ENH 110 Drama
History of Theatre
Ancient Greece is categorized as having existed
from a Dark age Period (circa 1100 BC) to the
conquering by Rome (circa 146 BC). The fifth century
is considered to be the Classical Age of Greek Culture,
particularly of Theatre and especially in the city-state
(polis) of Athens.
Athens is one of the oldest named cities in the world,
having been continuously inhabited for at least 7000
years. Situated in southern Europe, Athens became the
leading city of Ancient Greece in the first millennium BC
and its cultural achievements during the 5th century BC
laid the foundations of western civilization.
Origins of Tragedy
Greek drama is a theatrical tradition that flourished
in ancient Greece between 600-200 BC.
The city state of Athens was the epicenter of
Ancient Greek theatre.
Formal theatre in Athens evolved from festivals related to
the cult of Dionysus, the god of agriculture, fertility, mystery,
wine, and intoxication. Events were held at the City Dionysia.
Origins of Tragedy, cont.
Aristotle tells us that tragedy evolved from dithyrambs,
songs sung in praise of Dionysus.
Circa 600 BC: the poet Arion is credited with developing
the dithyramb into a formalized narrative sung by a chorus.
Circa 560 BC: a poet, Thespis, is credited with innovating
a new style in which a solo actor performed the speeches
of the characters in the narrative (using masks to
distinguish between the different characters). Thespis is
considered the first Greek “actor,” and his style became known
as tragedy. Today, our formal term for actor is thespian.
This new style, in 534 BC, became part of the official
celebrations of the Dionysian festivals, mainly due to the
ruler Pisistratus.
He was associated with
•wine, which fosters
intoxication: positve release
and self-destructive passions
and actions
•wild nature: the god “outside” of
civilized society
•fierce, untamed animals: panthers,
leopards, bulls and snakes
•unbounded sexuality, unbounded
by humane and civiled limits:
symbolized by the half animal satyrs
•ecstatic possession: worshippers were
devoid of individual conscious identity
female followers were maenads “raving
ones,” who were most often in a
frenzied state
•dance: celebrated freedom from selfconsciousness and constraint
•“otherness”: often he was represented
on vases by a mask
Satyr and Maenad
Maenads and Satyrs
Function of the Masks
•allowed the male actors and members of the chorus to
assume female roles
•allowed the actors to assume multiple roles: the playwright
was limited to only three actors
•allowed more emphasis on gesture and voice
•limited the interaction between characters: spoken sections
limit themselves to monologue and dialogue, in large part
to avoid confusion about who is speaking (the audience could
not see any movement of their lips).
Origins of Tragedy, cont
The fifth century in Athens was known as the Golden Age,
also as the Age of Pericles
Circa 471 BC: the dramatist Aeschylus innovated a
second actor, thus making dialogue possible.
Circa 468 BC: Sophocles introduced a third actor,
making more complex dramatic situations possible.
Three actors subsequentially became the formal convention.
At about the same time the chorus was increased from
12 to 15, and the chorus took on the role of the general
population--it became a separate character. The subject
matter of the plays expanded from just Dionysian lore
to the whole body of Greek mythology.
Tragedy: from the Greek word “tragoedia, meaning
“goat song”
Originally established by Aristotle in his Poetics, a
tragedy is a play, in verse or prose, which recounts an
important and causally related series of events in the life of
a person of “significance,” such events culminating in an
unhappy catastrophe, the whole treated with dignity
and seriousness. The purpose of a tragedy is to arouse
the emotions of pity and fear by showing how humans
are at the mercy of “moira” (fate) and thus to produce in
the audience a catharsis of these emotions. The question
of what constitutes “significance” for the tragic hero is
answered in each age by the concept of significance or
importance held by that age. The trilogies, three tragedies
followed by a satyr play, were always performed outdoors
at a theatre usually built along a hillside.
Structure of the Greek Tragedy
lyrics/dance Parados
First Episode
lyrics/dance First Stasimon
(alternations between episodes and stasima)
Exodos prose
5th century BC Greek Theatre
Thymele: alter
Dancing Area
Henrik Ibsen
1828-1906 Biography
Modern Times
The term Modern Times is used by historians to describe the
period of time immediately following what is somewhat
confusingly known as the Early Modern Times.
* Early Modern Times lasted from the end of the 15th
century to the end of the 18th century.
