What could a naturalistic “problem play”, a tragedy, a historical drama, a comedy, and a piece of “epic alienation theatre” have in common? Works of drama are created to have some kind of “effect” on an audience, and while the effects each of these plays are markedly different, each play attempts to lead an audience to think or feel a certain way towards a social problem. “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen, Oedipus The King by Sophocles, Walsh by Sharon Pollock, Edible Woman by Dave Carley (adapted from the novel by Margaret Atwood), and The Good Woman of Setzuan by Bertolt Brecht are plays which contain characters involved in dramatizing social problems. By examining the relationships between the characters and their dramatic audiences, we gain insights into the genres of the plays.
As in many naturalistic plays, the characters in “A Doll’s House” are “round” and worthy of analysis. A characteristic of naturalism is that, “while constrained by a material environment which might be difficult to change, [characters] still [have] the possibility of overcoming their condition” (Bloomsbury 1). Through her actions, the character Christine suggests to the audience that they too can overcome their conditions, by following her example. The particular social problem that Christine illuminates is the problem of acquiring human understanding. Through Christine’s character Ibsen gives evidence to suggest that achieving deeper understandings of the world outside the “doll’s house” is possible. In confiding to Krogstad, “I have learnt to act prudently. Life, and hard, bitter necessity have taught me that,” Christine is indicating to the audience that knowledge...
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...h approach social problems varies along with their genres. In today’s world, in which social problem are ever so urgent, plays such as these are clearly becoming increasingly relevant.
Aristotle. Poetics. Trans. S. H. Butcher. Rpt. The Internet Classics Archive (1994). 19 Nov 2001 <http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.2.2.html>.
Brecht, Bertolt. Brecht on Theatre. Ed. and trans. John Willett. New York: Hill and Wang, 1992.
Brecht, Bertolt.The Good Woman of Setzuan. Trans. Eric Bentley. MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1947.
Ibsen, Henrik. Four Great Plays by Henrik Ibsen. Bantam Classic edition. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1981.
Pollock, Sharon. Walsh. Revised edition. Burnaby, BC: Talonbooks, 1998.
Simpson, David L. Comedy and Tragedy (1998). 18 Nov 2001 <http://condor.depaul.edu/~dsimpson/tlove/comic-tragic.html>.
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