Dramatic and Literary Depictions of War

Dramatic and Literary Depictions of War

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Dramatic and Literary Depictions of War

Stimulus text one: part A - poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred

Mr. Devine opened up our exam to revel that the theme would be war.
The class was split into three groups and each group was given the
poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ as the first stimulus. We were asked to
read it and discuss in our groups what we thought of the

poem and how it portrayed war. At first we thought that the poem would
have a positive opinion because of the title, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’.
Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori is a Latin translation for ’it is
a beautiful and wonderful thing to die for your country’. However as
we read the poem we found the words to be contradictory to the title.
We found the poem to be very patriotic. Even from the first line the
poet gave a sense of an uncomfortable and dreary atmosphere, ‘Bent
double, like old beggars under sacks’. The poem gave a descriptive
picture of the negative and gruesome images behind war My group
thought that the poet thought war to be based on lies and propaganda;
it was portrayed as a wonderful and beautiful thing to die for your
country yet truthfully war was horrifying and disturbing. Our group
thought the poet believed people should know the truth about war
before they sign up. We thought this because the poet images got more
and more vile towards the end of the poem, which we thought was a
symbol of the poet’s anger and how haunted he was by the things he saw
during the war. The poet also gave off a sense of irony, as the people
who have allegedly died bravely for their country ended up just
‘flung’ onto wagons in piles.

Stimulus text one: part B - Lord Kitchener poster

In are groups we were then given a Lord Kitchener poster which was
idealistically designed to persuade men to join the British army. The
poster showed Lord Kitchener looking straight ahead and pointing with

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Related Searches

the text reading “your country needs YOU”. Our groups where asked to
discuss how we felt this linked to the poem. Firstly my group
discussed how effective the poster was, we decided that Lord Kitchener
was deliberately placed standing forward so that it felt to the
onlooker as if it was impossible to escape. It was made to point out
every person individually. Additionally we believed that Lord
Kitchener was on the poster because of his authority, it gave the
onlookers a sense of importance to be ‘NEEDED’ by such an important
and powerful man. We found this to be very ironic as we know in the
war none of the soldiers were truly important to people as powerful as
Lord Kitchener. Also by the choice of words we felt that the poster
used propaganda in order to persuade people, to have been politically
correct the poster should have said ‘you country wants YOU’ rather
than ‘needs’. By stating that ‘your country needs YOU’ the poster is
placing the reader with a duty and therefore is pressuring them. Our
group felt that posters like this were exactly what the poem was
talking about; Lord Kitchener was preaching ‘The old Lie: Dulce et
decorum est Pro patria mori.’

This emphasised how the poem was designed to portray to people the
truth behind the war. In other words the poster is designed to
persuade more and more men to join war by giving them a false
impression of what war was like.

After discussing both stimulus in our groups we discussed our ideas as
a class and wrote up the key points on the board. Most of the key
points all the groups agreed on. One of the other groups also thought
it was a good idea to extract key words from the poem that strongly
portray the poets feelings on war.

After discussing the main points the teacher then asked us to prepare
3 freeze-frames based on the poem and poster.

Freeze-frame 1:‘Bent double’


Freeze-frame 2:‘gas, gas’


Freeze-frame 3:‘Dulce et Decorum Est’


Stimulus text two: video ‘white feather’

The second stimulus was an extract from the video called ‘white
feather’. This extract showed a congregation at a church which was
interrupted by a man who was outraged that the church spoke so highly
of war. The man was taken from the church and after there was a
meeting held for women, women were to encourage men to join the war
and expected to sign up to help in the hospitals. The speaker went on
to say any man that did not join the army was a coward and you should
not be seen with such a man or you too are a coward. A white feather
would be given as a symbol of a coward and should be warn by all those
who are given it. After the meeting the man from the church met his
girlfriend outside, she told him that she thinks he must go to war and
that she can’t be seen with him if he doesn’t, the man is outraged
that the woman has been pressured to think this but the women tells
him she is leaving to go help in a hospital anyway. After watching the
video we were asked to discuss are reactions. I thought that the video
showed how much pressure was put on people in the war. The group
agreed that it was unfair to single out anyone just because they had a
different opinion and came to the conclusion that bullying was a big
part of the war.

