Chapter 14 20th

Chapter 14
Early 20th-Century Drama
From An Outline of English Literature by
Thornley and Roberts
Several General Tendencies
I. The attempt to show on stage some parts of the daily
lives of ordinary people in a realistic way that often
contains social and political criticism. i.e. George Bernard
Shaw (p.165)
II. Of the individual’s research for identity in an
unfriendly outside world, and the difficulty and fear of
communicating with other individuals. i.e. Samule
Beckett and Harold Pinter (p.171)
III. Language is not only the means by which the
characters’ feelings and beliefs are expressed but an
important part of the play in its own right, particularly
when it is used for a witty or comic effect to contrast with
the seriousness of the theme beneath. i.e. Oscard Wilde
George Bernard Shaw
Shows on stage some parts of the daily lives of
ordinary people in a realistic way that often contains
social and political criticism (p.165-67)
 Shaw’s plays was to face his audiences with new
points of view and ways looking at themselves as
well as the society they lived in
 Effects: shock and offence
 Saying and showing the opposite of what his
audience expected
 Show in various ways the workings of his theory of
the “Life Force,” the power that drives people to
value life as a great gift and fight for a better world
George Bernard Shaw
 Arms
and the Man (1989)
 The Devil’s Disciple (1901):
 Man and Superman (1903)
 Caesar and Cleopatra (1901)
 Major Barbara (1905)
 Saint Joan (1924)
 Pygmalion (1912) –made into film My Fair
Samuel Beckett
Born in Ireland and spent his adult life in France
Sees language as building a wall between human
beings which stops them communicating
Waiting for Godot (1954)
Show true essence of the human condition
Vladmir and Estragon waiting for the arrival of the
mysterious Godot to give their lives some purpose
and direction. But Godot does not come, and may not
even exist.
Shows the pain and fear as well as the humor of the
two men as they try to use reason and argument to
help them in a situation where reason is not enough
Estragon is more determined that they should wait for
Godot as they have been told to do so.
Waiting for Godot
Harold Pinter
The central theme in his plays: the impossibility
of communication between characters in a
closed situation.
 The Birthday Party (1957)
 The Caretaker (1960)
 The Homecoming (1964)
His plays reflect the difficulty of communication
between people.
Oscar Wilde
Language used for its witty or comic effect
Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
Witty language which leads to its comic effect by
reversing what is usual or expected
The appearance of things and people are in contrast
with each other, and these contrasts are expressed in
language of great wit