Discussion questions for Act II What is the

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Arts & Humanities, Performing Arts, Drama
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ENH 110 Drama

History of Theatre Ancient Greece is categorized as having existed from a Dark age Period (circa 1100 BC) to the conquering by Rome (circa 146 BC). The fifth century is considered to be the Classical Age of Greek Culture, particularly of Theatre and especially in the city-state (polis) of Athens. Athens is one of the oldest named cities in the world, having been continuously inhabited for at least 7000 years. Situated in southern Europe, Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece in the first millennium BC and its cultural achievements during the 5th century BC laid the foundations of western civilization.

Origins of Tragedy Greek drama is a theatrical tradition that flourished in ancient Greece between 600-200 BC. The city state of Athens was the epicenter of Ancient Greek theatre. Formal theatre in Athens evolved from festivals related to the cult of Dionysus, the god of agriculture, fertility, mystery, wine, and intoxication. Events were held at the City Dionysia.

Origins of Tragedy, cont. Aristotle tells us that tragedy evolved from dithyrambs, songs sung in praise of Dionysus. Circa 600 BC: the poet Arion is credited with developing the dithyramb into a formalized narrative sung by a chorus. Circa 560 BC: a poet, Thespis, is credited with innovating a new style in which a solo actor performed the speeches of the characters in the narrative (using masks to distinguish between the different characters). Thespis is considered the first Greek “actor,” and his style became known as tragedy. Today, our formal term for actor is thespian. This new style, in 534 BC, became part of the official celebrations of the Dionysian festivals, mainly due to the ruler Pisistratus.


He was associated with •wine, which fosters intoxication: positve release and self-destructive passions and actions •wild nature: the god “outside” of civilized society •fierce, untamed animals: panthers, leopards, bulls and snakes •unbounded sexuality, unbounded by humane and civiled limits: symbolized by the half animal satyrs •ecstatic possession: worshippers were devoid of individual conscious identity female followers were maenads “raving ones,” who were most often in a frenzied state •dance: celebrated freedom from selfconsciousness and constraint •“otherness”: often he was represented on vases by a mask



Satyr and Maenad

Maenads and Satyrs

Function of the Masks •allowed the male actors and members of the chorus to assume female roles •allowed the actors to assume multiple roles: the playwright was limited to only three actors •allowed more emphasis on gesture and voice •limited the interaction between characters: spoken sections limit themselves to monologue and dialogue, in large part to avoid confusion about who is speaking (the audience could not see any movement of their lips).

Origins of Tragedy, cont The fifth century in Athens was known as the Golden Age, also as the Age of Pericles Circa 471 BC: the dramatist Aeschylus innovated a second actor, thus making dialogue possible. Circa 468 BC: Sophocles introduced a third actor, making more complex dramatic situations possible. Three actors subsequentially became the formal convention. At about the same time the chorus was increased from 12 to 15, and the chorus took on the role of the general population--it became a separate character. The subject matter of the plays expanded from just Dionysian lore to the whole body of Greek mythology.

Tragedy: from the Greek word “tragoedia, meaning “goat song” Originally established by Aristotle in his Poetics, a tragedy is a play, in verse or prose, which recounts an important and causally related series of events in the life of a person of “significance,” such events culminating in an unhappy catastrophe, the whole treated with dignity and seriousness. The purpose of a tragedy is to arouse the emotions of pity and fear by showing how humans are at the mercy of “moira” (fate) and thus to produce in the audience a catharsis of these emotions. The question of what constitutes “significance” for the tragic hero is answered in each age by the concept of significance or importance held by that age. The trilogies, three tragedies followed by a satyr play, were always performed outdoors at a theatre usually built along a hillside.

Structure of the Greek Tragedy prose


lyrics/dance Parados prose


First Episode

lyrics/dance First Stasimon (alternations between episodes and stasima) Exodos prose


5th century BC Greek Theatre



Thymele: alter

Dancing Area Stage






Henrik Ibsen

1828-1906 Biography

Modern Times

The term Modern Times is used by historians to describe the period of time immediately following what is somewhat confusingly known as the Early Modern Times. * Early Modern Times lasted from the end of the 15th century to the end of the 18th century. * Modern Times began at the end of the 18th century, continuing to the present. Other similar terms, such as Modern Period, Modern Age, or Modern Era, are also commonly used. The movement known as "Postmodernism" (especially dominant from the 1960s to the early 1980s) is widely debated, and there is scholarly disagreement about how to describe very recent history.

