Writing about plays
A play or a drama is a rather difficult piece to write. The most predominant factor in a play is the dialogue. There is little left to the audience’s imagination as almost everything is conveyed through dialogue. The work is not intended to be read but to be staged. The action does not unfold in the minds of the reader but before their eyes. However, there are certain elements in the drama as in any other medium, which cannot be compromised. The setting of a work is the locale, time and society, which the work is trying to comprehend or explore.
The plot of a work is often related to the time in history and the society in which the author is basing it. Elements of the plot will reflect the society. However, the debate whether the setting is so important that the play cannot be adapted into another society at another time would be debatable. For instance, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams was adapted into a Malayalam movie, which was set in an Anglo-Indian family in Kerala in the 1960s, while the original play was set in the late 1930s America.
William Shakespeare’s Othello has also been a favourite with filmmakers, who retain the theme but change the setting. I would say that though the setting has a significant bearing on the play, it is not sacrosanct. Changing it would change the elements of the play, but not the story. The exposition of the play would have to be sharp in the beginning. The audience would have to quickly be brought into the action. In Othello, we are clearly introduced to the vile intentions of Iago, how he loathes Othello and how he would like to see his ruin.
So also, Shakespeare, at the very beginning, reveals the marriage between Desdemona and Othello has invited the fury and envy of many, including the former’s father. The two essential elements of the plot unfold then and there – hatred and jealousy. The most striking feature of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry is the check that is due to arrive on the day the play takes place. Act I reveals check is what will change the fortunes of those in the house. Foreshadowings and flashbacks are used for dramatic effects. The Glass Menagerie starts with a flashback.
Tom, the narrator and protagonist, explains to the audience that the play is filled with memories. In Act 3 of A Raisin in the Sun, Asagai, a suitor of Beneatha, speaks about what he foresees in his village in Africa after he returns following his studies. I will go home and much of what I will have to say will seem strange to the people of my village… But I will teach and work and things will happen, slowly and swiftly. At times it will seem that nothing changes at all… and then again… the sudden dramatic events which make history leap into the future.
Though it is not said whether this happened, we are made aware that this description will also suit Beneatha as she has also decided to move with Asagai to Africa. In The Glass Menagerie, within the earlier-mentioned flashback, there is the memory of Laura receiving 17 gentlemen callers one Sunday afternoon. It is a carefully-written scene where Tom predicts his mother will tell her story for the umpteenth time and his mother indeed does. The protagonist in Othello has a fatal flaw – jealousy. He is a hero, feared, loved and hated by the other characters in the play. Iago knows Othello’s weakness is Desdemona.
Othello cannot tolerate betrayal from anyone. In the Glass Menagerie, the protagonists Tom, Amanda and Laura are trapped in time. Tom wants to get out of it but even when he does, memories do not leave him. Amanda is tired of being without money and luxury. And Laura is trapped between handicap and fantasy. At one point in the play, Amanda tells Tom, “You don’t know things anywhere! You live in a dream: you manufacture illusions. ” In A Raisin in the Sun, I would say the protagonists are Mama and Walter. Mama is trying to help her family, even while doing what she thinks is right.
She denies Walter the insurance money because she says she will not support anything which encourages alcohol consumption. She is trying to also deal with her young daughter, who is a radical. Walter is trying hard to be a successful man. He knows that he is unable to give his wife, mother, sister and son any happiness. In frustration, he contemplates all solutions but the right one. The conflict of the play resolves at the end when Walter makes the right decision. In Othello, the climax is when he smothers Desdemona, just before Emilia can arrive to tell him the truth.
The audience is aware by now that Othello will not carry shame and guilt on himself. His death is an anti-climax. However, there is a resolution of sorts as Shakespeare leaves the audience aware that the end is tragic but complete. In The Glass Menagerie, the moment of truth when Jim tells Laura he is already engaged and will not be able to visit her thereafter is the climax. The scene is made symbolic with the breaking of the unicorn, a part of the glass menagerie, which was also Laura’s favourite piece. Tom leaves home that day but is not free of Laura’s haunting face ever since.
The climax is tragic and unlike Othello, does not resolve the conflict. However, A Raisin in the Sun has a climax which is like a knot that eases in the end. After Walter loses the money that Mama gave him, better sense prevails as he makes the decision to shoulder the family. Shakespeare makes his Othello dark and to some extent even ugly, a man not worthy of taking Desdemona as his wife. However, his merits as a commander are esteemed. Laura in the Glass Menagerie is a cripple. That has added to her misery as an introvert, shy girl.
The theme of Othello, of love, hatred and jealousy is identifiable with human beings. That may be a reason why the story has been adapted into many languages down the centuries. A Raisin in the Sun also speaks of certain emotions which surpass society and culture. But, the Glass Menagerie is complex. It is hard to comprehend why Tom would be so unwilling to support his family, though the fact remains that he works to pay the rent. Also, it is surprising that the mother should be so concerned about finding a husband for her daughter, at times even forgetting that her daughter has a handicap.
While representative perhaps of the society they are set in, it is not easy to say whether they would fit only in there. Emotions, the backbones of these plays, are common to mankind, be it in America, Europe, Africa or Asia. Works cited Shakespeare, William. Four Tragedies. 1988. New York: Bantam Books. Halliday, F. E. A Shakespeare Companion. 1964. Baltimore: Penguin. Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. 1959. Random House: New York. Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. 1999. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation. Bray, Robert. Introduction. The Glass Menagerie. 1999. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation.Sample Essay of Paperial.com