- Slides: 27
The Structure of Drama Chapter 5
Focus Questions • What are the narrative essentials of a written play? • What influence has Aristotle had on drama? • How does modern drama differ from traditional drama? • What does the exposition of a play reveal? • How is a plot divided into parts? • How do playwrights create characters? • What is theme of a play? • How do playwrights use dialogue, action, and situation?
Introduction • A play has four narrative essentials: exposition, plot, characters, and theme. ▫ The essentials are communicated through dialogue and action • Structure: the way the playwright arranges and presents the essentials • Plays that will survive will be those that reveal the heights and depths of human experience and serve as an uplifting and creative force in civilization.
Tradition and Innovation – Aristotle • Aristotle (Greek philosopher, 384 -322 BC) wrote Poetics stating the key elements of a successful play. ▫ ▫ Drama is an imitation of life We learn through imitation Learning something is the greatest pleasure in life Human happiness or misery takes the form of action ▫ Therefore, plot is the most important element of a play
Aristotle’s Key elements of a Play • • • Spectacle (visible part) Sound (audible part) Diction (language) Character (people) Reasoning (they way speech is used to present aspects, including emotions) • Plot (action and events)
Aristotle’s Philosophy • Action must have unity • Events must occur in logical order with a plausible conclusion • Protagonist must be believable, “average or better” people who experience happiness or misery resulting from reactions to situations • Action in tragedy should purge emotions (of audience) though pity or fear (catharsis) • Play should reveal universal truth
Evolution of Aristotle’s Ideas • Aristotle’s theories came to be considered rules • French & neoclassicists (16 th C) set up rules requiring 3 unities: time, action, and place ▫ Their rules required a 24 -hour period and a single place ▫ The 3 unities became essentials in French classical tragedy • Later playwrights discarded traditional rules
Modern Changes to Structure • Many plays are two parts of several scenes with an intermission instead of 3 -Act or 5 -Act structure • Open stage is increasingly used ▫ Eliminates the principle of aesthetic distance ▫ Removes reminder that a play is a play and not reality
Narrative Essentials – Exposition • The literary setting exposed in exposition: ▫ ▫ what kind of play is being presented where and when it takes place who the leading characters are what situations and conflicts take place • Problem: exposition is necessary but information without action is uninteresting • Effective exposition: brief and unobtrusive; gives information in a subtle way
Methods of Exposition • Time and place printed in program and assumed at the beginning • A character states the facts, then what follows reveals information that the audience needs in order to understand the play action
Atmosphere and Mood • Established in the exposition • Atmosphere largely created by staging and lighting ▫ Added to with various tempos of speech and movement, and choice of language • Atmosphere brings out feelings that create the mood of the play ▫ Mood established by characters, setting, lighting, dialogue • Audience should be able to identify mood at the start of the play. (Playwright’s job) • Mood is subject to change or reversal as play progresses.
Essentials of Exposition • Preliminary Situation (Antecedent Action): the most important part of the exposition ▫ Events that occur before the action of the play begins; therefore, the basis for the play • Techniques for exposition PS: ▫ ▫ ▫ Minor characters bring audience up to date Prologues Telephone conversations Narrators Ingenious scenic effects
Prologue Example – Romeo & Juliet • The expert dramatist conveys a great deal of info very quickly. Shakespeare’s beginning of R&J show: ▫ ▫ ▫ Romeo’s and Juliet’s families are feuding Romeo thinks he’s in love with Rosaline Paris in interested in Juliet Romeo & Juliet are doomed to death Prince decrees death penalty for next to start quarrel ▫ Romeo hears of a party at Juliet’s and decides to go in disguise
Application Activity • Read first two scenes of any Shakespearean play. • Identify elements that reveal: ▫ ▫ Where When Why Who • What methods are used to convey the information necessary for the exposition? • Be specific
Plot • • • Events that take place Problem faces protagonist Conflict between protagonist & antagonist Conflicting elements give rise to suspense Conflict is resolved in some manner Plot unfolds in several stages