Well-Made Play structure Popularized by Eugene Scribe in France in the early 19th century (characterized by punctilious plotting techniques) The plot is often based on a withheld secret-known to the audience but not to all the characters--and usually involves revealing letters or papers which complicate the dramatic situation. The overall pattern involves a steadily mounting suspense, achieved through a battle of wits between protagonist and antagonist, until the climax (final act), when the secret is revealed and the pattern returns to the normal order, i. e., often a happy ending.

Realism in Theatre In art, realism is the movement toward representing reality as it is. Realistic drama is an attempt to portray life on stage, a movement away from the conventional melodramas and sentimental comedies of the 1700s, a movement counteracting Romanticism. It is expressed in theatre through the use of symbolism, character development, stage setting, and storyline and is exemplified in a play such as Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House.

Tenants of Realistic Theater

* Always credulous, nothing to test believability in audience; emphasis on objective reality

* Dialogue only, no asides, soliloquies, or monologues (except when addressed to another onstage character) * An individual represents a societal problem * Often a linear plot

Ibsen on Realism in “ A Doll’s House” The play is, as you must have observed, conceived in the most realistic style; the illusion I wished to produce was that of reality. I wished to produce the impression on the reader that what he was reading was something that had really happened. If I had employed verse, I should have counteracted my own intention [. . . .] We are no longer living in the days of Shakespeare. [. . .] [W]hat I desired to depict were human beings, and therefore I would not let them talk the "language of the Gods."

A Doll’s House

Stage Directions The stage directions in both plays we discuss use “left” and “right” to designate placement of props, positions, and movements of characters, etc. Most often these indicate “stage left” and “stage right,” which denote the actor’s perspective as he or she is facing the audience.


Center stage Stage -Right Stage -Left House-Left House-Right Downstage

Discussion question: Act I

Based on your understanding of this act, how does Ibsen characterize the institution of marriage in the 19th century?

Discussion question: Act I Torvald uses (over 20 times in this act) expressions beginning with “my little . . .”; (italics mine) what does this say about his character?

Discussion prompt: Act I Discuss Act I’s emphasis on the theme of centrality of material goods over personal connection.

Discussion question: Act I Act I (even in scene II, which for the most part has no men in it) does indeed show Nora as doll-like: she is coddled, pampered, and patronized. But do you see anything“under the surface” that would lead you to believe that she may later effect transformation?

Discussion question: Act I

Torvald Helmer and Dr. Rank see Krogstad as being “morally afflicted” to the point of even “poisoning” his children (Scene V). After scene IV, when he initiates a crisis in the plot, do you agree or disagree with their appraisal of his character?

Discussion question: Act I At the end of the act, Nora exclaims, “Nonsense! It can’t be! It’s impossible! It must be impossible!”

To what (whom?) do you think she is referring ?

Ibsen wrote this in his initial notes for the play: October 19th, 1878 "There are two kinds of moral law, two kinds of conscience, one in man and a completely different one in woman. They do not understand each other; but in matters of practical living the woman is judged by man’s law, as if she were not a woman but a man." The wife in the play ends by having no idea what is right and what is wrong: natural feelings on the one hand and belief in authority on the other lead her to utter distraction. A woman cannot he herself in modern society. It is an exclusively male society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint"

“A Doll’s House” Act II

Discussion question for Act II Of the seven, what is your favorite scene in this Act? Least favorite? Please explain why for each.

Discussion question for Act II

What symbolism, if any, do you see attached to the costumes, which we are introduced to in scene I via Anne Marie and which prompts Nora to say, “. . . If only I could rip them up into a thousand pieces” after the Nursemaid informs her “. . . I’m afraid they are in an awful mess.”?

Discussion question for Act II

In scene III, a pivotal one, Nora is responsible for having Torvald post the letter to Krogstad. What does she say that exacerbates his ill feelings towards his employee?

