1. Work in pairs. Discuss with your partner whether you prefer to read a book or
watch a performance at the theatre and state your reasons.
2. Think of the differences between reading a book and watching a play and fill
in the two columns below.
Reading a book Watching a play
The word drama is used to define any work that is to be performed on the stage by
actors. It is a genre that differs from poetry and fiction because it has some
characteristics that are peculiar to it and can be easily detected.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
by Muriel Spark (1961)
The teachers here seemed to have no thoughts of anyone’s personalities apart from
their speciality in life, whether it was mathematics, Latin or science. They treated
the new first-formers as if they were not real, but only to be dealt with, like
symbols of algebra, and Miss Brodie’s pupils found this refreshing at first.
Wonderful, too, during the first week was the curriculum of dazzling new
subjects, and the rushing to and from room to room to keep to the time-table. Their
days were now filled with unfamiliar shapes and sounds which were magically
Proud, cultured, dissociated from ordinary life, the great circles and triangles of geometry, the
romantic, her ideas hieroghyphics of Greek on the page...
were progressive, even (from Chapter IV)
by George Bernard Shaw (1905)
LADY BRITOMART: Don’t begin to read, Stephen. I shall require all your
STEPHEN: It was only while I was waiting –
LADY BRITOMART: Don’t make excuses, Stephen. (He puts down the
newspaper). Now! I have not kept you waiting very long, I think.
STEPHEN: Not at all, mother.
LADY BRITOMART: Bring me my cushion. (He takes the cushion from the chair
at the desk and arranges it for her as she sits down on the settee). Sit down. ( He
sits down and fingers his tie nervously). Don’t fiddle with your tie, Stephen: there
is nothing the matter with it.
STEPHEN: I beg your pardon. (He fiddles with his watch chain instead).
LADY BRITOMART: Now are you attending to me, Stephen?
STEPHEN: Of course, mother.
LADY BRITOMART: No; it’s not of course. I want something much more than
fiddle: play aimlessly your everyday matter-of-course attention. I am going to speak to you very
seriously, Stephen. I wish you would let that chain alone.
3. Read the two texts above and consider the following lists. One of them must
be completed by the word ‘narrator’. Which one?
Drama Narrative prose
. text . text
. author . author
. public . public
. ______________ . ______________
The narrator has several functions like describing actions, describing people and
places, describing thoughts and feelings, informing on future events, reporting past
events, making general considerations, describing interactions between people and
In the theatre these functions are carried by the following devices.
stage directions DEVICES OF A PLAY
a) Stage directions: the written instructions in the text of a play which
explain what an actor should do, details of location, scenery and effects;
b) Dialogue: the conversation in a play between two or more people;
dialogue c) Soliloquy: a speech in a play in which a character speaks to himself, with or
without an audience. It allows the character to express his thoughts and feelings as if
he were thinking aloud. It is an accepted dramatic convention that enables a
dramatist to convey important information about the character directly to the
audience, his innermost thoughts and feelings, his motives and intentions.
Monologue is the term used to define a long speech by one character but it does
not necessarily imply the revelation of his feelings and thoughts. A monologue is not
confined to the theatre but is also found in other literary genres.
soliloquy d) Aside: is a term used when a few words or a short passage is spoken in an
undertone to the audience. An aside is a kind of secret communication not meant to
be heard by the other characters on the stage. If two or more characters are ‘included’
in the aside, then the other characters are ‘excluded’. The audience always has the
privilege of being included.
4. The following are short passages from plays where these devices are used. Use
the lists provided below and write the appropriate function/s and device/s
aside employed, next to each example. One example has been provided to help you.
a) stage directions 1) describing people and places
b) dialogue 2) describing thoughts and feelings
c) soliloquy 3) reporting past events
d) aside 4) showing interaction between people
5) describing thoughts, feelings and
interaction between people.
6) inferring future events
inferring: deducing 7) making general considerations
Chicken Soup with Barley
by Arnold Wesker (1958)
ADA: I do not believe in the right to organize people. And anyway I’m not sure
that I love them enough to want to organize them.