Stages in Plot Structure Stage How the Plot Develops Preliminary Situation Explanation of events that occurred before action of play begins. Initial Incident First important event from which the rest of the plot develops. Makes the audience wonder what will happen next. Rising Action All or nearly all important characters introduced; goals and obstacles facing protagonist revealed; series of situations develop from conflict. Lifts the level of interest in the audience. Climax Turning point of action; moment of intense crisis. Determines the outcome of the conflict. Falling Action Shorter than the rising action; incidents must be significant. Conclusion Logical outcome of preceding action: success, failure, happiness, sorrow of characters
Plot Structure 4 5 3 1 2 6 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Preliminary Action Initial Incident Rising Action Climax Falling Action Conclusion Another term for resolution is denouement – French term for “untying the knot” It addresses the untangling of complications. Aristotle explains, “By complication I mean everything from the beginning of the story up to the point where the hero suffers a change of fortune; by denouement, everything from the latter point to the end. ”
Georges Polti: The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations 19. Slaying of unrecognized kinsman Supplication 20. Self-sacrificing for an ideal Deliverance 21. Self-sacrifice for kindred Crime pursued by vengeance Vengeance taken for kindred upon 22. All sacrificed for passion 23. Necessity of sacrificing loved ones kindred 24. Rivalry of superior and inferior 5. Pursuit 6. Disaster 25. Adultery 7. Falling prey to cruelty or misfortune 26. Crimes of love 8. Revolt 27. Discovery of loved one’s dishonor 9. Daring enterprise 28. Obstacles to love 10. Abduction 29. An enemy loved 11. The enigma 30. Ambition 12. Obtaining 31. Conflict with a god 13. Enmity of kinsmen 32. Mistaken jealousy 14. Rivalry of kinsmen 33. Erroneous judgment 15. Murderous adultery 34. Remorse 16. Madness 35. Recovery of lost one 17. Fatal imprudence 36. Loss of loved ones 18. Involuntary crimes of love 1. 2. 3. 4.
Application Activities • Choose a play or a story with you are familiar. Outline the elements of the plot, using a chart similar to one explaining plot of Romeo & Juliet. • Test Georges Polti’s assertion that all drama is based on just 36 situations. Recall several dramatic situations from plays or films. Do they fit one (or more) of Polti’s categories?
Characters • Characters in a play should be people who can hold the audience’s interest throughout the play. • In a well-written play, even minor characters are interesting and unique • Some plays (esp. 20 th C), have group protagonists ▫ Our Town • Must be vivid and varied in personality • Traits made evident through speech and action, and what others say about them
Characters • Actions must suit positions in life and past experience • Dialogue reflects: ▫ ▫ Character’s time Social class Community Experience • Character actions/speech must move plot forward • Cannot speak aimlessly like do in real life
Character Actions • Clever lines *Witty dialogue can hurt a play if not in harmony with overall aim of the playwright* • Soliloquies: speeches when actors talk alone ▫ Vital part of drama until realistic plays became popular • Most important phase of characterization is understanding character motivation ▫ Action/speech must have a reason behind it
Questions Playwrights Must Ask • What does the character want or need? • Who or what stands in the way of the character’s needs or wants? • What conditions affect the character’s thoughts, words, and actions? • Why does the character say or do certain things?
Application Activity • Study a character in a play or a work of fiction. Use the questions above to define the character’s motivation and personality. Then assume the part of that character as other members of your class ask you questions. Answer the question as you think the character would answer them.
Theme • • • The basic idea of the play Dramatized through conflicts of characters Often left to interpretation Do not mistake a minor truth for the main theme Theme is the specific idea that gives unity and purpose to everything that happens ▫ Title of play ▫ Key Line
Theme vs. Moral • Moral is a lesson or a principle contained within a play • Although some plays make moral statements, many plays have no particular moral
Review • • • Vocabulary Terms – know definitions Name and define the four narrative essentials of a play. How are the essentials communicated by a playwright? Who first expressed the principles of traditional drama? What did he identify as key elements of a play? How does modern drama differ from traditional drama? What are the five major parts of plot structure that follow the preliminary situation? How does theme differ from moral? Describe three methods of characterization playwrights use. Identify the four narrative essentials present in a movie or a play. Discuss how the playwright presents each. Describe how theme is conveyed in a play or a movie.