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Showing posts from July, 2008

The role of Chorus in Samson Agonistes

In choosing the classical form of tragedy for his Samson Agonistes, Milton decided to work on a distinctively unpopular medium. For, classically modelled tragedy had never been popular in England. Even Ben Jonson, excused himself for not obeying the Aristotelian rules and not having a proper chorus in his Sejanus. But with his contempt for mere popularity, Milton did not feel obliged to modify the form of classical tragedy to suit the purpose of what Jonson called “popular delight”. J. B. Broadbank has said that Samson Agonistes is actually more regularly Aristotelian in construction that any extant Greek tragedy. Milton has introduced a chorus which tries to be faithful to Aristotle’s precepts. Aristotle emphasised that the chorus must be regarded as one of the actors as part of the whole and as joining in the action. Milton’s chorus contributes to the overall dramatic effect by its continuous presence: it is able both to sympathise with Samson and to give an external point of view w…

The Dramatic Significance of the Hell Scene in Man and Superman

In Man and Superman Shaw was not writing a regular play; he only united up dialogue, discussion, arguments for the purpose of making them appear as plays. Still the incidents of situations in the play do in one way or the other perpetuate the pursuit of man by woman—of Tanner by Ann. The most interesting is the Hell Scene where the traditional Don Giovanni motif is most comically inverted in the spirit of parody to substantiate Shaw’s thesis that it is the woman basically who is boa-constrictor from whom the new Don Juan flies away to save his person. The Hell Scene has been grafted on the plot from outside and it does not grow from the soil of the story. Its central business is to highlight the central motive of the play—the chase of man by woman as part of the process of Creative Evolution as well as the edification of hell as a most dynamic, therefore desirable condition of existence which ensures happiness of humanity. The metamorphosis of the characters like Tanner and Ann suitin…

Character of Louka in Arms and the Man

Shaw conceived of Louka as a strong willed woman, necessary for his dramatic purpose of exposing the vanity of the upper-class and the political purpose of showing the socialist principle of showing equality among individuals in a society. It must be said that it was daring attempt on Shaw’s part to lead and raise a maidservant to the status of an aristocratic lady. But he does not do this as a kind of poetic justice or as a matter of mercy; he makes her capable of realising her aims and object by her worth as a human being and by her strong will power. In the beginning of the play Louka is presented as a maid-servant having some sort of tension with the lady she serves. She behaves in defiant manners and her physical movements, gestures and postures produce the impression of haughtiness and discontent. The audience ascribe this to typical feminine jealousy of a servant for the lady of the same age, but in Act II they understand that she is Raina’s rival in love and is eyeing somethin…

Character of Nicola in Arms and the Man

In Shaw’s artistic design the character of Nicola is necessary in order to neutralise the excess of false ideas and illusions of some of the characters. In one sense, he contributes to consolidating Bluntschli’s pragmatic ideas and acts. But through his character Shaw also presents a member of the some of his socialist ideas. In Nicola he presents a cold-blooded calculating man of the practical world who does not care for the false ideals and ideas and lives his life in accordance with the demand of the situation he is in. In the beginning of Act III Shaw describes Nicola quite clearly in terms of his personality and physique, all of which go together to produce an impression of a man with keen practical intelligence and servile outlook.:“He is a middle aged man of cool temperament and low but clear and keen intelligence with the complacency of the servant who values himself on his rank in servitude, and the imperturbability of the accurate calculator who has no illusions.”He has unde…

Character of Ann Whitefield in Shaw’s Man and Superman

Though volumes of criticism have gone to the interpretation of Man and Superman, Ann Whitefield continues to be an enigma. As such that critics are tempted to pronounce partial judgement regarding her character and narrow down the scope and position of her role in the play. Most critics agree with Arthur H. Nethercot that Ann is Shaw’s “prototype of predatory female”, but the assessment of her specific roles vary. Thus Barbara Watson celebrates Ann’s vitality and originality; Mergery M. Morgan denounces her calculating conventionality; and Elric Adams finds that Ann is merely a “composite of traditional types” of heroines. Even her fellow dramatis personae perceive her from their own narrowly circumscribed perspective. To understand Ann in her totality, her role and character should be understood in terms of the organising principles behind the purpose of the composition of the play. That is to say, the play is intended to be a synthesis of the Don Juan myth and Shaw’s philosophy of C…

The Character of Sergius in Arms and the Man

In Sergius the Romantic tradition of hero is inverted to the extent of making him play almost the part of a fool. As usual with other characters Shaw had a definite philosophical and artistic plan behind the creation of his character. That is to say, through the presentation of this character Shaw has attacked the outdated and false feudal ideals which are no longer relevant and realisable in the modern society which is urgently in need of those ideas and principles which the dramatist has undertaken to advocate. Unlike other principal characters he does not undergo any transformation save a degradation from his position, which Shaw deliberately chose to illustrate in order to show his socialist principles in favour of a classless society. The audience, however, cannot be sure of the creative and sustaining capacity of the woman who literally traps him, not out of any creative motive but for material possessions and social position. Sergius is presented in the beginning of the play in…

The Character of Raina in Arms and the Man

Raina is one of Shaw’s finest creations. There must have been a conflict between Shaw the artist and Shaw the moralist in the conception of such a powerful and fascinating character. But his greatness lies in the fact that he succeeds in presenting his philosophy behind the artistic facade. Unlike Bluntschli who is not presented with those sparks of a conventional hero, Raina is invested with all the charms and qualities of any heroine of a conventional comedy. In the very beginning of the drama Raina is presented just as any other heroine from the romantic tradition. The dramatist describes her at length in the stage direction:“On the balcony a young lady, intensively conscious of the romantic beauty of the night, and of the fact that her own youth and beauty are part of it, is gazing at the snowy Balkans ....”The romantic ambience is suddenly enhanced with her mother’s breaking of the news that a great battle at Slivnitza has been won by none other than Sergius, to whom she is betro…

The Character of Bluntschli in Arms and the Man

Shaw conceived of Bluntschli almost as a Hegelian character, in the sense that through him he has presented an antithesis of the conventional morality, romantic ideas of love and war and feudal notions of the place of the individual in society. Shaw does all this, however, under a dramatic scheme. The very name ‘Blunt(sch)li’ itself is perhaps deliberately chosen to cover up the potentialities of the man, with which he threatens the fragile facade of the complacent society. Through his character, however, Shaw attacks not only the ethos, romantic ideas and feudal concepts, he also inverts the tradition of the nature and role of the hero in comedy. But it should not be thought that Shaw presented Bluntschli with the sole object of satirising, which is a destructive art; in fact, he presents his unheroic hero from a system of thought that seeks a better society, where the individual’s status will not been determined and fixed by class and gender, but by what s/he is capable of contribut…