Stimulus text three: teacher and pupils in role

The final stimulus was a planned improvisation played by the teacher
and pupils in role. Each person was first given a character and told
to react to how they think their character would in a similar
situation. The basic plot was that the family had tried hide the age
of their eldest son so that he would not be taken for war. There was
also an elder daughter who knew the truth about the war and wanted to
hide it from her family and a young son who wanted to go to war. The
recruitment officer comes in to take away the eldest son, and when the
wife argues back he tries to gain authority by belittling the father -
normally the ‘head of the family’.

Over all response to the three stimuli:

From the three stimuli I learnt of the pressure the government put on
innocent people due in the war. By participating in this workshop I
have come to realise a lot about the hidden truth of war and the depth
of pain involved in it. Also I believe I have gained a better
understanding of why war is such a big issue to this day.

I was shocked to see how well all the stimuli fitted together, almost
like a jigsaw. I had expected each stimulus to motivate a different
response to the other stimuli. However I found that rather than doing
this each new stimulus developed the response to the previous stimuli.

I enjoyed learning about the different views of war. This is because I
feel that by exploring all the alternative views of a matter help you
to gain a better understanding and thus can improve a person’s ability
to do something. In this case having a better understanding of war
made it easier to act out the emotions of characters involved in the

Development phase


Task 1

We were firstly asked to discuss out reactions to the character of the
recruitment officer. We came to the conclusion that he had tried to
gain authority by bullying the easiest target - the father. This was
strongly linked to the second stimuli as it was all about the pressure
placed on families due in the war.

After discussing stimulus 2 and 3 we were split into groups and asked
to develop a relationship between the characters of the family. Each
group was given a different title and asked to first plan then act out
a small improvisation of the scenario. Our group acted out ‘a fathers
proudest moment’. We choose to set it as the son was going off to war
and the father being proud of his son for doing the right thing for
his country. I was glad we got the title ‘a fathers proudest moment’
because it gave us the chance to develop all characters. Choosing to
set it when the son went off for war aloud us to not only show the
relationship between the father and the son but the reaction of the
rest of the family.

Task 2

After performing our short improvisation to the class we were asked to
go home and select an object that would symbolise their characters
relationship with the son who had gone to war. After choosing our
objects we had to careful think why our character would related to it.
Using out objects we were then asked to plan a monolog in which we
used the symbol to add more depth and meaning to what we said.

For this task I played the character of the boys mother. I decided I
wanted my character to be some-one who was torn between being happy
for her son and guilt from the past. Because of this I wanted to
choose an object that would be a memory from the past. I choose a war
medal which I represented my dead brother who had died from injury
after the first world war. Right before he died my brother had given
me the medal and said he had died for the sake of my children, and so
that they would never have to go to war and endure the suffering he
bore witness to. I used the medal to show how although I was proud of
my son I hated him for leaving me and how I thought he would never
come back.

Task 3: part a

Subsequently the teacher told us to go away and individually find a
gesture that would help us develop and get a better feel for our
character. We weren’t supposed to tell anyone else in the workshop our
gesture. He explained that all people have a certain thing they do in
a particular situation i.e. play with their hair when they are
agitated. This time I was playing the character of the older sister;
my character was to be nervous of telling my family the truth about
war. I choose to bite my nails when ever the family asked something I
didn’t want to answer.

After each person had picked a gesture we were told to perform the
short scene of the son going away, using our gestures to enhance our
characters. After the rest of the class were asked to watch our
performance and guess what each person’s gesture was.

Task 3: part b

The class where then asked to make 3 short scenes which lead into 3
freeze-frames. Each scene was to show at least one characters gesture
and emotion, each characters emotion and gesture had to be shown at
some point. My group decided to do once scene for the father and son,
another for the mother and daughter and one for the youngest son.

Task 4

The class was split up into two groups and were given a newspaper
clipping featuring an article about a Muslim girl and Serb boy Admira
and Bosko, a real life Romeo and Juliet. The article was about two
people who had fallen in love, but came from rival backgrounds, and
were finally aloud to be together. Both the sides agreed to let them
pass; but on the Verbena bridge, the only neutral territory between
the rival countries, they were shot, Bosko had dies straight away, but
Admira had lived long enough to crawl over to her lover and embrace
him. The killer was unknown. The two sides continued to fight over
their bodies for five days, when finally they were given permission to
be buried in Sarajevo. Basically it was showing how the Serb boy and
the Muslim girl who had loved each other for nine years were put in a
coffin and buried in the Serbian military graveyard south of Sarajevo.

