EXAMPLE PAPER 2 PRACTICE ESSAY: GLASS MENAGERIE VS. ANTIGONE

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1 Ima Writer Period EXAMPLE PAPER 2 PRACTICE ESSAY: GLASS MENAGERIE VS. ANTIGONE Question: A dramatist often creates a gap between what the audience knows and what the characters know. With a reference to at least two plays, discuss how and to what effect dramatists have used this technique. Most dramatists attempt to immerse the audience in the story. Playwrights as well as set designers and actors typically strive to make the drama as realistic as possible. The assumption is that the audience enters the play with a set of expectations that British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge called a willing suspension of disbelief ; the audience is ready to believe the feigned reality presented to them. However, in both Jean Anouilh s Antigone and Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie, that attempt at simulating reality is not only abandoned, the illusion of reality is intentionally crushed. These two plays create a purposeful artificiality using similar techniques, although these techniques serve to create differing effects. Both plays use unique set designs, a narrator who talks directly to the author, and the theme of the inevitability of fate in order to create an obviously fake universe on the stage. The effect that this has on the audience is to create a gap between them and the characters in the play. While the characters are living within a universe very real to them, the audience is hyperaware that everything they are watching is fiction. This creates a separation between what the audience understands to be true and what the characters understand to be true. This use of dramatic irony is utilized by the playwrights in order to allow the audience to receive a message from the play, and to focus on the meaning beyond the plot. The stage designs of both Glass Menagerie and Antigone act nearly as characters themselves. While both plays use the set to create an artificial feel, the technique is much subtler in Glass Menagerie. Williams uses a transparent fourth wall as well as transparent gauze portieres throughout the play, which are used to signify the separation of rooms, but also to create a more physical separation between the audience and the stage. In most other plays, the fourth wall is not a tangible wall; it is a concept. By making the fourth wall visible, even only slightly through transparent material, Williams widens the gap between audience and characters, and therefore adds that tangible aspect to the more mental gap that is created by the events of the play. The use of this fourth wall as a prop throughout the play is the most significant role it plays in creating the gap between audience and characters. The screen is used to project images for the audience to see, and many times throughout the play these images are foreshadowing events that are about to happen. In Scene 3, the stage directions read, [Legend on the screen: You think I m in love with Continental Shoemakers? ], (Williams 20). This image is shown throughout the scene

2 until the line projected is actually spoken, many lines later, by Tom who says, Listen! You think I m crazy about the warehouse? [He bends fiercely toward her slight figure.] You think I m in love with the Continual Shoemakers? (Williams 23). The use of these projected images gives the audience a foresight that the characters in the play do not have. It allows the audience to be aware of the importance of certain lines or images, as well as to predict upcoming conflicts. The characters do not have the liberty of looking at the screen and knowing the significance of their actions. Therefore, the audience is given more knowledge of the scene than the characters. In Anouilh s Antigone, the set design does not give the audience clues during the play, however it does seem to reveal a great deal to the audience in the very first few moments. The set of Antigone is very sparse; it consists of a staircase, an arch, a table and chairs. As the play opens, every character that will appear in the play is positioned somewhere on the stage, and where they are creates hints as to their fate and their significance. The stage directions read, ANTIGONE, her hands clasped round her knees, sits on the top step The CHORUS stands on the top step (Anouilh 781). The very opening scene already explores the characters of the play. The fact that Antigone is positioned on the top step represents her determination to fight for what she believes is right; her need to have the moral higher ground. However, she is sitting in a vulnerable position, which shows the audience, as the rest of the play does as well, that she is still a young and vulnerable girl who does not necessarily have the strength she would like to have. The Chorus, standing above her on the same step, represents the vantage point that the Chorus has as the omniscient narrator. The rest of the characters are also positioned in ways that bear significance to their character, and the fact that this is made immediately apparent to the audience gives them knowledge and understanding of the play s underlying themes that the characters do not have. This minimalist set design also creates a gap between the audience and the characters because it is so sparse and unrealistic. The audience finds it difficult to suspend their disbelief when there is no real scenery with which to immerse them into the plot. They are forced instead to focus on the subtler meanings contained within the play, such as character motives and themes. The characters and dialogue are used in plays to tell the story as well as to affect the audience, and in both Glass Menagerie and Antigone, some of the most prominent characters are the narrators. These narrators serve to bridge the gap between the fiction of the play and the audience, but by doing so they also heighten the audience s awareness of that gap. The narrator in Antigone is referred to as the Chorus, a reference to the choruses of ancient Greek theater. The Chorus begins the play by essentially mapping out the entire plot. He reveals who will live and who will die, and he describes each of the characters, leaving very little else to be discovered by the audience. He states, That thin little creatures sitting by herself, staring straight ahead, seeing

