Willy Russell's Use of Devices to Invite the Audience to Sympathize with Shirley in the Screenplay Shirley Valentine

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Shirley Valentine, a story about a middle-aged house-wife whose life couldn’t be more mundane; she has no one but the wall to talk to. Shirley Valentine, written by Willy Russell, is one of his most famous screenplays. This essay will look at how Russell invites the audience to sympathise with Shirley through his use of language, ideas and themes, the effects of dramatic devices and characters in the play. Russell uses characters and their actions to invite us to feel sympathy for Shirley. The way she is treated by her family and especially Joe makes the readers feel compassion for her. ‘It’s nearly six o’clock get on with gettin’ me tea.’ is one example of the way Shirley is treated badly. ‘get on with’ is a very commanding phrase; it shows how Joe bosses Shirley around. Using this phrase is very effective because the audience realises straight away how Joe’s character is and his opinion on women and their role. He also says ‘me tea’ (me meaning my in his local accent). This suggests to the audience that their marriage isn’t very strong as he doesn’t say ‘our’ tea. It also shows that Joe doesn’t seem to be in a very close relationship with Shirley. Also the fact that Shirley is calm and uses humorous language to fight back makes the reader still more sympathetic towards her. This is very clever technique used by Russell as behind her humour is her loneliness and her emotions that she keeps to herself. I think that the quote shows Joe as being very dominant, however he is right to ask for it as he has been working hard for the whole day and is probably hungry. He was probably looking forward to his steak and Shirley did not do him any favours by giving his tea to the dog even though she was just trying to help the dog. Maybe ... ... middle of paper ... ...y towards her, while in some places the audience are happy for her as she finally manages to gain happiness. The ending is completely different to kitchen sink drama because we see a speck of hope for Shirley in the end while in kitchen sink drama the ending would usually have been sad. In conclusion, Russell uses many devices to invite his audience to sympathise with Shirley. He relates to the society’s concept on different aspects of people’s life and most of the audiences could relate to situations in the screenplay. Russell’s own life has influenced a lot of things that went on in the play. Russell’s working class background has helped a lot of Shirley’s problems look realistic as he himself had experienced many of these problems that Shirley faced. This has made the text very effective and that really helped gain sympathy from the audience towards Shirley.

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