* Modern Times began at the end of the 18th century,
continuing to the present.
Other similar terms, such as Modern Period, Modern Age,
or Modern Era, are also commonly used.
The movement known as "Postmodernism" (especially
dominant from the 1960s to the early 1980s) is widely
debated, and there is scholarly disagreement about how
to describe very recent history.
Well-Made Play structure
Popularized by Eugene Scribe in France in
the early 19th century
(characterized by punctilious plotting techniques)
The plot is often based on a withheld secret-known to the audience but not to all the
characters--and usually involves revealing
letters or papers which complicate the dramatic
situation. The overall pattern involves a
steadily mounting suspense, achieved through a
battle of wits between protagonist and antagonist,
until the climax (final act), when the secret is revealed
and the pattern returns to the normal order,
i. e., often a happy ending.
Realism in Theatre
In art, realism is the movement toward representing
reality as it is. Realistic drama is an attempt to
portray life on stage, a movement away from the
conventional melodramas and sentimental comedies of
the 1700s, a movement counteracting Romanticism.
It is expressed in theatre through the use of symbolism,
character development, stage setting, and storyline
and is exemplified in a play such as Henrik Ibsen's
A Doll's House.
Tenants of Realistic Theater
* Always credulous, nothing to test believability
in audience; emphasis on objective reality
* Dialogue only, no asides, soliloquies, or monologues
(except when addressed to another onstage character)
* An individual represents a societal problem
* Often a linear plot
Ibsen on Realism in “ A Doll’s House”
The play is, as you must have observed, conceived in the
most realistic style; the illusion I wished to produce was
that of reality. I wished to produce the impression on the
reader that what he was reading was something that had really
happened. If I had employed verse, I should have counteracted my
own intention [. . . .] We are no longer living in the days
of Shakespeare. [. . .] [W]hat I desired to depict were
human beings, and therefore I would not let them talk
the "language of the Gods."
A Doll’s House
Stage Directions
The stage directions in both plays we discuss
use “left” and “right” to designate placement of
props, positions, and movements of characters,
etc. Most often these indicate “stage left” and
“stage right,” which denote the actor’s
perspective as he or she is facing the audience.
Center stage
Stage -Right
Stage -Left
Discussion question: Act I
Based on your understanding of this act, how does
Ibsen characterize the institution of marriage in the
19th century?
Discussion question: Act I
Torvald uses (over 20 times in this act) expressions
beginning with “my little . . .”; (italics mine) what
does this say about his character?
Discussion prompt: Act I
Discuss Act I’s emphasis on the theme of centrality
of material goods over personal connection.
Discussion question: Act I
Act I (even in scene II, which for the most part has
no men in it) does indeed show Nora as doll-like: she is
coddled, pampered, and patronized. But do you see
anything“under the surface” that would lead you to
believe that she may later effect transformation?
Discussion question: Act I
Torvald Helmer and Dr. Rank see Krogstad
as being “morally afflicted” to the point of even
“poisoning” his children (Scene V). After scene
IV, when he initiates a crisis in the plot, do you
agree or disagree with their appraisal of
his character?
Discussion question: Act I
At the end of the act, Nora exclaims, “Nonsense! It
can’t be! It’s impossible! It must be impossible!”
To what (whom?) do you think she is referring ?
Ibsen wrote this in his initial notes for the play:
October 19th, 1878
"There are two kinds of moral law, two kinds of
conscience, one in man and a completely different
one in woman. They do not understand each other;
but in matters of practical living the woman is judged
by man’s law, as if she were not a woman but a man."
The wife in the play ends by having no idea
what is right and what is wrong: natural feelings on the
one hand and belief in authority on the other lead her to
utter distraction.
A woman cannot he herself in modern society.
It is an exclusively male society, with laws made
by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess
feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint"
“A Doll’s House” Act II
Discussion question for Act II
Of the seven, what is your favorite scene in this Act?
Least favorite?
Please explain why for each.
Discussion question for Act II
What symbolism, if any, do you see attached
to the costumes, which we are introduced to
in scene I via Anne Marie and which prompts
Nora to say, “. . . If only I could rip them up into a thousand
pieces” after the Nursemaid informs her “. . . I’m afraid
they are in an awful mess.”?
