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Evaluating Plays

Modern drama, according to Shaw juxtaposes a character’s dwindling faith in themselves and reality. The playwright’s tragic heroes have survived in life under false pretences, thus they are doomed to suffer from their one flaw of ego and not facing reality: Thus, Shaw’s definition of a modern drama applies to The Glass Menagerie and A Doll’s House as all of the characters are doomed to repeat these tragic flaws as revealed in their actions and their dialogues. Shaw states that in modern drama a tragic hero must be present in order for the audience to understand the significance of a tragic flaw.

In classic Greek drama (which Shaw references as having more dialogue than action and this relates to modern drama) , Plato’s idea of morality is presented as rational action (a rationalization that requires much dialogue). Morality isn’t a free will that governs humanity’s actions, but rather it is universal reason (life as a whole) that dictates action, thus in dramatic terms, playwrights are given leeway; it is permissible for Ibsen to allow Nora to leave the shackles of Helmer. It is in this freewill choice, decided by Nora that she becomes her own person, and not a tragic hero.

The release that Ibsen gives to Nora is one that is strictly in accordance with morality. Nora cannot exist as a whole person while still living with Helmer and thus she is morally obligated to herself and the existing universe to traverse past the paradox of being a housewife, and venture into the unjust yet unexplored world. Ibsen writes of Nora, “Maybe. But you neither think nor talk like the man I could bind myself to. As soon as your fear was over-and it was not fear for what threatened me, but for what might happen to you-when the whole things was past, as far as you were concerned it was exactly as if nothing at all had happened.

Exactly as before, I was your little skylark, your doll, which you would in future treat with doubly gently care, because it was so brittle and fragile. Torvald-it was then it dawned upon me that for eight years I had been living here with a strange man, and had borne him three children—. Oh, I cannot bear to think of it! I could tear myself into little bits! Ah, Torvald, the most wonderful thing of all would have to happen” (71-72). The development of reality is something that is not objectively found, nor displayed but subjectively designed through dialogue according the fantasies of a person.

In Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie the entire family involved in the play in fact does not see a reality as is, but rather a reality that is based on their own desires, their own design, and most importantly is not a reality which is in any relation to the reality that their neighbors or friends partake as can be alluded to in Williams’ relating to the audience or reader just how the family’s home is built, “one of those vast hive-like conglomerations of cellular living-units that flower as warty growths in overcrowded urban centers of lower middle-class population” (Williams 21).

This is the reality the Wingfield’s wish to escape. The play The Glass Menagerie of Tennessee Williams focuses on the life of Amanda along with her son Tom, and “weakling” daughter Laura during the year 1937 at St. Louis. Having left by their father, Tom, as the eldest son, was forced to work for the family. This characterization, the lines used, and the various symbolisms frequently used in the play makes up for a one whole interesting and heartwarming play.

Moreover, the feelings of isolation, disappointment, entrapment, and/or expectations coupled with failed dreams are all highlighted in this story through dialogue over action adhere to Shaw’s prerequisite of modern drama and its effectiveness to an audience. Modern drama reveals human nature to be a nature of reason, not strictly adherent to passion or feelings, and Ibsen strives to be exact in their representation of reality.

Morality then, becomes the crux of playwriting. Morality is reason. This is not to say that Plato and other classic Greek writers were ascetic; rather they placed passion, and feelings in their plays but the ethics of humanity are tied into the good of a person because reasonably, being virtuous, or good leads a character to happiness or release at the end of a modern play. The word for this given by Plato is eudemonism, which means blissful.

In the final act of Ibsen’s play this is the word which correctly describes Nora’s state of mind through her action of leaving her husband as Johnston states, “It is, by contrast, a tragedy, and Nora has (for me) far more in common with, say, Oedipus or Antigone than she has with Major Barbara or the Goodbye Girl. Her exit, thus, is much more a self-destructive assertion of her uncompromising and powerful ego, a necessary expression of her Romantic quest for freedom, than it is an intelligently earned insight into how best she can learn to function as an individual amid a conforming and oppressive society” (Johnston Paragraph 5).

Although Johnston emphasizes Nora’s decision as relatable to Antigone’s tragedy, Johnston also misses this fundamental point: That Nora’s assertion was made by her own will and desire for freedom, and in this fact is found her heroic nature, not her tragedy. Anything else that a character may be presented with and made to make a choice, that choice must be rooted in virtue. Modern plays are not only written obsessively about virtue (as can be seen Chekov’s rather depressing view of humanity) but also about the reality of an individual when they are presented with their own humanity.

It is how the character responds to their state of humanity that defines them as heroes in plays. Nora then would be considered a hero, because she realized that she would have to change and not expect anyone else to; she does not become despondent about her location or chance or circumstance as did Torvald in a subtler way. Ibsen then, as a modern playwright, may be considered an optimist while Williams adheres to the reality of the characters and their tragic flaws swallow them whole. Works Cited Cardullo, B. Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. The Explicator. (Spring 1997). 55(3): 161-164.

Fordyce, W. Tennesse Williams’s Tom Wingfield and Georg Kaiser’s Cashier: A Contextual Comparison. Papers on Language and Literature. (Summer 1998). 34(3): 250-273. Haake, C. A. Exorcizing Blue Devils: The Night of the Iguana as Tennessee Williams’s Ultimate Confessional. The Mississippi Quarterly. (Winter 2004/2005). 58(1/2). 105-129. Ibsen, H. (1966). A Doll’s House. Airmont Books, New York. Johnston, I. On Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’. Online, Accessed: 10 April 2009. http://www. mala. bc. ca/~johnstoi/introser/ibsen. htm Levy, E. Through the Soundproof Glass: The Prison of the Self-Conscious in

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