SARAH (sadly): This – from you, Ada? You used to be such an organizer.
ADA: I’m tired, Mother. I spent eighteen months waiting for Dave to return
from Spain (1) and now I’ve waited six year for him to come home from a war
1. As you know,
against Fascism and and I’m tired. Six years in and out of offices, auditing books
during the Spanish
and working with young girls who are morons – lipsticked, giggling morons. And
Civil War (1936-
Dave’s experience is the same – fighting with men who he says did not know what
1939) some English
the war was about. Away from their wives they behaved like animals. In fact
men went as
they wanted to get away from their wives in order to behave like animals.
volunteers to Spain
Give them another war and they’d run back again. Oh yes! The service killed any
to fight for the
illusions Dave may have once had about the splendid and heroic working class.
(from Act II)
giggling: laughing in
a silly way . DEVICE/S: dialogue
. FUNCTION/S: describing thoughts and feelings
reporting past events
making general considerations
Look Back in Anger
by John Osborne (1955)
ALISON (softly): All I want is a little peace.
JIMMY: Peace! God! She wants peace! (Hardly able to get his words out). My
heart is so full, I feel ill – and she wants peace!
She crosses to the bed to put on her shoes. Cliff gets up from the table, and sits in the
armchair. He picks up a paper, and looks at that. Jimmy has recovered slightly, and manages
Performance of to sound almost detached.
Look Back in Anger I rage, and shout my head off, and everyone thinks ‘poor chap!’ or ‘what an
at Royal Lyceum objectionable young man!’
Theatre, Edinburgh But that girl there can twist your arm off with her silence. I’ve sat in this chair in
(2005) the dark for hours. And although she knows I’m feeling as I feel now, she’s turned
over, and gone to sleep. (He gets up and faces Cliff, who doesn’t look up from his paper)
One of us is crazy. One of us is mean and stupid and crazy. Which is it? Is it me?
poor chap: poor man Is it me, standing here like an hysterical girl, hardly able to get my words out? Or
is it her? Sitting there, putting on her shoes to go out with that – (...)
(from Act II, Scene I)
Krapp’s Last Tape
by Samuel Beckett (1958)
A late evening in the future.
Front centre a small table, the two drawers of which open towards the audience. Sitting at
the table, facing front.i.e across from the drawers, a wearish old man: KRAPP.
Rusty black narrow trousers too short for him. Rusty black sleeveless waistcoat, four
capacious pockets. Heavy silver watch and chain. Grimy white shirt open at neck, no collar.
Surprising pair of dirty white boots, size ten at least, very narrow and pointed.
White face. Purple nose. Disordered grey hair. Unshaven.
den: small room (Beginning of the play)
rusty: reddish with . DEVICE/S
grimy: very dirty FUNCTION/S
A Woman of No Importance
by Oscar Wilde (1893)
MRS ARBUTHNOT: I am glad to hear you say so. Gerald shall certainly not go
away with you.
LORD ILLINGWORTH: What nonsense, Rachel!
MRS ARBUTHNOT: Do you think I would allow my son –
LORD ILLINGWORTH: Our son.
MRS ARBUTHNOT: My son (LORD ILLINGWORTH shrugs his shoulders-.) to
go away with the man who spoiled my youth, who ruined my life, who has
tainted every moment of my days? You don’t realize what my past has been in
suffering and in shame.
LORD ILLINGWORTH: My dear Rachel, I must candidly say that I think
Gerald’s future considerably more important than your past.
tainted: spoilt MRS ARBURTHNOT: Gerald cannot separate his future from my past.
(from Act II)
Waiting for Godot
by Samuel Beckett (1952)
VLADIMIR : Yes.
ESTRAGON : I can’t go on like this.
VLADIMIR: That’s what you think.
Vladimir and Estragon, ESTRAGON: If we parted? That might be better for us.
waiting for Godot.