In our groups we were then asked to create 3 short scenes featuring
the 3 main points of the story, using the mediums of drama.

Freeze-frame 1:‘Escape’


Our first freeze-frame was of soldiers from both sides facing each
other on each side of the bridge. For this we had the use of prop,
sound and narration as our drama mediums. We used boxes to create
different levels to create the image of the bridge but also of
authority. The soldiers were placed on platforms but the lovers were
at ground level showing they were both people of no authority. The
character of the Serb boy was walking along holding hands with the
Muslim girl, ecstatic that now they thought nothing could get in the
way of their love, “now we can be together for ever” was the Serb
boys last words before both lovers fell to their inevitable death.

Freeze-frame 2:‘Death and true love’


For our second freeze-frame we choose to show the Muslim girl
embracing the Serb boy just before she died. For this we choose to use
thought tracking, narration, freeze frame and lighting. This
freeze-frame portrayed how deep and strong Admira and Bosko love was,
even death could not part them, we used narration and thought tracking
to show this. However this scene also showed the selfishness and
cruelty of man, we used a red light to emphasis this.

Freeze-frame 3:‘Eternal peace’


In the third freeze frame we had two platforms pushed together to
create a coffin with the Serb boy and the Muslim girl in it. This was
meant to convey that they would be together forever in this life and
the next because their eternal love for each other was so strong, and
finally they could be together in peace, like they had waited for, for
so many years. The two families joined for the ceremony, for the
funeral both familys put their differences behind them and shared
their grief, both mothers wore black shawls to show that they were
upset over the death of their children. This may seem a silly thing to
include but because of the rivalry between the families both lovers
had not expected their mothers to care much. At the end of the funeral
the narrator explained to the audience how the ring in Admira’s hand
was now the only symbol left of Admira’s and Bosko’s love, then the
ring dropped to the floor. This symbolised a new beginning for the
lovers. For this scene we used the used of costume, prop, lighting,
symbol and monolog.

Through out the three freeze frames we mainly used narration; the
reason for this was we wanted to give a neutral view of the story. The
characters froze for a few seconds whilst the narrator narrated and
then the actors persisted with the story. We choose to decide the use
of drama mediums individually for each scene, this was to ensure that
each medium worked as well as it could and was used in the right way.

Evaluation phase


Evaluation of response to stimulus text one:

I think that by sharing our ideas as a group and then as a class it
meant we were able to develop and explore ideas more. It was
interesting to see how although all the groups pick up on similar
things we all ended up with very different freeze frames.

My group chose what we thought were the 3 key images in the poem and
used them as our freeze-frames. We choose to do this because we
thought that it expressed best the suffering the poet would have seen
and endured.

Our first freeze-frame was based on the first line of the poem, ‘bent
double.’ we choose this because we wanted to show how even in the
trenches how horrible war was. For this we placed people shooting at
the front with a brave look on their face, this was to show how the
war was portrayed, but behind them were people bent double and
struggling, this was to show how the war really was. Body posture was
really important in this freeze-frame as well as facial expression.
These were important because we needed to show the different views of
war, so the soldiers at the front needed to look happy and keen to do
a good job, to reflect this they needed good posture to show their
enthusiasm and smiles to show how they think they are doing the right
thing. The others however needed to look worried and week, to portray
this the soldiers were bent over like they couldn’t stand straight or
huddled on the floor to show they had no strength. The spacing was
also important as soldiers shown to be huddling implies a sense of
insecurity and loneliness. The suffering soldiers were placed behind
the enthusiastic ones to show how the poet felt how war was portrayed
was a lie.

The second freeze-frames was based on the gas attack as a large
proportion on the poem was about this. We wanted to show how everyone
was injured. Our main focus in this was hand gesture, soldiers
reaching out showed their desperation, other soldiers had their hand
on their throats to show their suffering. Posture was also used as we
made sure no-one was standing completely straight to show that
everyone was suffering.

