Question:

Modern and Romantic plays Comparison.

by Guest2724  |  earlier

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I am doing a research paper on the evolution of British Theatre from the time of Shakespeare to present day Theatre. Living in America I'm at quite a cultural boundary. I would like to know your feelings on the overall change of plays during the time of Shakespeare to modern plays. Please if you would shed as much light on this situation as possible. A quick, knowledgeable reply would be adored.

 Tags: Comparison, Modern, plays, Romantic

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  1. Guest23274281

    Hi,

    I am not a theatre historian, and entire courses are taught about the evolution of plays through history. I personally don't think that writing has changed all that much, but I'd probably get an argument about that. Of course the language has changed, but that's because language itself has changed in the last 400 years. The structure of plays as changed (from 5 act plays in Shakespeare's day to 2 act plays, for the most part, in modern plays), but that's not a major change.

    The stories that plays tell are basically the same; they are about people and their relationships - historical people, mythical people, and everyday people. Most of Shakespeare's plays were written about the upper classes, but not all of them. Our plays reflect our current events, but so did Shakespeare's plays - he included many, many references to the politics of the day, and even other actors, events in London and the world, politicians and local and national figures in his writing.

    Shakespeare didn't invent most of his plots. He took them from the history books, from mythology, from legends and stories, and even from other plays, sometimes borrowing entire lines from earlier works. So the stories and plots were not new or different. He simply wrote better than anyone else. But other playwrights of the same time wrote similar stories. Ben Johnson wrote Sejanus, a play about ancient Rome that took place after the events of Julius Caesar and Anthony and Cleopatra, The Revenge’s Tragedy is another version of a revenge story similar to Shakespeare's Hamlet. The Jew of Malta and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice both share similar plots.

    And even today, we still borrow - this time from Shakespeare. Even The Lion King is a version of Hamlet, and West Side Story is a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

    There are some differences. As we moved farther from Shakespeare's day, plots gradually started to be more and more about everyday people. While even Noel Coward still wrote drawing room comedies about the upper classes, once in the 20th century, the British introduced what they called kitchen sink plays - that is, plays about ordinary people living ordinary lives. Not surprisingly, the relationships were similar to older plays (the human race has only so many emotions and relationships), but the characters changed and the locations changed. In some cases the subject matter changed, became more personal, more intimate, more interfamily rather than affecting nations.

    I know there are more changes, and similarities, than this, but theatrical history is not my area of expertise. You might want to check your library under that category to see if you can find any books on the topic. Also look for British playwrights of the 17th (Restoration theatre), 18th (Goldsmith, Sheridan), 19th, and 20th century (Shaw, Coward, Pinter, and Osbourne - early-mid 20th century). Any book or article with an overview of some of these playwrights' works will give you a sense of what kind of changes you are looking for. Wish I could help more, but research papers require research. I know mine do. I spend hours in the library and online to research the papers I do for my classes. I suggest that you take some time to do the same. You are not expected to know these things. If you did, the assignment would be pointless. That's why they are called research papers.
     

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