Unit 8: Different forms of drama
Tell your desk mate the types of plays you know.
Discuss in your groups why you would say the genocide was a tragedy.
As we have seen, some tragedies end in the death or frustration of the main character. In some, the main protagonists fall from a high position to a low position in society. These characters mainly fall due to a number of reasons. It may be,
1. because of faults within their own personalities;
2. because of fate;
3. because the gods have decreed they fall;
4. Sometimes, a combination of all the above. Most playwrights of tragedies depict religious aspects of gods and supernatural powers and beings that control the fate of human beings.
There is a central character called the protagonist who is the point of focus. He or she is either the hero or the villain. The disaster directly affects this character either due to personal fault or unavoidable circumstances.
Tragedies get their format and content from various aspects for instance some stories in the Greek Mythology.
William Shakespeare, the English playwright and Sophocles the Greek playwright, are credited for writing the greatest plays in tragedy.
Below is the synopsis of Oedipus the king, a classical Greek tragedy set in Thebes by Sophocles.
Imagine there was a great drought in Rwanda and many people died. In groups of four, write a short play that would pass as a tragedy.
In groups of five, read the following extracts from the play Oedipus the King. Discuss with the members of your group what you think is tragic about it.
Common stylistic devices used in tragedy
1. Imagery is used when describing situations and the emotional disposition of the various characters.
In groups of four, discuss the meaning of this image: ‘And that corrupted man is me.’
2. Foreshadowing is used when giving a premonition of an oncoming occurrence or an impending tragedy.
In your group, discuss how this statement could be seen as the foreshadowing of what would happen to Oedipus: ‘The story went that the child would kill his father.’
3. Flashback is employed for character and plot development or when recounting on a past event.
In groups of four, discuss how flashback was used in the above extract.
4. Suspense creates tension most especially in the end after the tragedy has taken place and no resolution is made; rather, the effects are not, if at all, explained.
In the extract you read, Servant keeps Oedipus in suspense for a while. Individually, provide evidence from the extract that shows that he is in suspense.
5. Tragedies mostly do not follow the logical sequence of happenings rather, ends in anticlimax.
Characters in a tragedy
Tragedies unlike most plays, have very few characters. The major character called the protagonist. The protagonist usually suffers greatly out of flaws in their own characters. Sometimes, they suffer out of forces greater than they can control.
The following terms are generally used in describing characters in a tragedy.
1. Protagonist: Is the character depicted to have good admirable traits. He or she is usually the hero or heroine. A hero in a tragedy is usually a tragic hero. The tragic hero is great. However, this hero is not perfect. His or her own downfall is partly his or her fault. The hero’s misfortune is not wholly deserved. Hence, the reader will symphathise with him or her.
2. Villain: This could be an individual or a group of people against the victim who is the general recipient of the tragedy. Villains exhibit villainy – wicked or criminal behaviour. A villain is the oppossite of a hero.
3. Antagonist: is the character brought out as mean and majorly tramples on the good character in the play.
Practice Exercise 1
a. On your own, identify the protagonist in the extract you just read.
b. Why do you think Oedipus suffers so greatly?