3 nothing, is Antigone. She is thinking. She is thinking that the instant I finish telling you who s who and what s what in this play, she will burst forth as the tense, sallow, willful girl whose family would never take her seriously and who is about to rise up alone against Creon, her uncle, the King, (Anouilh 781). The Chorus reveals the basic character of Antigone and her upcoming actions, diminishing the plot of the play and forcing the audience to search for Antigone s motives. In this way, the Chorus shares his knowledge of events that the characters themselves have only limited understanding of, with the audience. This creates the gap of understanding; however, the Chorus also serves to bridge that gap by acting as oblivious as the characters when he is interacting with them within the play. After Creon has sentenced Antigone to death, the Chorus says to him, (Behind Creon. Speaks in a deliberate voice) Youa re out of your mind, Creon. What have you done?. CREON: (His back to Chorus) She had to die. CHORUS: You must not let Antigone die. We shall carry the scar of her death for centuries (Anouilh 796). This interaction with Creon, contrary to what the Chorus has already stated to be true, breaks the illusion the audience had that the Chorus was visible only to them. It therefore creates a bridge between the entirely fantasy world within the play and the audience s lives, which serves to add a significance to the audience s lives. The narrator in Glass Menagerie also creates and bridges that gap. The narrator is Tom, a character in the play, but also the man whose memory is the essence of the play. He tells the audience in the beginning, I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion. To begin with, I turn back time I am the narrator of the play, and also a character in it, (Williams 5). Like the Chorus in Antigone, Tom describes each of the characters in the play and gives the audience a general idea of the upcoming story. Williams uses the unique technique of making the play a memory, which gives the audience an immediate connection with Tom and a distance from the rest of the characters in the play. However, Tom is himself a character in the play, and therefore he serves to bridge the gap between audience and players. Therefore, although the audience is given the hindsight knowledge of Tom as a narrator, they also watch Tom acting without that knowledge, and therefore the gap is ever present. Both Antigone and Glass Menagerie use these techniques in order to take a focus from the traditionally all-important plot and allow the audience to concentrate more on the themes and messages within the plays. Both plays use the theme of inevitability and fate, which serve to create artificiality that the audience is aware of. In Glass Menagerie, the fact that the play is a memory play initially gives it a sense of fate. This play is acting out events that have already occurred, and therefore everything that happens must happen. At the end of the play, Amanda yells at Tom, Don t think about us, a mother deserted, an unmarried sister who s crippled and has no job! Don t let anything interfere with your selfish pleasure! Just go, go, go to the movies! TOM: All right, I will! The

4 more you shout about my selfishness to me the quicker I ll go, and I won t go to the movies! (Williams 96). In the end, Laura and Amanda are left stuck in the same place they were at the beginning. They are inevitably left behind, unable to progress. Even Tom, who physically escapes the apartment in St. Louis, cannot escape the past. He concludes, The cities swept about me like dead leaves, leaves that were brightly colored but torn away from the branches. I would have stopped, but I was pursued by something, (Williams 97). Neither Laura, Amanda, nor Tom can escape from their stagnant positions, and this sense of inevitability reinforces the notion that the play is imagined. Real life, the life that the audience inhabits, is full of choices and alternatives. The fact that the play dabbles only in absolutes further separates the audience from the characters. The same theme is explored to the same effect in Antigone. The Chorus states at the beginning of the play, Another thing that [Antigone] is thinking is this: she is going to die. Antigone is young. She would much rather live than die. But there is no help for it. When your name is Antigone, there is only one part you can play; and she will have to play hers through to the end, (Anouilh 781). The Chorus makes it entirely obvious to the audience that this play has an inevitable conclusion. The idea of fate is mentioned throughout the drama, and each character in their own way feels fated to carry out their actions. Antigone feels it is her destiny to die for burying her brother; Creon feels that his profession requires him to sentence Antigone to death; even Haemon feels that he is meant to marry Antigone. Each of these character s feelings of destiny, with the Chorus s assurance that fate indeed rules the characters actions, increases the gap between audience and play in the same way it does in Glass Menagerie. As much as it separates the audience from the events of the play, it also inspires the audience to draw a lesson from the characters faults and mistakes. The primary method used by both Williams in Glass Menagerie and Anouilh in Antigone is the creation of a clearly artificial world on stage, which creates a gap between the audience and the players. This gap is necessary for both of the plays because of the importance of dramatic irony in the dramas. Dramatic irony is used to pass a message along to the audience by showing the consequences of the ignorance of the characters within the plays. In Glass Menagerie, the audience and future Tom understand that avoidance of a problem either by living in an imagined world or by simply running away causes paralysis and does not allow for progress. In Antigone, the audience sees how stubborn and closed-minded attachment to a perceived duty can destroy lives. In both these cases, the set design and the use of a narrator serve to both create the gap between audience and character understanding, and also to bridge the gap in order to engage the audience. The separation is felt, but the message is brought home. Similarly, the use of the theme of inevitability creates a gap through a lack of realism, but

5 also serves to inspire action on the part of the audience. Both Antigone and Glass Menagerie use the separation between audience and characters in order to inspire the audience to gather the message the characters teach. 2,169 words

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