Modern Drama

Modern Drama

  • Type of paperArgumentative Essay
  • SubjectEnglish
  • Number of pages5
  • Writer qualityPlatinum
  • Format of citationMLA
  • Number of cited resources4

At the end of this course, we were expected to have reached some conclusions about modern drama as constituted by the different genres (realism, expressionism, absurdism) we have considered. All are overlapping, though different, efforts at developing new forms of dramatic/theatrical representation which speak to the abiding premise behind modernity, here, discontinuity. This final exam provides the opportunity to demonstrate such conclusions. Write an essay in which you argue to what extent, if any, playwright Harold Pinter’s ″The Homecoming″ should be considered an example of “modern drama” by drawing connections to modernity. You should also make connections to other modern plays we discussed in class (see the list attached) from at least two of the three genres we considered (realism, expressionism, and absurdism). There are several ways of making this argument. You can demonstrate how The Homecoming does/does not correspond with thematic concerns of modern drama, of formal experimentation of modern drama, and of the ideological ambitions of modern drama. You can do this through citing and discussion elements of our lectures and discussions, though you must compare The Homecoming with at least one work from the class (you can do more if you want). Make sure that you provide careful analysis of the play/plays that you choose. Don’t rely on extensive summary or generalizations. Cite, analyze, and discuss specific instances from the texts. At the same time, remember that the final is asking for conclusions about modern drama, more than Pinter’s play, so make sure that you use this analysis to develop a well-reasoned and coherent argument that links the play with (or demonstrates its distance from) modern drama.

Networking_Infrastructure_-_Assignment (1) Networking_Infrastructure_-_Extra_Notes

Modern Drama

The modern drama could be defined as the dramatic plays that were created in the 19th and 20th centuries by writers such as Tennessee Williams, Henrik Ibsen, Gerhart Hauptmann, Tony Kushner, and Oscar Wilde among others. ‘Modern drama’ also be interpreted as the publication by the University of Toronto Press that specializes in theatrical literature. Besides, the modern drama has seven elements including the characters, plot, theme, dialogue, convention, genre, and audience. There are various themes associated with the modern drama which revolves in and about the following: the importance of psychology, criticism of the society, revenge, destiny, The mightiness of the gods, pride, morality (relative to humans and the gods), faith, determination, (both human & divine), physical strength vs. intelligence. The modern drama has always been written in three styles including realism, expressionism, and absurdism (Stamp, P 293).

Realism is a theory of writing whereby the mundane, familiar or ordinary perspectives of lives are presented as a straightforward way which is presumed to introduce the reality of life. Well to crystallize this let’s examine how this theory of writing takes shape: the characters involved are the common ones, the costumes are authentically designed, stage settings are normally indoors and could be explained as believable, the dialogue applied is normally vernacular or the everyday speech, the protagonists are presented as they grow against the odds to assert themselves and the play is basically psychologically driven.

Expressionism is a style of writing which mainly focusses on the emotional content of the play, the different personal reactions from character to character, the metaphorical representation of reality and unnatural designing of the scenes. In this style: the settings are not localized and are akin to a dream, the actions thereof are broken into episodes, the characters do not have names and impersonal as it is, the dialogue is clipped and unreal.

Absurdism is a form of writing which presents life as devoid of any religious dimensions. It tries to bring back the significance of ritual and myth to the modern life; this style assumes a highly innovative form trying to shake man out of the comfort zone of the modern life. In this style of writing: the plot is anti-realistic and runs parallel to the normal norms; I essence there is deliberate lack of conflict and the plot might be a bit subtle, the characters are absurd and lack the motivation typical for other realistic ones and may not know who or where they are; they are characters are out of harmony with the world they live in and the play lacks proper character development, the dialogue is illogical and is often punctuated by incoherent and fast-paced monologue and the setting is not localized (Styan, p.292 ).

Against this backdrop, the play The Homecoming by Harold Pinter’s is examined for any connections to the modern drama relative to the writing as mentioned earlier genres. The play could be deemed as a modern drama based on the fact that the themes thereof (power) corresponds to the modern drama thematic concerns; we see that the theme has widely be distributed throughout the play as we see that there is struggle for power between Teddy’s father and: the retired butcher (Max), his brothers, the demolition worker, the chauffeur and his uncle. We also not that there is a looming physical engagement and some sexual allusions here and there. Additionally, we see that Teddy’s marriage is fraught with fights jealousy and infidelity which alludes to the developing struggle for power. The typical ideas of immorality in the modern drama have also been included in the play where we see Teddy’s wife behaving in a sexually suggestive manner when she makes grinding movement towards Lenny and Joey (who plans on turning her into a prostitute); we even see her making out with the duo which greatly exasperates Teddy. In addition, it’s that dialogue has widely been used throughout the play (Worthen et al., p.21)