VLADIMIR: We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow. (Pause)
Unless Godot comes?
ESTRAGON: And if he comes?
VLADIMIR: We’ll be saved.
(from Act II)
by William Shakespeare (1601)
HAMLET: To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
slings: sling strap And by opposing end them. To die to sleep,
used for throwing No more; and by a sleep to say we end
stones with force. The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: That flesh is heir to: ‘tis a consummation
that are part of Devoutly to be wish’d.
human life. (from Act III, Scene I).
by William Shakespeare (1605)
CORDELIA (Aside): Then, poor Cordelia!
And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love’s
More richer than my tongue.
LEAR: To thee and thine, hereditary ever,
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom,
No less in space, validity and pleasure,
Actor Christopher Than that conferr’d on Goneril. Now, our joy,
Plummer as King Although our last, not least; to whose young love
Lear The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interess’d; what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.
CORDELIA: Nothing, my lord.
(from Act I)
Chicken Soup with Barley
by Arnold Wesker (1958)
RONNIE: Whoa, whoa!
HARRY: But it is an industrial age, you silly girl. Let’s face facts –
ADA (mocking): Don’t let us kid ourselves.
HARRY (with her): Don’t let us kid ourselves – it’s a challenge of our time.
kid: deceive HARRY: You can’t run away from it.
ADA: Stop me!
HARRY: Then you’re a coward - that’s all I can say – you’re a coward.
SARAH (sadly): She had a fine example from her father, didn’t she?
HARRY (to his stab in the back): What do you mean - a fine example from her
SARAH: You don’t understand what I’m saying, I suppose?
(from Act II)
5. Here below is the script of a passage from The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde. The stage directions have been omitted. Listen to the
performance and take notes about:
.Where the action is likely to take place
.What the characters are doing
.The characters’ relationship and social class
The importance of being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde (1895)
MERRIMAN: Shall I lay tea here as usual, Miss?
CECIL: Yes, as usual.
GWENDOLEN: Are there many interesting walks in the vicinity, Miss Cardew?
CECILY: Oh! yes! a great many. From the top of one of the hills quite close one
can see five counties.
Oscar Wilde GWENDOLEN: Five counties! I don’t think I should like that; I hate crowds.
(1854-1900) CECILY: I suppose that is why you live in town?
GWENDOLEN: Quite a well-kept garden this is, Miss Cardew.
CECILY: So glad you like it, Miss Fairfax.
GWENDOLEN: I had no idea there were any flowers in the country.
CECILY: Oh, flowers are as common here, Miss Fairfax, as people are in London.
GWENDOLEN: Personally I cannot understand how anybody manages to exist
anybody who is in the country, if anybody who is anybody does. The country always bores me to
anybody: people of death.
the upper class. CECILY: Ah! This is what the newspapers call agricultural depression, is it not?
I believe the aristocracy are suffering very much from it just at present. It is
almost an epidemic amongst them, I have been told. May I offer you some tea,
GWENDOLEN: Thank you. Detestable girl. But I require tea!
GWENDOLEN: No, thank you. Sugar is not fashionable any more.
CECILY: Cake or bread and butter?
GWENDOLEN: Bread and butter, please. Cake is rarely seen at the best houses.
CECILY: Hand that to Miss Fairfax.
GWENDOLEN: You have filled my tea with lumps of sugar, and though I asked
most distinctly for bread and butter, you have given me cake. I am known for
the gentleness of my disposition, and the extraordinary sweetness of my nature,
but I warn you, Miss Cardew, you may go too far.
CECILY: To save my poor, innocent, trusting boy from the machinations of any
other girl there are no lengths to which I would not go.
GWENDOLEN: From the moment I saw you I distrusted you. I felt that you
false and deceitful. I am never deceived in such matters. My first impressions of
people are invariably right.
calls: visits CECILY: It seems to me, Miss Fairfax, that I am trespassing on your valuable
time. No doubt you have many other calls of a similar character to make in the
(from Act II)
Compare your notes with your partner’s, then work together and write your own
stage directions. You should also provide details on furniture, ornaments, objects,
clothes, physical appearance of the characters.