After the moment of high tension in scene III, Ibsen shifts to a scene IV where Nora and Dr. Rank have a discourse that, at times, borders on inanity. Why do you think Ibsen went to this place and not, say, to a scene where Krogstad gets the letter and then fulminates?

Discussion questions for Act II In scene V, after Krogstad’s departure, to what do attribute the quickness of Kristine’s postulating that it must be Krogstad that loaned Nora the money after Nora says only, “It’s a letter from Krogstad.”? Contrast this with her naiveté in scene II concerning Rank. What is the “miracle” that Nora expects in scene VI? (also mentioned at the end of scene VII) How did the concept originate? Why are her feelings about it mixed?

Discussion question for Act II

In scene VII, What is the significance of the Tarantella for Nora? For Torvald?

Discussion questions for Act II After act II, do you have a different opinion of Krogstad?

How do you interpret Nora’s lamenting, near the end the act, about the thirty-one hours she has to live?

“A Doll’s House” Act III

Discussion question for Act III Some critics see the scene I discussion between Kristine and Krogstad as a “foil” for the subsequent discussion between Torvald and Nora in scene III, which follows his vitriolic diatribe. Do you agree? Disagree? Kristine/ Nils rebirth rejuvenation resurrection revitalization

Nora/ Torvald dissolution cessation termination disintegration

Discussion question for Act III What does Torvald say during his letter-prompted diatribe (scene III) that leads an audience member or reader to see why Nora later says, “Sit down, Torvald. We two have a lot to talk about.”

Discussion question for Act III

Based on your understanding of the entire play, do you think Nora’s epiphanic moment is justified? Comment on the play’s ending. Remember for 19th century audiences, it was considered odious.

Miranda’s Question for Act III What do you think lies ahead for Nora? What lies ahead for Torvald?

Matt’s Question for Act III • Do you see any relationship between marriages today and the marriage between Nora and Torvald?

Matt’s question for Act III • Do people like Nora, Torvald, and Dr. Rank still exist in today’s society? If so, to what extent are the 21st century remakes similar to the characters they portray?

Joy’s question for Act III • Why do you think Helmer says in the last scene, “But couldn't we live here together like brother and sister?” Is he still trying to protect his honor or is it something else?

Nora’s stage directions in Act III after Helmer cries out “Nora!” and begins his fulmination. trying to tear herself free taking a step towards him

looking fixedly at him, her face hardening coldly and calmly in her everyday dress shakes her head

Torvald’s stage directions struggling to keep his composure sadly

imperturbably putting on her coat she draws the shawl around her she goes out through the hall door

sinks down on a chair and covers his face with his hands

Ibsen created an alternative ending “in case of an emergency.” Nora does not leave the house; instead, Torvald makes her gaze upon her sleeping children, and sinking to the floor as the curtain begins to fall she says, “Oh, this is a sin against myself, but I cannot leave them.” It is said Ibsen thought this ending was a “barbarous outrage” and should not be used.


Themes in “A Doll’s House” Morality Parental and filial obligations The sacrificial role of women

The unreliability of appearances The centrality of materialism

Motifs/Symbols in “A Doll’s House”

Money Names that effect diminution of character Nora’s definition of freedom Letters The Christmas tree New Year’s Day The Dress/The Tarantella

Main Characters in “Doll’s House”

Dr. Rank



Mrs.. Linde

Krogstad foils for Nora and Torvald

Nora is the pivotal character in the play; except for Act III, scene I, she is in every one.

Arthur Miller

1915-2005 Biography

Expressionism Expressionism, in the visual, literary, and performing arts, is a movement or tendency that strives to express subjective feelings and emotions rather than to depict reality or nature objectively. The movement developed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a reaction against the academic standards that had prevailed in Europe since the Renaissance (1300-1600), particularly in French and German art academies. In expressionism the artist tries to present an emotional experience in its most compelling form. The artist is not concerned with reality as it appears but with its inner nature and with the emotions aroused by the subject. To achieve these ends, the subject is frequently caricatured, exaggerated, distorted, or otherwise altered in order to stress the emotional experience in its most intense and concentrated form. Miller’s play is a very carefully constructed amalgamation of Realism and Expressionism. This can be seen especially in the melting of present and past (Willy’s distortion of time), in the stage directions, and in the physical setting.