The final freeze-frame we choose to do showed everyone dead in a heap.
We called this ’Dulce de Decorum Est’ because it was not a beautiful
and wonderful sight, which we thought was the key part of the poem. We
used spacing by crowding all the bodies together so they were almost
heaped. We did this to show how the poet did not believe the soldiers
died bravely and gracefully for their country, as the ’old lie’ would
have us believe.

Another of the groups decided to base their freeze-frames around the
poster. I found this very effective especially in the last
freeze-frame as the truth of war was literally hidden behind the

Freeze-frame three:‘the old lie’


I found the most effective thing about this freeze-frame was the use
of levels. They showed the authority of the poster over everything
else by placing Lord Kitchener higher than all of the other
characters. It was also really effective how although people where
dying and suffering behind the poster the people in front of it were
still looking up to it. I found this to be a really successful way of
expressing the poets view of war.

Evaluation of response to stimulus text two:

The video was the first stimulus that really highlighted the extremity
of the pressure the government put on people involved in the war. It
portrayed how the government had used pier pressure to control people
and take away their voices. It also showed how the government made it
extremely difficult for anyone with an opposing view to war. They made
sure anyone who publicly spoke out against them or refused to join the
war was publicly humiliated by the white feather campaign.

Evaluation of response to stimulus text three:

I think it was a good idea to have randomly picked unprepared students
to participate in this exercise. I think that this was important
because it is necessary to see the natural reactions of people to a
character such as the recruitment officer. The fact that the mother
character stood up to the recruitment officer was also a key moment
because it showed the recruitments officer’s true colors, and how much
of his authority was fake – much like most of the public eyes view of
war. This stimulus re-establishes the major issue of bullying that
went on due in the war.

Evaluation of the development phase:

Task One

When we were asked to acted out a fathers proudest moment we were able
to plan the reaction of the characters. As we knew the younger son was
jealous we decided to separate him from the rest of the family. He
sat with his back to his family and played with toy soldiers. The
separation was important as it showed the child’s adolescence because
of his lack of understanding, also by sitting crossed legged it showed
that the boy was very young as it is a it is not normally a tendency
of an older person. The daughter stood with her family but with her
head down and didn’t say anything, the daughter was stood next to the
family to show her concern for her brother but by starring down and
not talking it showed really her character was troubled and that she
was trying to hide it from her family. The mother stood comforting her
daughter which showed she was upset to, but she looked straight at her
son with her back straight and her head high to show she was proud and
happy for him as well. The son was looking up to his dad why they were
talking which showed that it made the son happy that his dad was proud
of him. The father stood up straight with his head up and his fist
held clenched on his heart these were all symbols of the fathers
proudness. Our improvisation was based mainly on our use of the body
and although words added to the effect I think it would have work jus
as well as a freeze-frame.

Another group did ‘a mothers nightmare’ they built up atmosphere by
having all the characters harass her in her sleep. It was found it
really good as it gave me a headache and I think that was the whole
concept, the words were the most important thing in this peace as they
were all things that added to the mothers guilt. Everything that was
said seems to have been taken out of context by the mother and have
been changed to be used against her, by her conscience. Although I did
think this performance was cleverly thought out I think it could have
been improved if the voices had started off in almost a whisper and
gradually got louder and louder and faster and faster. I think this
would have worked better because it would have symbolised how the
mother’s guilt was building up.

Task Two

I found it important to plan the monolog so that I could see if my
object would work. However I didn’t think I should learn one off by
heart because it would have more and meaning if it was partly
improvised in the sense that this object started off a chain of
thought. Also I thought it would help myself as a performer because if
I had learnt it off by heart and forgotten a bit I would be stuck, but
I found that just by getting an idea of what I was going to say it
aloud me to make up the bits I’d forgotten or just move on to the next

During my piece I though I used the object well as I directly related
what I was saying to the object. However I found that my performance
would have been better if I had tried harder to involve the audience.
To do this I could have simply showed the audience the medal I used
for my object, by doing this I would have drawn the audience in and
it would have given the audience a better sense of involvement.

After performing I carefully observed other members of the group. By
watching other people perform it made me realise how important panning
was, you could clearly see who had carefully thought out and planned
their monolog and who appear to have grabbed the first object they
found. This was not because of the acting but because of the flow and
content of the performance.