6. Consider the features of the theatre that have been examined so far and
complete the following passage with the following words.
interaction story people previous stage directions audience
relationships narrator thoughts and feelings general themes
The first thing that emerges from the comparison beween drama
and narrative prose is that there is no ____________ in the
drama. The descriptions of ____________ and places find an
equivalent in the ____________ ____________ and dialogue
provides information on ____________ and interactions
between people, the development of the ____________ ,
characters’ ____________ ___ ____________ .
The main focus is on the ___________ between characters
rather than on the story itself. Soliloquy is a device by which a
character speaks to himself\herself or to the ____________
and expresses his\her own thoughts and feelings. This often
includes information on ___________ or future events.
Soliloquy also permits a character or the author to make
considerations on ____________.
FEATURES OF A PLAY
7. The following is an excerpt drawn from Arms and the Man by G.B.Shaw.
You will listen to it twice: the first time it will be just read (by the teacher/some
students), the second it will be interpreted. Try to state what makes the two
versions different. Compare your notes with your partner’s.
Arms and the Man
George Bernard by George Bernard Shaw (1894)
RAINA (crouching in the bed): Who’s there? (The match is out instantly). Who’s
there? Who is that?
A MAN’S VOICE (in the darkness, subduedly, but threateningly): Sh-sh! Don’t
call out or you’ll be shot. Be good; and no harm will happen to you. (She is
heard leaving her bed, and making for the door). Take care: it’s no use trying to
RAINA: But who –
THE VOICE (warning): Remember: if you raise your voice my revolver will go
off. (commandingly): Strike a light and let me see you. Do you hear? (another
moment of silence and darkness as she retreats to the chest of drawers. Then she
lights a candle; and the mystery is at an end. He is a man of about 35, in a
deplorable plight, bespattered with mud and blood and snow, his belt and the
strap of his revolver-case keeping together the torn ruins of the blue tunic of a
Serbian artillery officer. All that the candlelight and his unwashed unkempt
condition make it possible to discern is that he is of middling stature and
undistinguished appearance, with strong neck and shoulders, roundish
obstinate looking head covered with short crisp bonze curls, clear quick eyes
and good brows and mouth,a hopelessly prosaic nose like that of a strong
minded baby, trim soldierlike carriage and energetic manner, and with all his
wits about him in spite of his desperate predicament: even with a sense of the
humour of it, without, however, the least intention of trifling with it or
throwing away a chance. Reckoning up what he can guess about Raina: her age,
her social position, her character, and the extent to which she is frightened, he
continues, more politely but still most determinedly). Excuse my disturbing
you; but you recognize my uniform? Serb! If I’m caught I shall be killed.
(Menacingly) Do you understand that?
THE MAN: Well, I don’t intend to get killed if I can help it. (Still more
formidably) Do you understand that? (He locks the door quickly but quietly).
RAINA (disdainfully): I suppose not. ( She draws herself up superbly, and looks
him straight in the face, adding, with cutting emphasis) Some soldiers, I know,
are afraid to die.
THE MAN (with grim goodhumour): All of them, dear lady, all of them, believe
me. It is our duty to live as long as we can. Now, if you raise an alarm –
RAINA (cutting him short): You will shoot me. How do you know that I am
afraid to die?
THE MAN (cunningly): Ah; but suppose I don’t shoot you, what will happen
then? A lot of your cavalry will burst into this pretty room of yours and
slaughter me here like a pig; for I’ll fight like a demon: they shan’t get me into
the street to amuse themselves with: I know what they are. Are you prepared to
receive that sort of company in your present undress? (Raina, suddenly
conscious of her nightgown, instinctively shrinks and gathers it more closely about
her neck. He watches her and adds pitilessly) Hardly presentable, eh? (she turns
to the ottoman. He raises his pistol instantly, and cries) Stop! (She stops) Where
A production of are you going?
