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Theatrical Realism Essay

1749 words - 7 pages

Theatrical Realism
Theatrical Realism is the attempt of playwrights to mirror reality on the stage. That is to say, these playwrights intend for the audience to see themselves on the stage without fanfare – a stripped-down form of theatrical arts. Realistic theatre does not possess the magical elements of theatre that preceded it, but this is the strength of realism. Anton Chekhov echoes this point, “I wanted to tell people honestly: ‘Look at yourselves. See how badly you live and how tiresome you are.’ The main thing is that people should understand this. When they do, they will surely create a new and better life for themselves”. Realistic playwrights stood on the shoulders of the ...view middle of the document...

Realism came to the fore in the late nineteenth century with Henrik Ibsen as its progenitor. Ibsen is often referred to as the father of modern drama. His realistic plays introduced us to a critical eye and unrestricted examination of life and the issues of morality. The middle class was the focus of realism and they are omnipresent on the realist stage. In A Doll’s House, Ibsen takes on the subject of duty and domestic relations. The play follows the awakening of Nora Helmer, an average wife and stay at home mother, from her unexamined life of servitude. All of her life, she has been ruled by a man – her father and then her husband, Torvald. Nora slowly begins to question the foundations on which she has built her reality. She slowly evolves from being a childlike play doll to a woman who is determined to know not only what her place in the world is but also what it could be. The play ends with Nora leaving her dollhouse for the uncertainties of the real world. The characters of A Doll’s House are everyday folks and their speech is just like our own. There are no soliloquies, no exaggerated rapid-fire dialog or anything else that would disrupt the feeling of the audience that they are eavesdropping in on people’s lives. This trend toward a greater fidelity in the text can also be attributed to the Russian director Constantin Stanislavski. Stanislavski developed the system that bears his name around the idea of the actor living a part.
Stanislavski’s system focused on the actor connecting with a part. Stanislavski believed that acting could be learned and could be learned step by step. The system places a great emphasis on an actor visualizing a person for their character. For instance, the actor is instructed to hear the character’s voice, see his walk, and even know how the character would react to certain situations. He believed that if an actor knew her characters thoughts, the proper vocal and bodily expressions would naturally follow. This all leads to a more fleshed out character that the audience can more easily relate with. As Stanislavski himself said, “All action on the stage must have an inner justification, be logical, coherent, and real” (Benedetti: 62).
Realism also stresses the importance of the text being in the vernacular of the people it is portraying. Ibsen uses common language to convey the story. Ibsen writes the way that the characters would talk in relation to each other. Torvald repeatedly condescends to his wife Nora referring to her as various “simple” animals and often as a child. A marriage based on male dominance and female subservience was typical of the era and thus, must be depicted on the stage. At times throughout the play, one can almost hear oneself speaking the very words of the characters. In some of the most important and tense exchanges, the words are simplest and most accessible. When Nora confronts Torvald about being treated as a doll, she uses words that a person today might use to describe...

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