From Romanticism to Realism The Essential Theatre. Ch6.
Introduction • The late XVIII and early XIX centuries brought a reaction against the neoclassical rules that had dominated dramatic writing since the mid-seventieth century. • Most of the strictures of neoclassicism were applied only to ‘regular’ drama (comedy and tragedy written in five acts). Perhaps for this reason a number of ‘irregular ‘ forms gained [popularity during the XVIII century
The Emergence of Romanticism • Toward the end of the eighteenth century, the attitudes that had supported neoclassicism began to change, and several playwrights in Germany (Storm and Stress) school began to write serious plays the experimented both with bold subjects and dramatic form.
The Emergence of Romanticism • Perhaps the changes in critical attitudes are best summed up in relation to Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare had always been popular in England, where many of his plays held a firm place in the repertory, they were not performed in any other European country until the late eighteenth century.
The Emergence of Romanticism • In sum, the theatre underwent major alterations during the early nineteenth century. In this new climate melodrama flourished, becoming to the general public what Shakespeare was to elitist audiences.
The Emergence of Romanticism • Romanticism was to be the dominant artistic movement during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Melodrama • Melodrama was the popular-culture manifestation of Romanticism and as such was the most popular dramatic form of the nineteenth century. Melodrama had a large musical element, as suggested by its name, which literally means ‘music drama’.
Melodrama • The popularity of melodrama in the nineteenth century is explained in part by fundamental changes in social and economic conditions stemming from the industrial revolution.
Melodrama • London had supported only two or three theatres during the eighteenth century , but between 1800 and 1850, its population doubled and the number of its theatres grew to more than twenty.
Melodrama • Because the pattern of melodrama is always the same (good threatened by evil, with the eventual triumph of good), variety was gained through such novelties as exotic locales, ever-more-spectacular effects, increased realism, incorporation into the action of the latest inventions, and dramatizations of popular novels or notorious crimes.
Melodrama • After electricity became common in the 1880s , electric motors were coupled with treadmills to stage horse or chariot races.
Melodrama • In melodrama, realistic spectacle, thrilling effects, novelty, suspense, and the vindication of virtue were the major appeals.
Monte Cristo • Monte Cristo is a dramatization of Alexandre Dumas pere’s The Count of Monte Cristo (1845), one of the world’s most popular novels. • At first it was in twenty acts (two evenings to perform). In 1885, James O’Neill purchased the rights to this version and made numerous revisions.
Monte Cristo • Reducing Dumas’s novel of several hundred pages to a play that could be performed in two or three hours was a formidable task, but not unusual in the nineteenth century, because popular novels were typically dramatized quickly following their publication.
Monte Cristo • The sweep of Monte Cristo is neater to that of Shakespeare’s plays than to that of plays by Sophocles or Moliere. • Like other melodramas, Monte Cristo shows goodness victimized and evil triumphant for a time, but ultimately evil is exposed and punished and goodness is vindicated.
Monte Cristo The turning point , Edmund’s escape, has a miraculous quality both in the event itself and in Faria’s legacy of enormous wealth, which makes Edmund’s revenge possible.
Monte Cristo • Characterization is far simpler than plot in Monte Cristo. The characters can be divided into three categories: • good (Edmund, Mercedes, Noirtier, Albert), • evil (Danglars, Fernand, Villefort), • functional (sailors, fishermen, policemen, servants).
Monte Cristo • The characters are always wholly conscious of their motives and feelings and state them to the audience. • Next to suspenseful and morally satisfying plots, melodrama owed its appeal most to spectacle.
Monte Cristo • Monte Cristo requires eight sets, two of which were probably simple and very shallow, permitting more complex sets to be erected behind them while a scene was in progress.
Monte Cristo • The demands of the Chateau d’If scene illustrate the changes that had occurred in scenic practices by the late nineteenth century.
Monte Cristo • By the late nineteenth century, the stage floor in most theatres was divided into sections a few feet wide, any of which could be removed to create an opening extending completely across the stage.
Monte Cristo • Touring such complex productions was made possible by the development of dependable transportation, which became a reality with the spread of railroads.
Monte Cristo • Melodrama’s visual appeal was further enhanced by lighting, the potential of which had increased greatly after gas replaced candles and oil during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Monte Cristo • O’Neills production of Monte Cristo calls attention to another change then underway: Long runs of single plays performed by actors hired for that production only were replacing a repertory of plays performed in rotation by a permanent company.
Monte Cristo • With melodrama, the theatre in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries achieved its greatest mass appeal. • The popular entertainment of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, especially melodrama, was the meeting ground for theatre and film and was crucial in the subsequent history of both.
The Advent of Realism • Even as James O’Neill was achieving his great popular success in Monte Cristo, other theories and beliefs were undermining the absolutist moral values on which melodrama depended.