Death of a Salesman

Stage Directions The stage directions in both plays we discuss use “left” and “right” to designate placement of props, positions, and movements of characters, etc. Most often these indicate “stage left” and “stage right,” which denote the actor’s perspective as he or she is facing the audience.


Center stage Stage -Right Stage -Left House-Left House-Right Downstage

Discussion question for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I How does Miller amalgamate Realism and Expressionism in this act? Express yourself with specificity! Scene I ? Scene III ? Scene IV ?

Discussion questions for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I

What significant ideas do you learn from the 38 lines (post Scene information) that make up the initial stage directions,prior to Willy’s entering the house with his “baggage”? twenty-five devoted to setting seven to Willy six to Linda

Discussion questions for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I

While Willy is downstairs caught up in his dreaming about some idyllic past, Miller shifts to the upstairs bedroom (scene II) and we are introduced to Hap and Biff. What do we learn about them and their relationship to each other, to their father? Is there anything in this same scene that hints at a theme in the story related to organic vs inorganic, natural vs un-natural?

Discussion question for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I

Characterize Linda in Act I: do you see her as a strong individual? As a weak one? Is she honest? Dishonest? She appears in every scene except scene II, whether “as of old” or present day (1949); she is most vocal in scene V when talking with her sons.

Discussion questions for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I

What are your thoughts on the ending of act I? Do you think it offers any foreshadowing for events in act II? Those of you who have yet to read Act II: what are your thoughts about what might transpire, based on your analysis of Act I?

Discussion question for “Death of a Salesman,” Act I

Miller never really tells us what it is that Willy sells to his buyers, but we sense he is also trying to “sell” something to his family: what is that?

Death of a Salesman Act II and the Requiem

Discussion question for Death of a Salesman, Act II All (?) of you have now read both Acts, each having five scenes, and the Requiem. What is your favorite Act and scene and why? Least favorite and why? Please be specific. Act I scene I Willy’s arrival from Yonkers scene II Biff and Hap in the bedroom scene III Mainly Willy’s fantasy about the past, The Woman apears scene IV Charley and Willy’s card game (back to past/ arrival of Ben) scene V First kitchen conversation with “million dollar deal”

Act II scene I Willy’s reflecting on a better life scene II Willy and Howard scene III Willy, Bernard, and Charley scene IV Willy and boys at Chop House scene V Second kitchen conversation with major revelatory dialogue from Biff

Requiem: Five of the principals gathered at Willy’s grave after the funeral

Discussion idea for Death of a Salesman, Act II

Much like Act III, scene I was a “foil” for Act III, scene III in A Doll’s House, do you see any contrast between what Willy says to Biff about going to see Bill Oliver-Act I, scene V--to what he says and how he acts when he goes to see Howard Wagner in scene II of this act? In the fall of 2010, this was one of the written section questions for the Drama exam.

Discussion idea for Death of a Salesman, Act II

At Howard’s office, Willy tells him the story of Dave Singleman. Why is this a significant speech in the play for the reader or audience member?

Discussion idea for Death of a Salesman, Act II

Do you see any symbolism in the scene when Biff, after returning from Boston with the knowledge of his father’s affair, burns his sneakers and fights Bernard for “half an hour [ . . . ] crying right through it”?

Discussion idea for Death of a Salesman, Act II

Some critics think that Biff’s moment of anagnorisis/ epiphany at Oliver’s is the climax of the play; would you agree or disagree?

Discussion idea for Death of a Salesman, Act II

Still, even though I blew it on Tuesday and showed you this slide,Why do you think Willy commits suicide?

1949 Studebaker

Discussion question for “Death of a Salesman”

Why do you think Miller employed the Requiem? A. All of the major conflicts of the play are presented, if not resolved. B. Biff and Happy are revealed as they are likely to remain. C. Charlie’s manifesto elevates the modern and common man to heroic status. D. Willy, ironically, turns out to be anything but “well-liked.” E. Miller refuses to let us know whether the insurance company pays off or not.


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