Analysis Of Theatre From Modern To Present

  • Category: Theater
  • Words: 1561
  • Grade: 80
In Oedipus we see a man who's chief desire is to improve the state of his nation. He treats both his wife and those below him in status with respect. In Othello, we see a man who has devoted his live to protecting his nation and who's chief desire is to be accepted by his wife and society as the hero he is. So why do such unbelievable terrible things happen to both of them? Their misfortunes are not causally related to any misdoing, so it is unjust for them to suffer and this is what makes for great tragedy. For the tragedy to be meaningful, the characters must start at a relative high point and spiral downward. With suicide and self-mutilation as the outcomes, the two characters must therefore begin loftily. As I said, for good tragedy, this descent cannot come from any malevolent desire on the main character's part, but a flaw in their personality.
Oedipus is a king by every right and willing to fulfill this role at any cost to himself. Virtue carried too far. This is Oedipus' great flaw, his overwhelming self-confidence. Who wouldn't be confident after gaining a throne in one bold stroke, defeating the sphinx not with valor, but with wits. This arrogance keeps on a self-destructive path even after those around him suspect the truth and try to dissuade him. From his hasty decimation of the "bandits" to his treatment of faithful Tiresias, he is constantly one step ahead of himself, acting before he has all of the information. He is always summoning someone, commanding someone, dashing about the stage trying to catch up with his past and eventually, tragically, succeeding.
Othello on the other hand is also a hero whose fame precedes him, but his has been gained through martial prowess. Also a foreigner, but visibly differentiated, Othello's perspective is always that of an outsider who is constantly aware of it. While in Oedipus it is a convention of Greek theatre that the action take place offstage, in Othello, it is as much a choice that he remain removed from the action. He is caught up in a web of intrigue created in his many absences, being controlled by Iago's machinations as much as Oedipus' strings are pulled by fate. Once again hastiness undoes a character, but where Oedipus' stems from overconfidence, Othello's is the opposite. His lack of self-esteem due to his status as a moor creates jealousy to the point of insanity. A greater flaw than pride, Othello's jealousy is outrageous to the point of sending him into seizures.
Marriage as a social institution has affected our literature tremendously. Seen sometimes as the logical result of true love and just as often as the bar to it, marriage is nonetheless something everybody does (back then) and therefore is universal. Beginning with the theatre of ancient Greece, marriage has been a key factor in theatre much as it is and has been in politics. Although not a major force in Antigone, it is noteworthy that Creon's first threat to Antigone is the forfeiture of her engagement and then queen hood. I do not feel that this has any bearing on Antigone's decision except that it shows her priorities and steadfastness.
Tartuffe shows us that marriage can be quite awful. Throughout the play it is a threat that grows more and more loathsome as it draws closer. We can see marriage as being chained to a grotesque creature for life, which for many I'm sure it has been. Religion, a social construct even more powerful and abused than marriage, comes into play in Tartuffe and indeed the two constructs are comparable as being institutions that are often treated like golden cows, venerated to the point of ridiculous alienation. It is also interesting to look at the existing marital relationship in Tartuffe. How desirable does marriage look when a wife has to demonstrate Tartuffe's lechery practically mid-coitus for her husband to believe her?
In Midsummer we see marriage as more crucial to the plot. After all, the events are set into motion by a marriage and the play ends with several on the way. Here we see marriage as both paradise and prison, depending on whom it is to. Filled with raucous dichotomies, Midsummer parallels two pre-existing couples with two couples-to-be. We have the eternal conflict/romance between Titania and Oberon, and the less important mortal coupling of the two military leaders Theseus and Hippolyta, as well as the four lovers who, with the exception of Helena, are quite tedious. Indeed Oberon and Titania are like ancient Greek Gods, beautiful and terrible in their coupling. There manipulations hurt everyone including each other, but it's all for the sake of love, and one cannot help but compare them to Lucy and Desi or any other sit-com couple. The serious side to marriage here is the threat to Hermia to marry of being sent to a convent, even killed. Egeus is inhuman in his capacity of progenitor of both Hermia and the play's action, but it must be done. It shows the treatment of marriage in society and literature that the father's control of matrimony is his control of her life.
The climax of a play always accompanies a revelation and often a reversal as well. Sometimes the surprise and unlikelihood of an event makes it the climax, and other times the inevitable climb can be fully realized to increase its magnitude. In Oedipus, we know the climax is coming and we are teased along the way, almost incapable of believing the hero doesn't know what is going on. There are several realizations in Oedipus and Oedipus' own unwillingness to accept the truths that become more and more irrefutable creates the strongest climax possible. The climax could have come when Oedipus and Jocasta confided their extremely similar circumstances to each other (867) or when Jocasta and him exchange ankle stories (780). These moments when the audience is fooled into believing a climax is about to occur make the revelation of the identity of the second shepherd, the true climax, so much more powerful.
In Othello, we are not led so neatly to a clear climax. This would be unjust to the subtlety and complexity of Iago's plots. By the fourth and fifth act things are coming apart at the seams. Like fine kindling, Iago has laid each of the characters for incineration, including himself. Once Othello's envy has been inflamed, things start to combust. However dramatic the smothering of Desdemona is, the true climax happens with her lying there as stage dressing, when the truth about the handkerchief and all that that means comes out. Othello stands there undone while the murder and violence continue around him.
Tartuffe is summed up with a fitting and stylized comedic ending. In a comedy without much action, the scenes between the wife and Tartuffe with Orgon hiding under the table are uproarious and timeless. The buildup is undeniable and tense, and the release is just as satisfying. Here is a truly just climax, what the audience has been waiting for since the third scene, exactly what a climax should be.
Great comedies have always relied on something of a stock set of circumstances. Throughout history comedies have evolved a cast of established comic characters and in much the same way comedic settings. These settings are conventions of the play that facilitate the action and hence the comedy. There are two discernable types of settings, those that complicate the characters and those that enable the characters. Midsummer is of the latter and Tartuffe of the former.
I do not know if Tartuffe originated the comedic standby of the multiple doors, but it works it within an inch of its life. Would we have Noises Off without Tartuffe? The ever-present doors keep all of the offstage characters constantly in mind, the threat of their arrival ever imminent. Midsummer is less of a mystery and more of a chase, while Tartuffe lies in wait for itself. At any point in the play, one of those doors opening with the wrong character behind it could potentially ruin the whole thing.
Midsummer uses the woods, the convention of the pastoral. These woods, sometimes seen as naturally complicated and other times magically such, let characters exit at any given point and return at any given point. This allows the characters to be anywhere at anytime, magical or mundane. Literally anything can happen in the woods, which is why when the four lovers enter to escape their mundane circumstances. Once there, nature takes its course, so to speak, in a very unnatural way. This shows the awe which the natural world still held, the most natural things and the most fantastic being intertwined, which itself is a great metaphor for love.

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