Discussion question for Act II
In scene III, a pivotal one, Nora is responsible for
having Torvald post the letter to Krogstad. What does she
say that exacerbates his ill feelings towards his employee?
After the moment of high tension in scene III, Ibsen shifts
to a scene IV where Nora and Dr. Rank have a discourse
that, at times, borders on inanity. Why do you think Ibsen
went to this place and not, say, to a scene where Krogstad
gets the letter and then fulminates?
Discussion questions for Act II
In scene V, after Krogstad’s departure,
to what do attribute the quickness of Kristine’s
postulating that it must be Krogstad that loaned
Nora the money after Nora says only, “It’s a letter
from Krogstad.”? Contrast this with her naiveté
in scene II concerning Rank.
What is the “miracle” that Nora expects in scene VI?
(also mentioned at the end of scene VII)
How did the concept originate? Why are her feelings
about it mixed?
Discussion question for Act II
In scene VII, What is the significance of the Tarantella for
Nora? For Torvald?
Discussion questions for Act II
After act II, do you have a different opinion of Krogstad?
How do you interpret Nora’s lamenting, near the end
the act, about the thirty-one hours she has to live?
“A Doll’s House” Act III
Discussion question for Act III
Some critics see the scene I discussion between Kristine
and Krogstad as a “foil” for the subsequent discussion
between Torvald and Nora in scene III, which follows his
vitriolic diatribe. Do you agree? Disagree?
Kristine/ Nils
Nora/ Torvald
Discussion question for Act III
What does Torvald say during his letter-prompted diatribe
(scene III) that leads an audience member or reader to see
why Nora later says, “Sit down, Torvald. We two have a lot
to talk about.”
Discussion question for Act III
Based on your understanding of the entire play, do you think
Nora’s epiphanic moment is justified?
Comment on the play’s ending. Remember for 19th century
audiences, it was considered odious.
Miranda’s Question for Act III
What do you think lies ahead for Nora?
What lies ahead for Torvald?
Matt’s Question for Act III
• Do you see any relationship between marriages
today and the marriage between Nora and
Matt’s question for Act III
• Do people like Nora, Torvald, and Dr. Rank still
exist in today’s society? If so, to what extent are
the 21st century remakes similar to the characters
they portray?
Joy’s question for Act III
• Why do you think Helmer says in the last scene, “But
couldn't we live here together like brother and
sister?” Is he still trying to protect his honor or is it
something else?
Nora’s stage directions in Act III
after Helmer cries out “Nora!”
and begins his fulmination.
trying to tear herself free
taking a step towards him
looking fixedly at him, her face hardening
coldly and calmly
in her everyday dress
shakes her head
Torvald’s stage directions
struggling to keep his composure
putting on her coat
she draws the shawl around her
she goes out through the hall door
sinks down on a chair and covers
his face with his hands
Ibsen created an alternative ending
“in case of an emergency.”
Nora does not leave the house; instead,
Torvald makes her gaze upon her sleeping children,
and sinking to the floor as the curtain begins to fall
she says, “Oh, this is a sin against myself, but I cannot
leave them.”
It is said Ibsen thought this ending was
a “barbarous outrage” and should not be used.
Themes in “A Doll’s House”
Parental and filial obligations
The sacrificial role of women
The unreliability of appearances
The centrality of materialism
Motifs/Symbols in “A Doll’s House”
Names that effect diminution of character
Nora’s definition of freedom
The Christmas tree
New Year’s Day
The Dress/The Tarantella
Main Characters in “Doll’s House”
Dr. Rank
Mrs.. Linde
foils for Nora and Torvald
Nora is the pivotal character in the play;
except for Act III, scene I, she is in every one.
Arthur Miller
1915-2005 Biography
Expressionism, in the visual, literary, and performing
arts, is a movement or tendency that strives to express subjective
feelings and emotions rather than to depict reality or nature
objectively. The movement developed during the late 19th and
early 20th centuries as a reaction against the academic standards
that had prevailed in Europe since the Renaissance (1300-1600),
particularly in French and German art academies. In expressionism
the artist tries to present an emotional experience in its most
compelling form. The artist is not concerned with reality as it
appears but with its inner nature and with the emotions aroused
by the subject. To achieve these ends, the subject is frequently
caricatured, exaggerated, distorted, or otherwise altered in order
to stress the emotional experience in its most intense and
concentrated form. Miller’s play is a very carefully constructed
amalgamation of Realism and Expressionism. This can be seen
especially in the melting of present and past (Willy’s distortion
of time), in the stage directions, and in the physical setting.
