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The rise of realism: Ibsen's seething world of scandal & sexual desire

This lecture discusses the rise of realist theatre in the C19 with a particular focus on Ibsen's Hedda Gabler.

Marlis Schweitzer

on 5 November 2012

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Transcript of The rise of realism: Ibsen's seething world of scandal & sexual desire

The rise of realism:
Ibsen's seething world of scandal and sexuality What is reality? What is realism? Theatrical realism attempts to collapse the divide between the so-called "real" world and that which is represented onstage. 1. Realism in theatre design: the Kembles John Philip Kemble 1803-1817: Kemble, with William Capon, stages historically accurate productions of Shakespeare Sarah Siddons as Lady Macbeth 1817: Charles Kemble takes over management of Covent Garden & encourages greater historical accuracy (antiquarianism) 2. Innovations in directing & scenography 1860s: Duke of Saxe-Meiningen inspired by antiquarianism of Charles Kean Charles Kean Duke's company characterized by:
historical & geographic specificity
innovative staging (assymetical perspective); large crowd scenes
ensemble company structure led by Duke as director (no stars) Gesamptkunstwerk
(total theatre) NOTE: antiquarianism a form of realist theatre but NOT naturalism 3. Naturalism 1870s & 1880s: naturalism influenced by Marx & Darwin Charles Darwin's Origin of Species (1859) 1. Heredity & environment
2. Individuals can not alter nature (biological determinism)
3. Humans intimately connected to nature
4. Faith in progress, evolution as improvement (survival of the fittest; natural selection)
5. Faith in science and technology 1881: Emile Zola writes "Naturalism in the Theatre" “Naturalism alone corresponds to our social needs; it alone has deep roots in the spirit of our times; and it alone can provide a living, durable formula for our art…” “[I]t will be proved that there is more poetry in the little apartment of a bourgeois than in all the empty, worm-eaten palaces of history.” How does naturalism translate onto the stage? Realistic mise en scene, typified by Andre Antoine's productions at the Théâtre Libre in Paris Hauptmann's The Weavers Goncourt's La Fille Elissa Intimate theatre spaces affect audience-performer relationship influence of photography Innovations in acting style Strindberg's Intima Teatern Covent Garden Key Words
John Philip Kemble
Charles Kemble
Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
Charles Darwin
August Strindberg (Miss Julie)
Intima Teatern (Stockholm)
Henrik Ibsen
“social problem plays”
Henrik Ibsen
A Doll’s House (1879)
Ghosts (1881)
Hedda Gabler (1890)
Eugene Scribe
“well made play”
“the woman question” 4. Henrik Ibsen 5. Hedda Gabler In what ways is Hedda Gabler a naturalistic play? How does gossip, sexual desire, and the fear of scandal drive HG? Ibsen tackles serious social issues in his "social problem plays": infidelity, sexual disease, money, gender inequality A Doll's House (1879) Ghosts (1881) Eugene Scribe & the "well-made play" 1890s: London productions of Ibsen's plays critically successful; attended by women Elizabeth Robins as Hedda (1891) "Hedda is all of us!" Ibsen uses "well-made play" formula but adapts it:
no asides or soliloquies
natural exposition
scenes linked causally
deliberate dialogue, setting, costumes (stage directions important)
psychologically complex characters Strindberg's Miss Julie Realist plays refuse to acknowledge their fictional and theatrical identity. Ellen Franz Karl Marx Theatrical Worlds in Transition spectacle = $$ = longer runs
(art & commerce)
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