Domestic Tragedy

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					Domestic Tragedy

  Concepts and theories
             Domestic Tragedy
   Focuses on the breakdown of a family
   They tend to be tightly constructed
   Contain fewer characters than Epic or classical
   The setting tends to be much more specific
    Two types of tragedy side by side
          Epic tragedy                           Domestic tragedy
Ambitious                                  Seemingly less ambitious

Stresses the nobility of the tragic hero   Focuses on the family

Raises fundamental questions about         Undermines our confidence in any
life                                       order
Shows the full horror of life              Shows that domesticity can be corrupt
                                           and diseased
Conventional social bonds are broken       Rational social order is no longer
Focuses on the hero                        Focuses on the anti-hero
                   Key Term
   Anti-hero: a character who does not fit the
    normal model of heroism.
       Similarities between epic and
            domestic tragedies
   Some act takes place that disrupts society
   The social concord is broken and more violent
    elements take over
   With order gone, the worst face of humanity is
   The hero or anti-hero has to confront these
   One or more of the characters move towards
   Choose a speech from Streetcar. Transfer
    approximately 20 lines of it to a display
    method and annotate it showing how it
    displays some of the characteristics you have
    learnt about tragedy so far.
   Not only do tragedies involve the death of one or
    more of the main characters, but also consider a range
    of related themes as they progress. Some tragedies
    also have a sub-plot which complicates the drama and
    allows the dramatist to explore other aspects of
   Official definition – a secondary plot which parallels
    events of the main plot of a drama.
      A typical domestic tragedy
   The audience sometimes has to read behind the
    lines to pull the maximum meaning of the
    drama. The themes and issues in domestic
    tragedy are just as grand and ambitious as
    those in epic tragedies, but characters do not
    tend to make the grand, confessional-style
    speeches that you find in Shakespeare and his
       Changes in 19th C society and
   In the 1880’s and 1890s a wave of feminist
    thinking and agitation-fiercely resisted by most
    men-swept across Europe. A new, more
    independent, kind of woman seemed to many
    to emerging. In Britain she was referred to as
    the ‘new woman’, and in lots of ways this
    ‘new woman’ prefigured the feminist
    movement in the late 1960s and 1970s.
   In fiction, the same issue was being looked at
    by writers such as Thomas Hardy. In terms of
    our understanding of tragedy we can see that
    this ‘new woman’ upset the traditional order of
    society. Given this, any drama that looked at
    the theme of the ‘new woman’ would probably
    end in tragedy.
   In Europe in the 19th C, theatre had been
    characterised by sentimental and sensationalist
    storylines, declamatory melodramatic acting
    and unrealistic, flat sets. Towards the end of
    the 19th C, many playwrights wanted to write
    dramas that were more realistic, involving
    domestic storylines, everyday language and
    box-sets, which resembled real houses and
    followed the principles of acting suggested and
    formalised by the Russian theatrical theorist
    Konstantin Stanislavski.
   Stanislavski had a major influence on some
    American writers of tragedy-such as Arthur
    Miller, Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee
    Williams. For Stanislavski, it was important
    for the actors to ‘believe in the truth’ of the
    drama to have a ‘naturalness’ when in role.
    This would then enhance the tragedy.
   Feminism – a recognition of the historical and
    cultural subordination of women, and the
    resolve to do something about it.
   Box-Set – a realistic three-dimensional set,
    with the fourth wall cut so the audience can
    see in.
     Modern Domestic Tragedies
   Modern domestic tragedies tend to be ‘issue-
    led.’ This means that the tragedy looks at a
    particular issue and examines its effect on the
    central characters. Most domestic tragedies
    foucs on anti-heroes, who do not fit the society
    in which they are involved. Most characters in
    these tragedies face some kind of predicament.
    Issues often depicted in domestic tragedies

   Materialism – an excessive regard for material
   Consumerism – contemporary society’s obsession
    with consumer spending on new products and
   Procrastination – to postpone or put off doing
    something. Many characters in modern domestic
    tragedies fail to make necessary changes to improve
    their lives, and this can contribute to their downfall.
   Alienation – a feeling that people experience when
    the world around them becomes unfamiliar and
       Other key terms to clarify
   Modern tragedy – one written in the late 19th
    or 20th century, earlier than a contemporary
    tragedy (late 20th or 21st Century).
   Box set – a realistic three dimensional set.
       Links to tragedy in general
   Modern domestic tragedies can still have the same
    effects on the audience as those identified by
    Aristotle, but they also cause the audience to question
    established systems and principles and assumptions
    about life. Some modern playwrights try to subvert
    ‘normal’ values in ore ways than one, breaking
    established conventions of drama as well as subject
    matter. Some plays reflect the horror and tragedy of
    modern life, and some are fragmented and disordered,
    reflecting more secular beliefs and the experience of
    large-scale war and conflict.
   Structurally, the plays are usually much more
    condensed than epic tragedies – most only having
    three acts. There is also more emphasis on exactly
    what the set should look like, as well as on
    costuming, sound, lighting, stage directions and how
    particular sections of the text are to be spoken. This
    is partly because modern playwrights are more
    concerned about such details, and partly because of
    the technical advances in the theatre. Most modern
    tragedies are staged in box-sets.
                Summary of elements in DT
   Central characters are anti-heroes or heroines
   These characters are ordinary people-not the great men or women of earlier
   Although family life is central, it is presented as somehow corrupt and
   This corruption undermines the faith and belief in the whole order of
   The world is seen as being full of deceit, and prizes or dreams chased are
   Often characters vie and manoeuvre for control
   There is often an emphasis on psychological elements.
   The disorder of the world sometimes matches a disorder of the mind.
   Deaths are not usually shown on stage, but happen offstage (or are
   Earlier tragedies tend to look ‘outwards’; modern domestic tragedies look
    more ‘inwards’.
   Usually, some element of the past impinges tragically on the present.
       Remember to consider…
   The use of flashback
   Structural devices – acts/scenes, etc.
   Use of irony
   Music
   Compacted time frame
   Core speeches – the main characters of
    tragedies make core speeches on which much
    of the tragedy is centred
    The Coursework on Streetcar
   Re-creative – This piece is not an essay but a
    piece of creative writing. It must be
    accompanied by a commentary – combined
    word length is 1200-1500 words
   Examiner’s tip – in preparing a re-creative
    response, ask yourself what critical issues you
    are hoping to raise in the process. Make sure
    that you do more than simply retell the story or
    copy the style.
              The commentary
   This has two purposes: 1) to allow you discuss
    what you have been trying to do in terms of re-
    creating the tragic play. 2) and more important
    is to allow you to reflect on how the re-
    creative process has thrown light on potential
    meanings and ambiguities in the play.
        Some things to include…
   Why the original play lends itself to the
    approach you have taken
   The debates and ambiguities in the play tha
    tyou have attempted to highlight
   Further insights you gained into the play
    through writing this piece
   Further ways of approaching the play and/or
    further ideas you could have explored.
    Re-Creative Options for Streetcar
   Writing as the doctor – Write a psychiatric
    report on Blanche and her condition to be sent
    to Stella.
   Writing as Eunice – Write a letter to your
    sister describing the fall-out four months after
    Blanche has left Elysian Fields and the current
    relationship between Stella and Stanley.

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