortunate fate of Belle Reve, and in the fifth scene when she kisses the Young Man. The blue piano is the loudest when Blanche is sent away to the asylum in the last scene. The blue piano shows the cyclical structure of the play, as the play starts and ends with the same background music. This could show that Blanche, just like in the beggining of the play, is alone and continues her unsettled journey of life. The Blue piano not only gives the readers a sense of setting, but also reflects Blanche’s need for companionship.
Locomotives - Stanley is associated with the power and sound of locomotives - modern, impressive, and raw. In Scene four, when he secretly overheard the conversation of the sisters’, there is a sound of the approaching train. When Blanche tells Mitch of her marriage, she is harrowed by the memory of an oncoming locomotive. The last phase of Stanley's movement towards the rape in Scene ten, the locomotive sound grows louder. The locomotives represent Stanley, who brings Blanche’s downfall by unmasking her truth. Hence, in every scene where the truth of Blanche is revealed through Stanley, the locomotive sound is dominant. It sound may also be seen as a symbol of Blanche’s desire to escape.
In Scene 9 the first of the symbolic or Expressionist figures appears, the Mexican seller of flowers for the dead, followed by Mitch’s attempt at raping Blanche. The readers or audience may have guessed what will follow in the next scene. Scene 10 starts amiably enough, with Stanley even offering to ‘bury the hatchet’, but soon the tone of the conversation, and the mood of the set, changes. As Stanley strips off Blanche’s pretensions, menacing shapes appear on the walls of the apartment and the street outside is filled with violence. The climax is now inevitable, foreshadowed by Blanche’s terror. The condensed period of time in this ‘Act’ creates the impression of Blanche hurtling irrevocably to her doom.
Use of Plastic Theatre and Unities together:
In Scene 9 the first of the symbolic or Expressionist figures appears, the Mexican seller of flowers for the dead which followed by Mitch’s attempt at raping Blanche. The readers or audience may have guessed what will follow in the next scene, by the foreshadowing from the Mexican woman (flowers for the dead could reflect the final blow to Blanche's mental state and death of her sanity). Scene 10 starts amiably, with Stanley even offering to ‘bury the hatchet’, but soon the tone of the conversation and the mood of the set changes. As Stanley draws closer to Blanche, menacing shapes appear on the walls of the apartment, reflecting Blanche's terror and impeding danger. The street outside is filled with violence, also reflecting the violence Blanche will experience. The climax is now inevitable, foreshadowed by Blanche’s terror. The condensed period of time in this ‘Act’ creates the impression of Blanche falling irrevocably to her demise.
Unities and Plastic Theatre in A Streetcar Named Desire