Arms and the Man RAINA (with dignified patience): Only to get my cloak.
(Pasadena Shakespeare THE MAN (passing swiftly to the ottoman and snatching the cloak): A good idea!
I’ll keep the cloak; and you’ll take care that nobody comes in and sees you
without it. This is a better weapon than the revolver, eh? (He throws the pistol
down on the ottoman).
RAINA (revolted): It is not the weapon of a gentleman!
THE MAN: It’s good enough for a man with only you to stand between him and
death. (As they look at one another for a moment, Raina hardly able to believe
that even a Serbian officer can be so cynicallly and selfishly unchivalrous, they
are startled by a sharp fusillade in the street. The chill of imminent death
hushes the man’s voice as he adds) Do you hear? If you are going to bring those
blackguards in on me you shall receive them as you are.
Clamor and disturbance. The pursuers in the street batter at the house door,
shouting Open the door! Wake up, will you! A man's servant’s voice calls to
them angrily from within This is Major Petkoff’s house: you can’t come in here;
but a renewal of the clamour, and a torrent of blows on the door, end with his
letting a chain down with a clank, followed by a rush of heavy footsteps and a
din of triumphant yells, dominated at last by the voice of Catherine, indignantly
addressing an officer with What does this mean, sir? Do you know where you
are? The noise subsides suddenly.
LOUKA (outside, knocking at the bedroom door): My lady! my lady! get up
quick and open the door. If you don’t they will break it down.
The fugitive throws up his head with the gesture of a man who sees that it is all
over with him, and drops the manner he has been assuming to intimidate Raina.
THE MAN (sincerely and kindly): No use, dear: I’m done for. (Flinging the cloak
to her) Quick! Wrap yourself up: they’re coming.
RAINA: Oh, thank you. (She wraps herself up with intense relief).
THE MAN (between his teeth): Don’t mention it.
RAINA (anxiously): What will you do?
THE MAN (grimly): The first man in will find out. Keep out of the way; and don’t
look. It won’t last long; but it will not be nice. (He draws his sabre and faces the door,
RAINA (impulsively): I’ll help you. I’ll save you.
THE MAN: You can’t.
RAINA: I can. I’ll hide you. (She drags him towards the window). Here! behind
THE MAN (yielding to her): There’s just half a chance, if you keep your head.
RAINA (drawing the curtain before him): S-sh! (She makes for the ottoman).
THE MAN: Remember –
RAINA (running back to him): Yes?
THE MAN: nine soldiers out of ten are born fools.
RAINA: Oh! (she draws the curtain angrily before him).
THE MAN (looking out at the other side): If they find me, I promise you a fight:
a devil of a fight.
Basically the difference could be summarized in this way: what matters is not only
what is said, but how it is said. Of course, the example that you have just heard is
not contextually complete, because in a theatre you also see the actors, that is, their
facial expressions and their movements. All these elements, which so powerfully
contribute to create meaning, are defined paralinguistic features. Intonation,
timbre, expression of the face, gestures, movements, all constitute the main
difference between spoken and written language. But this is not all. When you are
in a theatre, you are also involved in the scenery on the stage, the lights, the sound
effects, the props.
The scenery is the set of structures and painted bakcloths on a theatre stage which
gives an indication of where the action in the play takes place. The scenery is
naturalistic when it wants to represent life with the greatest fidelity. The scenery
reproduces as far as possible a ‘real’ set, e.g. a room, a garden. The scenery is
symbolic when objects with abstract forms replace the realistic set.
The lights have an important role because they are used to emphasize the
meaning of the play. Lighting sources can be on the stage but also off stage,
behind or in front of it. This different use of the lighting has been made possible
with the advent of the electric light at the end of the 19th century. Before that, gas
lighting was used and, even before that, there was candle light. In the Elizabethan
theatre the performances took place during the day and no lighting was used.
