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REQUIREMENTS OF THE DRAMATIC STORY

The ultimate desire for any writer is to create a dramatic story - whether in the form of a stage-play, script, or in prose - that will engage its audience. Through the action or plot of the story, and the character's reactions and responses, the dramatic story can also entertain, inform, challenge, and amuse. The cause and effect chain is "the arc of action" (Taylor 57) and is an essential element of theatre in particular, where it is not possible to get inside a character's head, as in prose. It brings insight to what makes characters tick without resorting to expositional dialogue. An audience engrossed in a character is empathetic, living the story as an insider not a spectator. Shakespeare was adept at linking the dramatic storyline with character development. Each 'cause' subsequently has an effect on both the story itself and revealing the characters. Hamlet, is a protagonist who, though a prince, is flawed, yet basically a good honest man -qualities the audience immediately empathise with. Grief-stricken by his father's death, Hamlet is told by the king's ghost, that he was murdered by Hamlet's uncle Claudius before he swiftly claimed the throne and married Hamlet's mother, Gertrude. Our dramatic story now has a theme - revenge - and dramatic questions are raised. Will Hamlet seize the opportunity to strike down his father's murderer immediately? He has the motive and the opportunity. But instead of immediate action, we are drawn into the grief-stricken Hamlet's dilemma; he needs to avenge his father, but he is not a murderer. His sense of right and wrong demands he has proof to justify his actions - a useful plot device and ensuring dramatic purpose throughout.  So until the travelling players present themselves as the perfect opportunity to expose his uncle's guilt with Shakespeare's favoured 'play within a play' format, more questions are raised and we become privy to the impact of Hamlet's actions on those around him. Hamlet feigns madness, and diverts attention from his suspicions. This causes Polonius to think Hamlet is mad with love for his daughter Ophelia. It also sees his friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enlisted to spy on him by his uncle, and ultimately dying for the cause. When Polonius spies on Hamlet and his mother, Hamlet kills Polonius mistaking him for his uncle, sending Ophelia mad and to her death, and drawing her brother Laertes back from France to seek revenge, ultimately killing Hamlet. Even this 'final showdown' has plot-twists and reversals, with poisoned swords and chalices killing the perpetrators as well as the victims - all far more complex, real, and riveting than a simple revenge story.

 

As with all drama, comedy is about conflict. It is the manner in which the conflict unravels and is ultimately resolved that makes it comedic rather than a drama, or tragedy. Whereas the protagonist in a tragedy will inevitably meet his demise as a result of the conflict, in comedy he will grow, learn and overcome it. Whilst a drama can have elements of comedy - particularly in a sub-plot - the order and structure of the story telling for a dramatic comedy is generally very different to that of the traditional drama genre. Molière broke with the traditional enslavement to Aristotle and his rules when he declared, "pleasing the audience is the only rule that cannot be broken." (Calder 3).

The origins of comedy in the theatre can be found in ancient Greece where political satire became a hugely influential medium. This form of comic irony has been adopted through the ages to challenge issues and authority and has often pushed the boundaries of tolerance. Molière's Tartuffe highlights religious hypocrisy, and when first performed in 1664 at Versailles, the religious establishment was outraged. The play is also a classic example of the fundamentals of comedy - the juxtaposition of good and evil, opposites pitted against one another in a comic, or amusing fashion. Though the genre is often considered to be merely light and amusing, comedy is often laced with hidden subtext and meaning. In this way although the play is a comedy, Molière nevertheless uses the character Tartuffe to point the finger at those religious souls who do not practice what they readily preach.   Like Orgon, protagonists in comedy tend to be a part of the world around them, happy to share and take from society in contrast to the tragic protagonist who often falls prey to his problems through his own isolation. Whilst the traditional tragic drama generally starts off positively, and ends in a bad way, a comedy will generally start badly before eventually coming good. Tartuffe is a fine example of this, where to begin with, Tartuffe's targets - Orgon and his mother - are easily captivated but their family is not so easily taken in. With the audience sharing this superior knowledge, the plot swings from what looks set to be a triumph for Tartuffe at Orgon's expense, to Tartuffe's ultimate imprisonment.

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