c. Research and write brief notes on the following terms used in describing characters:
i) Flat characters
ii) Round charactersCommon themes in tragediesActivity 9In groups of four, refer back to the extract on Oedipus and discuss the main theme.Tragedies explore the place of religion, the quality of one’s character and the power of fate on the lives of people. As such, most tragedies will focus on themes such as love, pain and suffering, death, religion among others.In Oedipus the King, for instance, love is depicted by the fact that the king and queen love their new born son so very much they are unable to kill him as directed by Teresias. They therefore task a servant to go kill him. The servant is sympathetic towards the small innocent child and abandons him in the bushes.In Corinth, the king and queen shower their new found child with so much love and care that he grows up without ever realising he was adopted.It is for the love of his kingdom that king Oedipus finally gorges out his eyes and exiles himself. This he knows is the only way to save the kingdom from the calamity it now faces.This and more illustrations depict that love is a theme that runs through the play from the beginning to the end.Remember, you must use evidence from the text you read to validate what you are talking about any time you speak about themes.Activity 10In groups discuss the difference between theme and message.ComedyActivity 11a. Tell your desk mate what makes you laugh.b. Discuss with your desk mate the meaning of the word comic.A comedy is a type of literature that adopts a humorous style and portrays laughable characters and situations.A play that is described as a comedy brings about laughter. It is based on the strange or funny events or actions of human beings. Comedies normally have a happy ending.Comedies are plays or a form of art where the main message or content is conveyed through humour. Political and social satire is employed.Comedies involve the audience and are funny, ironical and involve a lot of word play.Activity 12The excerpt below is from Aminata by Francis Imguga. Read it with your desk mate.Activity 13a. Tell your desk mate how you feel when you read Agege’s part.b. With your desk mate, compare this excerpt with the one that you read earlier on, Oedipus the King. What are the differences?General characteristics of comedy1. It presents love as a motivating force, which can make people do silly things.2. It shows that people face difficult situations and serious problems.3. Human endeavour is usually seen as being pretentious, ludicrous and therefore stupid.4. It exposes foolishness of customs or laws.5. It often uses exaggerations, caricatures and stereotypes.6. Presents absurd and bizarre situations to reflect the absurdity of the human condition.7. It follows a logical sequence of events and mostly, has a predictable ending.8. Issues in a comedy are mostly handled on a light note.9. In comedy, irony is applied in the different situations and words of the characters as the occurrences do not match the reactions.10. When need be, satire is used instead of sarcasm to criticize somebody or something.Activity 14Below is an excerpt from The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol. Here, the supposed Inspector is facing financial problems. Read it in groups of three and discuss what is funny about it.Activity 15Answer the following questions individually. In each case, use evidence from the excerpts to justify your answer.1. Do you think Hlestakov is serious when he complains about the meal?2. What happens when Waiter decided to take away the roast chicken?TragicomedyActivity 16The word tragicomedy is a compound word. Discuss with your desk mate the words that combine to make this word, and their meanings.As the name suggests, a tragicomedy has both the elements of a tragedy and a comedy. It may use humour while addressing a very important matter about human relations. It is the delivery of a tragic play in a humorous way. The reader of such a play swings between laughter and sadness.Activity 17Below are two excerpts from Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. Read and discuss them in your groups. Tell your groups if you feel pity for any of the characters. Present your findings to the class. Seek your teacher’s help if you encounter any difficulty.Activity 18In groups of four discuss,a. What is happening in Excerpt 1.b. What is happening in Excerpt 2.c. What Shylock has lost. d.What is tragic and what is comic in these excerpts.MelodramaActivity 19a. Tell your desk mate about any soap opera you have ever watched.b. Imagine you are sick. Tell your desk mate how ill you are. Exaggerate as much as you can, using your voice, gestures and facial expressions. Take turns to do this.c. In pairs, research and find out the word that explains what you did in 2, above.Melodrama is simply exaggerated drama. It deals with romantic and sensational topics. The aim is to appeal to the emotions of the audience.Live music was incorporated in melodrama to heighten the senses in the performances and mark entrances and exits.The main purpose of melodramas was not credibility, but the capacity to ignite the audience’s reactions. Therefore, melodramatic plays do not deliver much in themes but have a major concern of entertaining the audience. They are in a sense, plays meant for pleasure more than any moral lessons.Features of MelodramaIn writing a melodramatic play, playwrights offer stage directions to ensure melodrama plays depict the following features:− Strong facial expressions;− Large quick movements and gestures;− Clear, well projected delivery of lines by, for instance, being extremely loud;− Extensive use of live music;− Excessive use of hyperbole of characters and reactions to situations: for example, loud prolonged laughter, extreme anger pangs and so forth.Activity 20In groups of four, revisit and discuss the features of melodrama. Thereafter, act the play below.Activity 21In groups of four, write and act a short melodramatic play about love.