The sound effects, like the lights, can be part of the play itself. Music can be
played between two scenes, to fill in a space, or can underline a particularly
important moment in a play. It can build up suspense, can establish the beginning
or the end of a scene or the end of the play itself.
Props is the name given to all objects on the stage. They can be either the personal
objects of the actors or the furniture used for the scene itself.
A play cannot be performed without the actors. They play and interpret different
characters. Main characters are those that have a principal role in the play,
while minor characters are those with an inferior role. Stock characters do not
change in the course of the play and represent one personality trait (e.g, the jealous
husband, the handsome prince, the cunning servant). Round characters have real
psychological identity, develop their own personalities during the play, change
their ways of thinking and make the audience part of their conflicts, joys, and
A play, a dramatic work that has to be performed on the stage, is written by a
playwright and is usually divided in acts; each act has one or more scenes. The
director is the person who supervises the staging of a play and is responsible for
action, lighting, and music.
KINDS OF DRAMA
8. Read the extract below taken from Pygmalion by G. B. Shaw and note down
what makes the flower girl comic
by G. B. Shaw (1912)
MRS PEARCE [returning]: This is the young woman, sir.
The flower girl enters in state. She has a hat with three ostrich feathers, orange, sky-blue, and
red. She has a nearly clean apron and the shoddy coat has been tidied a little. The pathos of
this deplorable figure, with its innocent vanity and consequential air, touches Pickering, who
has already straightened himself in the presence of Mrs Pearce. But as to Higgins, the only
shoddy: very cheap, distinction he makes between mean and women is that when he is neither bullying nor
bad quality. exclaiming to the heavens against some feather-weight cross, he coaxes women as a child
jotted down: wrote coaxes its nurse when it wants to get anything out of her.
lingo: language. HIGGINS [brusquely, recognizing her with unconcealed disappointment, and at
saucy: slightly once, babylike, making an intolerable grievance of it]: Why, this is the girl I
impudent. jotted down last night. She’s no use: I’ve got all the records I want of the Lisson
Grove lingo; and I’m not going to waste another cylinder on it. [To the girl] Be
off with you: I don’t want you.
THE FLOWER GIRL: Don’t you be so saucy. You aint heard what I come for yet.
[To Mrs Pearce, who is waiting at the door for further instructions] Did you tell
him I come in a taxi?
MRS PEARCE: Nonsense, girl! what do you think a gentleman like Mr Higgins
cares what you came in?
THE FLOWER GIRL: Oh, we are proud! He aint above giving lessons, not him: I
heard him say so. Well, I aint come here to ask for any compliment; and if my
The Flower Girl (Irish money’s not good enough I can go elsewhere.
actress Dawn HIGGINS: Good enough for what?
Bradfield) THE FLOWER GIRL: Good enough for yae. Now you know, don’t you? I’m
coming to have lessons, I am. And to pay for em tae: make no mistake.
HIGGINS [stupent]: Well!!! [recovering his breath with a gasp] What do you
expect me to say to you?
THE FLOWER GIRL: Well, if you was a gentleman, you might ask me to sit
down, I think. Don’t I tell you I’m bringing you business?
baggage: unpleasant, HIGGINS: Pickering: shall we ask this baggage to sit down, or shall we throw
annoying woman. her out of the window.
THE FLOWER GIRL [running away in terror to the piano, where she turns at bay]:
Ah-ah-oh-ow-ow-ow-oo! [Wounded and whimpering]: I wont be called a
baggage when Ive offered to pay like any lady.
Motionless, the two men stare at her from the other side of the room, amazed.
PICKERING [gently]: But what is it you want?
stead of sellin:
instead of selling.
THE FLOWER GIRL: I want to be a lady in a flower shop stead of sellin at the
corner of Tottenham Court Road. But they wont take me unless I can talk more
zif: as if.
genteel. He said he could teach me. Well, here I am ready to pay him –not asking
any favour – and he treats me zif was dirt.
Youd had a drop in:
MRS PEARCE: How can you be such a foolish ignorant girl as to think you could
afford to pay Mr Higgins?
you were a bit drunk.