A couple of people’s monologs really stood out for me:

One person in the character of the younger son bought in toy soldiers
to play with; I thought this to be a very good object as it was
directly symbolic. The performance was extremely successful as the boy
used the soldiers to show his mixed emotions and lack of
understanding. The actor also successfully drew the audience in by
almost including them in the boys game that he was playing with the
toy soldiers. The young boy expressed his mixed emotions for his
brother by first placing him at the front of the line, which showed
that really he was proud of his brother, but then his jealousy took
over and he knocked all the soldiers down. I found this very
impressive as I think it worked on many levels, for me it caught the
credulity and innocents of childhood as well as successfully
completing the task asked.

Another, which stood out to me, was a monolog in the character of the
sister. She choose to use skipping rope that her and her elder brother
had played with every summer years ago. The reason this monolog worked
so well was because of the way the rope was used. While telling a
short story she got the rope and started to tie it around her wrist,
she then went on to explain that the last time her and her brother had
played with this rope he had tied her up and pretended she was a
prisoner of war. This brought to the surface how her brother was the
one imprisoned at war, but it was no longer a game. She aloud the
audience to be drawn in by her story telling and then persisted to
express an immense sense of emotion to them. You could tell that this
was a very well prepared monolog and that the task had been

Another person did a really good monolog but didn’t successfully link
it to the object. From this I saw how much depth and meaning a simple
thing can add to a performance and how it helps enhance a character.

Task three: part a

I found that finding a gesture and making it work for a particular
character was hard to get into. In spite of this once I had got used
to the idea of the gesture doing it helped me get into my character
quickly. I think my character was quite easy to pick a gesture for
because it is common for people to try and distract themselves when
they are nervous e.g. playing with their hair or biting their nails. I
think it may have been harder for other characters to think of a
gesture for their character in such a short space of time.

Most people gestures were easy to guess as they did it in the right
situation or at the right time. This proved that the exercise had

Task three: part b

When doing task 3 we decided to split the 3 scenes up into groups of
characters because we thought it would be easier to create a situation
in which the character could show their gesture. We put the son and
the father together because we thought it would be the best
opportunity to show the fathers pride and the reaction. The mother and
daughter were placed together because we wanted to show the daughters
worry and the mothers guilt and by doing a scene with them together a
tense atmosphere could easily be created, emphasising both characters
emotions. Finally we choose to put the youngest son on his own because
we thought it would be more affected for him to use mime. We choose to
stick to using the toy soldiers that younger son had used for monolog,
but as we couldn’t use an actual prop the actor had to mime playing
with them. We were worried it might not work in this situation but
after performing we found that it did work really well because it
showed how the youngest son didn’t understand the impotence of what
was going on and his adolescence, and this was directly linked to his
emotion and gesture.

Task four: freeze-frame one

I think the use of level worked reasonably well in the first
freeze-frame as it created a literal and symbolic meaning. I also
think that we made the right decision choosing not to use light in
this scene as it was unnecessary and would have just over complicated
the scene. From this I learnt that it is much better to use a few
mediums of drama well than it is to use as many as possible badly.

Task four: freeze-frame two

In the second scene I think that the choice of thought tracking was a
mistake. It seemed to confuse the audience, and the person stepping
out of character to do the thought tracking was unable to get into
character quick enough to capture the strong emotions of Admira. I
think it would have been better to if the character of Admira had have
performed a small monolog instead.

However I thought the use of the red light was very successful as it
introduced another level of meaning to the scene and thus allowed the
characters to develop more.

Task four: freeze-frame three

We choose to close the final scene with a white light shinning on the
two lovers as they lay in their grave. We did this because white
symbolizes innocents, purity and peace.

I also think that the symbol of the ring worked exceptionally well, as
it portrayed to the audience the strength of Admira’s and Bosko’s
love, but it also symbolised hope, future and happiness.

Finally I thought that the monolog of Admira’s father was important
because it demonstrated how some things are more important than
others, especially war and hate, no matter how deep they run. It also
highlights how stubbornness is sometimes better left, and that it is
more important in the long run to put things behind us before they get
out of hand. I though this to be a really important message especially
on the topic of war.


After receiving the topic of war and the poem I decided to research
relevant information. The first thing I found was that the saying
‘Dulce et Decorum Est Pro patria mori’ was a saying that originated
form the Roman poet Horace. It was an old Latin saying meaning it is a
beautiful and wonderful thing to die for your country.
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