After our quiz on Act III, we will read Acts IV & V in class today and conclude our comedy.
Remember that comedies often include:
Remember that comedies often include:
- Weddings (romantic pairings--sometimes with mismatched lovers...) This tradition is as old as Old Comedy--Ancient Greek comedy came out of phallic songs--songs about the penis and progenitive powers of procreation (say that 10 times fast...); Weddings usually end a comedy.
- Mistaken Identity (Sebastian is taken for Viola, Viola is taken for Sebastian. Shakespeare often used the trope of "twins" in his comedies to create mistaken identity situations to enhance his comedy. This is closely related to the item below: cross-dressing/disguises.
- Cross-dressing/disguises: Boys dressing as girls and girls dressing as boys. Of course, Shakespearean actors were all men (it was illegal for women to be actors...) so this a common and practical play device in Greek and Elizabethan theater. Of course, the tradition continues today in the works of Charles Busch and other comedic writers. In Twelfth Night Feste dresses up as the curate (priest) Sir Topas to fool Malvolio, Malvolio dresses oddly in crossed-garters, Viola dresses up as Cesario.
- Farce: physical humor can be found throughout most comedies--and Twelfth Night is no exception. The drunken revelry of Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Feste in the first act includes a lot of physical humor, the sword play between Sir Andrew and Viola in Act III is another example of humor, and, of course, the hiding scene as Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Maria, and Fabian trick Malvolio with the fake letter are all good examples of farce. Quick entrances, exits, close calls, and physical violence done in a hyperbolic way are all elements of farce.
What to do with all this info? Try adding some of these classic elements of comedies in your own play scripts. Try to add some farce, disguises, or a wedding/partnering between two unlikely characters in your own scripts.
Keep writing your play scripts over break! (See HOMEWORK below).
According to David Ives when interviewed by the magazine "The Dramatist", one-act plays offer a writer a "greater challenge...greater than the challenge of larger...plays, in the same way that the sonnet with only fourteen lines remains the ever-attempted Everest of poetry. For what the one-act demands is a kind of concentrated perfection." He goes on to say that unlike longer plays which have time and space to develop plots and characters, the scenes in a one-act must be more constrained--the plot needs to be tighter, the characterization more apparent and specific, and the theme/message (Aristotle's category of IDEA) needs to be clear, but not too obvious to bore us, and stretched enough to be longer than the 10-minute play).
The key, says David Ives, is compression. One-acts are often stripped-down but powerful. As you read the 3 short one-acts, note how the authors Strindberg, Wilde, and Chekhov masterfully tell a story that is not too long, but not too short. Note how the writers compress action, time, and place (the 3 unities) to cover just enough. If these plays went on to a second or third or fourth act, they would be tedious--their content would not be interesting and there would be too much extra, non-dramatic or effective action in the play.
If you are working on your own one-act, remember that these plays require all the elements of longer plays, but must be more compressed and "tight" in the writing.
HOMEWORK: Please read August Strindberg's Miss Julie, Oscar Wilde's Salome, and Anton Chekhov's The Boor over the break. Examine the scripts for the major action occurring in the play and how the authors attempt to compress and tighten their stories. For each play, answer how the one-act centers around one major action (or EVENT). Identify and explain that event in writing. To help you, consider the Major Dramatic Question you have as an attentive reader. (i.e., what do you want to know about the characters or the situation by the end of the play?) This homework assignment is due Thursday, Jan. 5.
Also, please make sure you spend some time writing your play projects. Don't drop the ball on this project. It is due Jan. 20. We will be workshopping your script drafts when we return from break.
Have a nice holiday!