THE FLOWER GIRL: Why shouldn’t I I know what lessons cost as well as you
do; and I’m ready to pay.
HIGGINS: How much?
THE FLOWER GIRL [coming back to him, triumphant]: Now youre talking! I
thought youd come off it when you saw a chance of getting back a bit of what
you chucked at me last night. [confidentially]: Youd had a drop in, hadnt you?
HIGGINS [peremptorily]: Sit down.
THE FLOWER GIRL [severely]: Sit down, girl. Do as youre told.
THE FLOWER GIRL: Ah-ah-ah-ah-ow-oo! [She stands, half rebellious, half-
PICKERING [very courteous]: Wont you sit down? [He places the stray chair near
the hearthrug between himself and Higgins].
LIZA [coyly]: Don’t mind if I do. [She sits down. Pickering returns to the
Dr Higgins ( actor Rex HIGGINS: What’s your name?
9. Which word/s or expressions does Mr Higgins use to underline the comic
aspect of the girl?
Pygmalion is a comedy, that is a dramatic play with a happy ending, whose theme
is treated in a fairly light way. A comedy usually presents a typical structure:
introduction: which presents the main characters, setting and situation;
Liza Doolittle (actress development: which in a comedy complicates an already problematic situation. It is
Audrey Hepburn). often full of misunderstandings;
crisis: when the problems come to a head, and the situation is revealed;
denoument: which is a period of acceptance and reconciliation;
finale: which establishes the new order.
A fundamental element of a comedy is humour. There can be three types of humour:
behavioural humour: when the characters behave in a funny of illogical way;
situational humour: when the situation described is impossible or unlikely to
The happy ending in verbal humour: the clever use of words, especially in dialogues.
Pygmalion does not
mean a romantic
10. Which kind/s of humour can you find in text 30?
the two main
characters. It has to
be seen as the
Eliza who refuses to
be dominated and
exploited by an
Comedy is a general term but there are different kings of comedy:
comedy of humours: it was fashionable at the end of the 16th and early 17th
century. The name derives from the humorous characters of the play whose actions
are dominated by a particular humour;
comedy of ideas: it deals with ideas and problems in a witty and humorous way;
comedy of manners: the focus is on the behaviour of men and women of the
middle and upper classes who follow specific social codes. It is usually a
sophisticated, witty and elegant comedy;
comedy of menace: it is a play in which one or more than one character feel that
they are victims of a threat given by an obscure force, another force, another
character, a mysterious power and so on. The fear and menace are treated with a
black and grim humour;
farce: it is a comedy whose aim is to provoke laughs. Its basic elements are:
exaggeration of characters and situations, very improbable or impossible events,
exaggerated physical actions, surprises. The plot is usually complex and events come
one after the other very rapidly.
11. The extract below is taken from Romeo and Juliet by W. Shakespeare.
Romeo is dead and Juliet, unaware of this, is looking for her beloved. Which
words told by the friar make the situation tragic?
Romeo and Juliet
by W. Shakespeare (1594-96)
JULIET: O comfortable friar! Where is my lord?
I do remember well where I should be,
And there I am. Where is my Romeo?
FRIAR: I hear some noise. Lady, come from that nest
Of death, contagion, and unnatural sleep.
hath thwarted: has A greater power than we can contradict
prevented. Hath thwarted our intents. Come, come away.
Thy husband in thy bosom there lies dead;
And Paris too. Come, I’ll dispose of thee
Among a sisterhood of holy nuns.
Stay no to question, for the watch is coming.
Come, go, good Juliet. I dare no longer stay.
JULIET: Go, get thee hence, for I will not away.
What’s here? A cup, closed in my truelove’s hand?
churl: bad tempered Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end.
man. O churl! Drunk all, and left no friendly drop
haply: perhaps. To help me after? I will kiss thy lips.
Haply some poison yet doth hang on them
To make me die with a restorative. [Kisses him].