The school of realism has also been applied in the play. Before we cite examples where realism has been used, it is worthwhile to revisit the play: Plays Unpleasant: Mrs. Warren’s Profession by Shaw, George Similar to this book The Homecoming play presents the common characters with common names and ordinary characters (the likes of Teddy’s wife Leny, and Joey. In addition, we see that the stage presented is indoors (in the house of Teddy’s father) and it’s believable far from just a piece of writing. Moreover, the dialogue thereof similar to the Shaw’s work is the common conversations without any modifications as it were. The dialogue also presents the thematic issues of the play where we see the theme of power playing out even before the play unfolds. The play could also be deemed as being psychologically driven; there is the marriage dysfunction, there is the parental concern on the side of Teddy’s father and his deep-rooted antagonism with his brother and the demolition worker. The play develops the protagonist (Teddy) as it unfolds. We see him as having experienced a failed marriage and at some point, giving his wife the opportunity to choose between their marriage and her acquaintances (Lenny and Joey); we even see him asserting his stance by leaving the room and without her (Shrager, p.56).

Similar to The Playboy of the Western World by Synge, John, The Homecoming presents the theme of love between Teddy and his wife. The characters used are ordinary with common names (Michael James, Christy, Shawn Keogh and Pegeen). Additionally, the stage is indoor and definite (Shawn’s place and Teddy’s home respectively) and is a concrete scene. The dialogue uses the normal conversation without so much stress on grammar just like the play (The Playboy of the Western World). The play develops in a psychological manner as evidenced by the presence of love and hate in Teddy’s home (Styan, p.236).

There also is also the sense of expressionism. Unlike the play The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman The Homecoming play has a localized stage at Teddy’s home. This would mean that this play does not apply this theory of writing in as much as the stage is concerned. This is observed in the dialogue usage where we see while the dialogue in the former play is clipped, the dialogue in the later play is simple and ordinary. The characters in the former are impersonal which could be seen as the direct antithesis of the latter play that has real and authentic characters. The former play does not present a protagonist who would mean that The Homecoming does not fall into the category of modern drama as far as this genre is concerned (Worthen et al., P 213).

The Homecoming play has a definite scene unlike the Long Day’s Journey into Night by O’Neill, Eugene which has an unspecified scene ‘the summer home.’   In addition, the two plays differ when it comes to the fact that while the former is psychologically driven, the latter is emotionally driven. However, the two plays present characters who are and have the common names. The actions of the characters in the latter play have been broken into episodes where we see that the dialogue is seen to be only between two people in each act. On the contrary, The Homecoming play has a dialogue distributed evenly in each act. Again, this would mean that the plays are worlds apart.

We could also examine The Verge by Glaspell, Susan; similar to The Homecoming play; this play presents the theme of power struggle especially at the time when the women were expected to remain at home to serve their husbands. However, the dialogue used in The Verge is virtually poetic and hand to understand at least upon reading for the first time. The dialogue is also punctuated by symbolism making its comprehension even harder. If The Verge is anything to by then The Homecoming play is not a modern drama as it were (Sidney Shrager, P 62).

Absurdism theory of writing has been used well in the play Death of a Salesman by Miller, Arthur. This begins with a non-defined stage. Moreover, there is an extensive use of monolog in the play for example when Willy is having flashbacks in the middle of the night. The flashbacks disturb him so much that he starts talking to himself in the middle of the night. This is different from The Homecoming where dialogue seems to be taking center stage. Similar to The Homecoming the theme of love is presented in this play where we have the institution of marriage cum family. The Death of Salesman presents characters who are not in harmony whatsoever with the lives they lead where they think that by sleeping their problems will be solved; this is a direct digression from the reality that is typical of the characters of The Homecoming. The plot of the Death of the Salesperson is not clear, and the play seems to be having no plot at all. This is different from The Homecoming that has a well-defined plot. By and large, the play (The Homecoming) is a modern drama (Worthen et al., P 213).

In the play Waiting for Godot the characters are impersonal and do not any names at all (master and slave). In addition, the stage of the play has not been defined (a sickly-looking tree). This is quite different with The Homecoming play which has real characters and with a clear stated stage. Again, the plot of this play is not clear, unlike The Homecoming which has a well-structured plot which has been developed in chronological order (Styan, P 187).

In conclusion, The Homecoming play is a modern drama as seen in the way that corresponds to the thematic concerns of the modern drama. In addition, the play is in line with the formal experimentation of modern drama and ideological ambitions of the same.


Work cited

  1. L. Styan. Modern Drama in Theory and Practice: Volume 1, Realism and Naturalism. Cambridge University Press, 2006. P 226-310.
  2. L. Styan. Modern Drama in Theory and Practice: Volume 3, Expressionism and Epic Theatre. Cambridge University Press, 2009. P 136-193.