The Advent of Realism • In the nineteenth century, a number of intellectual and scientific developments called many biblical passages into question. The greatest controversy was provoked by Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species(1859).
The Advent of Realism • Darwin’s theories have many implications. • First, suggest that heredity and environment are the primary causes of everything human beings are or do. • Second – people cannot be held fully responsible for what they do (because of no control over individual heredity and little control over the environment ). • Third, strengthen the idea of progress.
The Advent of Realism • These implications were crucial in the development of the modern temperament, because they suggested that change is the norm.
The Advent of Realism • The new ideas about human conscience were stated most fully in the writings of Sigmund Freud. Freud argued that the basic human instincts are aggression and sexuality – self-preservation and procreation.
The Advent of Realism • According to his view, then, not only are moral values relative, but also language and behavior are only partially reliable indicators of a person’s state of mind and motives.
The Advent of Realism • Relativity eventually affected every area of thought and action. It eventually entered the theatre through realism and naturalism, even though these movements were seeking objective, scientific explanations of human behavior.
Realism and Naturalism • Realism was first recognized during the 1850s, naturalism (a more extreme version of realism) during the 1870s. • The views of realists and naturalists were grounded in the scientific outlook: the need to understand human behavior in terms of natural cause and effect.
Realism and Naturalism • The real issue for realists and natuaralists was the role of art in society: • Should art, as in melodrama, always show good triumphant? • Should art reaffirm traditional values even though they have not triumphed in this instance? Or should art, as the realists and naturalists argued, follow truth wherever it leads?
Realism and Naturalism • These issues were brought into focus about 1880 by Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), a Norwegian playwright often called the founder of modern drama. • His plays stirred worldwide controversy because the endings did not reaffirm accepted values.
A Doll’s House • In a Doll’s House (1879), Nora Helmer is faced with the consequences of having forged her father’s name to borrow the money needed to restore her husband’s (Torvald) health (although by law she couldn’t do it without her husband’s consent).
A Doll’s House • After her husband recovers, the man from whom Nora borrowed the money (Krogstad) threatens to expose her as a criminal if she does not help him keep the job he is about to lose at Torvald’s bank.
A Doll’s House • Nora wishes to consider, free from the emotional blackmail of home and children, what it means to be a woman in a society that deprives her of all rights. • The outrage also stemmed from Ibsen’s refusal to allow the audience the escape that Torvald had sought – the pretense, following a moment’s anxiety, that the old social order was secure.
A Doll’s House • Mrs. Linde and Krogstad serve as contrasts to Nora and Torvald. • Nora, as she herself eventually realizes, has spent her life being treated like a doll, protected from harsh realities but having learned to manipulate men by feeding their fantasies about female helplessness.
A Doll’s House • Another major character, Dr. Rank, also serves as a contrast to Torvald. Nora can talk freely and share confidences with Rank about things that Torvald would find shocking.
A Doll’s House • A Doll’s House can serve as a model of cause-to-effect dramatic construction. • A Doll’s House uses a single setting throughout. • Characters seem to live in the settings. Action, character, and environment are intertwined.
Zola and Naturalism • Naturalism, unlike realism, had little success in the theatre, probably because it was too extreme in its demands. • It’s chief advocate was Emile Zola (1840-1902). • One of his followers suggested to take naturalistic plays as slice of life – a segment of reality transferred to the stage.
Zola and Naturalism • Zola, who often compared naturalistic art with medicine, believed that, just as the medical pathologist seeks to discover the cause of a disease so it can be treated, the dramatist should expose social ills so their causes can be corrected.
Zola and Naturalism • Together, realism and naturalism struck major blows against rigid social codes and absolute values. They laid the foundations on which modernists built.
The Emergence of the Director • The present-day director who assumes responsibility for interpreting all of the elements that make up a production, is primarily a product of the late nineteenth century.
The Emergence of the Director • A convergence of the modern director, One of these developments involved the growing need for someone to coordinate and unify all the elements of production.
The Emergence of the Director • The acceptance of the modern director owes most to two influences: the theory of Wagner and the practice of Saxe-Meiningen. • Wagner erected a new kind of theatre building, opened at Bayreuth in 1876. • Georg II, duke of Saxe-Meiningen(1826-1914) is now usually considered the first director in the modern sense. He extered complete control over every aspect of production.
The Emergence of the Director • The Meiningen Company validated many of Wagner’s views, and the need for unified production soon became a fundamental tenet of theatrical production.
The Independent Theatre Movement • By the 1880s, innovative plays by realists and naturalists had appeared, but censorship had kept most of them from production. • The new drama and the new staging had been remained isolated from each other. They were finally to meet in “independent” theatres.
The Independent Theatre Movement • The first independent theatre was the Theatre Libre, founded in Paris in 1887 by Andre Antoine. • In 1889, the Freie Buhne was founded in Berlin.