Thy lips are warm!
happy: suitable, CHIEF WATCHMAN [Within]: Lead, boy. Which way?
useful. JULIET: Yea, noise? Then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger! [Snatches Romeo’s
dagger]. This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die. [She stabs herself and
(from Act V, Scene III)
12. Which dramatic and final does Juliet make to show her desperate love for
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy. It is a form of drama which deals with the fortunes,
misfortunes and, eventually, disasters that befall human beings of title, power and
position. There are not humble main characters in tragedy.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) asserted that a tragedy had to deal
with serious matters, be of universal importance and complete in itself. The perfect
plot had one issue only: the hero´s fortunes were to change from happy to miserable.
The cause of the change was some great error on the hero´s part. The tragic hero
belonged to the upper class and did not have particularly bad or good traits. In a
tragedy there is often the presence of a supernatural element, and the tragic hero
seems to provoke the anger of the gods or the elements that have the power to
control the universe. Death is seen as a release from suffering and pain, and the tragic
hero often recognizes his weakness and is eventually resigned to his fate.
Though there can be difference, the typical structure of a tragedy is:
introduction: which presents the main characters, setting and situation;
development: which usually, but not always, contains the terrible act which
provokes tragic consequences;
climax: is often a point when the hero realizes his terrible mistake and/or the other
characters suspect or know the truth;
decline: this usually shows the loss of authority of the hero, and prepares the way
Picture of the Greek catastrophe: which usually involves the death of the hero and the establishment
philosopher of a new order.
(clipart.com) Tragi-comedy, instead, is a play where tragic and comic elements mingle
together, often to balance and reconcile conflicts.
The romance is a genre which uses an idealized far-off world as a background for
adventures and fantastic happenings. This world is often peopled by semi-divine
creatures who control the action. In this world the ´human` characters develop, as
they learn to live with others, love and forgive. Music usually plays an important role
in this genre which always works towards final harmony. The romance is the
opposite of the ironic vision.
Now get into groups of five, read the summary of the first part of Lamb to the
Slaughter, a short story by Roald Dahl, and turn it into a script.
Lamb to the Slaughter
by Roald Dahl (1954)
Mary Maloney was looking forward to her husband coming home from work. She
had already prepared the whisky, soda and ice cubes in the thermos bucket.
Always a tranquil person, she was especially so now in her pregnancy. Her eyes
were particularly placid as she sat sewing waiting for her husbnd whom she loved
When he came home, he was very tired and, in fact, did an unusual thing: he
gulped down his whisky in one. Even more unusually, he poured himself another
very strong drink.
It was Thursday evening and they usually went out on Thursday evening. But
he was very tired and so she suggested preparing something at home. He did not
reply. When she went on to say she would get cheese and crackers, he said no. And
at her proposal of lamb chops, he told her rudely to “forget it”.
But it was not until he told her to sit down, that she began to feel frightened.
He started talking. He knew it would be a shock for her; in four or five minutes
he explained everything.
She watched him with horror, not wanting to believe him. He knew it was a bad
time, he said, but of course he would see to her financilly and there need not be
She wanted to think she had imagined the whole thing, and thought that, if she
just went about her usual routine, somehow she would find it had not even
She moved automatically, but felt nauseous. Like a robot, she went to the deep
freeze, and took out the first object. She unwrapped it – a leg of lamb.
She went back to the living room. Her husband was standing over by the
window with his back to her. Without turning roudn, he told her not to prepare
anything, because he was going out.
She swung the leg of the lamb high in the air and crushed it down on his head.
It was like hitting him with a steel club.
Divide yourselves like this and prepare the performance of your script.
Student A: Director, will be responsible for understanding the meaning of the
story. He/She should remain faithful to the original, use the devices
and features he/she thinks most appropriate to enhance the nuances
Student B and C: Assistant Directors will collaborate closely with the Director in
choosing the props which must not be used arbitrarily, but are
part of the meaning.
Student D and E: the actors – Mary and her husband.