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Study Section 3.3: Modern Drama

ENLL311 - Modernist Literature
by

Sonje Love

on 1 March 2013

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Transcript of Study Section 3.3: Modern Drama

STUDY SECTION 3.3: MODERN DRAMA Outcomes •contextualise the development of modern drama by placing it within the bigger context of literary developments from Aristotle and Sophocles to the mid-twentieth century

•distinguish some of the important qualities of conventional tragedy, Elizabethan tragedy and modern tragicomedy

•explain how the salient features of modern tragicomedy ties in with the broader concerns of modernism.
After completing this study unit, you should be able to: In this study unit you will learn to discern the more subtle points related to tragedy and how the fundamental elements of tragedy have remained constant across the ages in spite of radical changes in form.

You will investigate the essentially human nature of tragedy and how individual will conflicts with “divine” will, inevitably resulting in tragedy.

You will also study the development or transformation of tragedy from the all-pervading presence of the gods in determining the fate of Sophocles' tragic hero, Oedipus, to the tragic flaw (hamartia) that causes the downfall of Shakespeare's tragic hero after the introduction of fate or other external forces, to the absence of God/gods in the characters of Beckett. Finally you will look at the intrinsically absurdist quality of tragedy. What is Tragedy? from Gk. tragodia
"a dramatic poem or play in formal language and having an unhappy resolution,"
apparently lit. "goat song," from tragos "goat" + oide "song."
The connection may be via satyric drama, from which tragedy later developed, in which actors or singers were dressed in goatskins to represent satyrs. But many other theories have been made (including "singer who competes for a goat as a prize"), and even the "goat" connection is at times questioned. Dictionary.com, "tragedy," in Online Etymology Dictionary.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tragedy. Accessed: February 28, 2013. Etymology: Comedy in the genre of drama implies a happy conclusion to a pending disaster, usually ending in marriage as symbol of procreation, life.

Tragedy, on the other hand, ends in death. The death, however, is not the important factor in a tragedy, but rather the inevitability thereof, how it comes about.

Tragedy deals with isolation, alienation, unforseen results to deeds committed due to some flaw. This, in any case, is the premise of Elizabethan tragedy. Irony is an essential component of the tragic, supposing, in its basic form, that a course of action is undertaken which has opposite consequences to those intended. Tragedy is essentially watching someone die. A noble character of high standing is discovered to have some tragic flaw (hamartia) that causes his downfall after the introduction of fate (Sophocles: gods) and other external forces (Shakespeare). hamartia
— n

literature the flaw in character which leads to the downfall of the protagonist in a tragedy The action of a tragedy is determined by the character of the hero although fate and external factors play a role in his development.

Fate confronts the protagonist, but his character determines his handling of the situation. The tragic hero is essentially responsible for his choices (error of judgement/fate). A central experience in tragedies is the collapse of the subjective or personal world of the tragic hero (Aristotle's "suffering").

He then has to try to reconstruct his vision of life. After this becomes clear to him, he struggles to bring his life together again, but cannot. A tragedy shows serious and important actions which lead to disastrous consequences for the main character.

It includes incidents which arouse the pity and fear of the audience.

The chief character in a tragedy is the tragic hero who suffers a change in fortune from happiness to misery because of a wrong he commits. The tragic hero, however, is responsible for the choices he makes, for his error of judgement, and thus for his ultimate fate. The audience experiences fear which results from the realisation that the performance of a wrong deed is a possibility for all men.


There is a purging, a purification, of the emotions of pity and fear in tragedy.
This is known as catharsis. The audience is purged of these emotions; the action also shows a purification, as evil is overcome. a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad Existentialism Miriam Webster, "existentialism," in Miriam Webster Online Dictionary.
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/existentialism. Accessed: February 28, 2013. The theatre of the absurd Absurd drama is that which presents a particular view of the absurdity of the human condition through the abandoning of rational devices and, in particular, the use of non-realistic form.

It portrays a pattern of images presenting people as bewildered beings in an incomprehensible, hostile universe. Absurd, according to Eugene Ionesco, is that which is devoid of purpose.

Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless. Some characteristics of absurdist dramas: •If a good play must have a cleverly constructed story, these have no story or plot to speak of. •If a good play is judged by subtlety of characterisation and motivation, these are often without recognisable characters and present the audience with almost mechanical puppets. •If a good play has to have a fully explained theme, which is neatly exposed and finally solved, these often have neither a beginning nor an end. •If a good play is to hold the mirror up to nature and portray the manners and mannerisms of an age in finely observed sketches, these seem often to be reflections of dreams or nightmares. •If a good play relies on witty repartee and pointed dialogue, these often consist of incoherent babbling. The theatre of the absurd has renounced arguing about the absurdity of the human condition; it merely presents it in being – in terms of concrete stage images.
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