Death of a Salesman
Stage Directions
The stage directions in both plays we discuss
use “left” and “right” to designate placement of
props, positions, and movements of characters,
etc. Most often these indicate “stage left” and
“stage right,” which denote the actor’s
perspective as he or she is facing the audience.
Center stage
Stage -Right
Stage -Left
Discussion question for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I
How does Miller amalgamate Realism
and Expressionism in this act?
Express yourself with specificity!
Scene I ?
Scene III ?
Scene IV ?
Discussion questions for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I
What significant ideas do you learn from the
38 lines (post Scene information) that make up the
initial stage directions,prior to Willy’s entering the
house with his “baggage”?
twenty-five devoted to setting
seven to Willy
six to Linda
Discussion questions for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I
While Willy is downstairs caught up in his
dreaming about some idyllic past, Miller shifts to the
upstairs bedroom (scene II) and we are introduced to
Hap and Biff. What do we learn about them
and their relationship to each other, to their father?
Is there anything in this same scene that hints
at a theme in the story related to organic vs inorganic,
natural vs un-natural?
Discussion question for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I
Characterize Linda in Act I: do you see her as a strong
individual? As a weak one? Is she honest? Dishonest?
She appears in every scene except scene II, whether
“as of old” or present day (1949); she is most vocal in
scene V when talking with her sons.
Discussion questions for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I
What are your thoughts on the ending of act I?
Do you think it offers any foreshadowing for
events in act II?
Those of you who have yet to read Act II: what are your
thoughts about what might transpire, based on your
analysis of Act I?
Discussion question for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I
Miller never really tells us what it is that Willy
sells to his buyers, but we sense he is also trying
to “sell” something to his family: what is that?
Death of a Salesman Act II
and the Requiem
Discussion question for Death of a Salesman, Act II
All (?) of you have now read both Acts, each having five scenes,
and the Requiem. What is your favorite Act and scene
and why? Least favorite and why? Please be specific.
Act I
scene I Willy’s arrival from Yonkers
scene II Biff and Hap in the bedroom
scene III Mainly Willy’s fantasy about
the past, The Woman apears
scene IV Charley and Willy’s card game
(back to past/ arrival of Ben)
scene V First kitchen conversation
with “million dollar deal”
Act II
scene I Willy’s reflecting on a better life
scene II Willy and Howard
scene III Willy, Bernard, and Charley
scene IV Willy and boys at Chop House
scene V Second kitchen conversation with
major revelatory dialogue from Biff
Requiem: Five of the principals gathered at Willy’s grave after the funeral
Discussion idea for Death of a Salesman, Act II
Much like Act III, scene I was a “foil” for Act III, scene
III in A Doll’s House, do you see any contrast between
what Willy says to Biff about going to see Bill Oliver-Act I, scene V--to what he says and how he acts
when he goes to see Howard Wagner in scene II
of this act?
In the fall of 2010, this was one of the written section questions
for the Drama exam.
Discussion idea for Death of a Salesman, Act II
At Howard’s office, Willy tells him the story of
Dave Singleman. Why is this a significant speech in
the play for the reader or audience member?
Discussion idea for Death of a Salesman, Act II
Do you see any symbolism in the scene when
Biff, after returning from Boston with the knowledge
of his father’s affair, burns his sneakers and fights
Bernard for “half an hour [ . . . ] crying right through it”?
Discussion idea for Death of a Salesman, Act II
Some critics think that Biff’s moment of anagnorisis/
epiphany at Oliver’s is the climax of the play; would
you agree or disagree?
Discussion idea for Death of a Salesman, Act II
Still, even though I blew it on Tuesday and
showed you this slide,Why do you think Willy
commits suicide?
1949 Studebaker
Discussion question for “Death of a Salesman”
Why do you think Miller employed the Requiem?
A. All of the major conflicts of the play are presented,
if not resolved.
B. Biff and Happy are revealed as they are likely to remain.
C. Charlie’s manifesto elevates the modern and common
man to heroic status.
D. Willy, ironically, turns out to be anything but “well-liked.”
E. Miller refuses to let us know whether the insurance
company pays off or not.

Discussion questions for Act II What is the