215 * Bedford + groups.yahoo.com/group/dramlit must subscribe, if in class!

"Dramatic Literature from Sophocles to Beckett and After" TOPICS: drama + comedy + postmodern + time + space + past + present + future + death + sex + resurrection +
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Fall 2002 THR F215
MWF 11:45-112:45 THR 101
Studies of drama and forms of plays such as tragedy, comedy, melodrama, farce, tragic comedy. Emphasis on reading plays of the classical theatre designed to give basic knowledge of masterpieces of the world drama.

THR215 DramLit
* The Compact Bedford Intro to Drama (textbook) *

THR413 Playscript Analysis -- next level in your studies of drama!

If this is your first class in Drama, use 200X Intro pages!

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Progress & Attendance
Homework + InteractivityMust use email and Subscribe to Dramatic Literature Forum Plays and Chapters must be read in advance!

There are four (4) major grades: Test 1 and 2, Midterm (3-5 pp. min), the Final Paper (6-10 pp. min). You have to have them all done. If you don't show up for your exam, you have no grade; this "no-grade" turns into "F" (in short, don't skip it)
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My office is in the theatre basement, next to the costume shop. Conferences are required. Need extra credit? Do extra work. Write an extra subject paper (2-3 pp) and earn an extra grade. Electronic submissions are okay only after the spell-check and on time.

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Professor Anatoly Antohin

THR215 Dramatic Literature Heather Rae Reichenberg








Heather Rae Reichenberg


Prof. Antohin


A world that can be explained by reasoning, however faulty, is a familiar world. But in a universe that is suddenly deprived of illusions and of light, man feels a stranger. His is   an irremediable exile, because he is deprived of memories of a lost homeland as much as he lacks the hope of a promised land to come. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, truly constitutes the feeling of Absurdity.

                                                                                                                                                (Esslin, XIX)


                                    In Search of  a Meaningful Existence

                                          From Pirandello to Beckett


Pirandello and Beckett have one thing in common, they both take reality and flip it upside down to show the absurdity in life. They show the lack of harmony in what we percieve as reality. Underneath the illusions in their plays, we experience a loss and redefinition of the maker/author, time, communication, and the global family. Thus, we are left with an existential existence, where the reader is asked to create meaning in a world that truly came with none to begin with.

            In Beckett’s Endgame we are given a one-act play where past and present are at conflict with one another admisdts a reality that questions creation itself. Existence in Endgame is absurd and never ending, where Clov  (the body) leaves Hamm (the mind), and instead of Hamm dying, the alarm never goes off. Showing the possibility that life and finding new meaning in an existentialistic universe, must and shall go on.

            In Pirandello’s Six Character’s in Search of an Author, the reader is faced with the fact that reality itself is an impossibility. This play is another form of redefining meaning in a world where we demand meaning and significance. This demand comes from a fear of  meaninglessness, where nothing is certain or completely true, and when this reality of non-reality is revealed we, and the characters, feel alone and silenced.

            Together, Beckett and Pirandello confront the constant dance of life between loss and redefinition. This can be seen in how they address the ideologies placed upon the maker (god or the author). For Beckett there is no maker, distortion is placed between the beginning and the end of his characters lives. This is seen when Hamm says,“ The end is in the beginning and yet you go on” (Jacobus, 734). Pirandello defines this same loss when his characters do not know who their author is and cannot seem to make a separation between creation and thought itself. In other words, both stories show characters that believe they know their true beginnings, and yet as their realities begin to unravel they seem to doubt the beginning and the end to all things.

            Time ceases to exist in these two plays, where it threatens to destroy life in Beckett’s Endgame, while controlling the lives of the characters in Pirandello’s play. Time in each setting is carried out of context and defies all limits, as Hamm and Clov live admidst death, while Pirandello’s characters never seem to live. For Pirandello, his characters are racing against the clock, proving their own existence as the director himself demands perfect time and reality. “ Pretense? Reality? To hell with it all! Never in my life has such a thing happened to me. I’ve lost a whole day over these people, a whole day” (Jacobus, 546). This shows the temporality of significance in both plays. Where Pirandello’s time is fleeting as his characters lives are questioned, and while Beckett’s shows that these very creatures waste time itself. Their breathing insults time, and yet would time really exist without some cycle

(be that linear or cyclical) to our insignificant lives?

            The loss of communication is very important in both plays, because it shows the alienation that surrounds our self based realities. No matter what, each individual character seems to fade in and out of what the other is trying to say because they are too self-absorbed to hear one another. Martin Esslin points out in his book, The Theatre of the Absurd, that communication itself is meaningless in a self-based world:

In a purposeless world that has lost its ultimate objectives, dialogue, like all action, becomes a mere game to pass the time. It is time itself that drains language of meaning.     (Esslin, 45)

In other words, the characters prove that self-absorption does not necessarily mean self-awareness. Usually stating just the opposite, this self-absorption can keep us from understanding ourselves and therefore one another.

            This inability to hear our own voice and the true voice of others, creates a loss in the global family. Pirandello and Beckett show the global family dying out, through the lack of scene changes and no introduction of any new characters. Thus creating a world that lives off of itself, or some invisible and self-destructable host. These characters seem almost paracitic, forever co-dependent upon a specific reality, and yet constantly pondering the chance that there may be something else, some sort of meaning:

                        Every true man, sir, who is a little above the level of the beasts

                        and the plants does not live for the sake of living, without

                        knowing how to live; but he lives so as to give meaning and a

                        value of his own to life.                          (Pirandello, 545)

After reality is stripped out of the hands of these characters they are left with self-definition, and the test it whether it will or will not be self-based.

The self-based reality of Pirandello’s and Beckett’s characters becomes redefined in their search for a meaningful existence. What replaces the world of self is a world where there is a loss of self in relationship to other human beings. An end to self is not the lack of personal movement, thought, happiness, or freedom that we witness in Beckett’s Endgame. It is the ability to hear what others have to say while understanding ourselves better through other people . There is a paradox between living for personal redefinition while giving to others as well.  Martin Esslin described this balance when he said:

The recognition of the illusoriness and absurdity of ready-made solutions and prefabricated meanings, far from ending in despair, is the starting point of a new kind of consciousness, which faces the mystery and terror of the human condition in the exhilaration of a new found freedom. (Esslin, 46)

In other words, once the individual and these characters begin to let go of themselves and start discovering someone else’s reality, they then will meet the possibilties of their own soul.

These very characters show the cycle of selfishness that creates a death in the individual, where a truth can never be achieved and significance or meaning is lost. This is true absurdity, as well as the fact that these characters represent the reality of our own self-isolations and sorrows. This alienation from others has occurred in the play, and our lives, because we no longer deconstruct what we percieve to be reality. Creating a lack of harmony in the global community and the individual, when all that is needed is a redinition of self and what we claim to be our boundaries. In a world of constant loss and redefinition, we are faced with the wonderful possiblities of change and improvement. Yet here we sit, with Clove and Hamm, where we cry out for someone or something to define us and give life its meaning. Meanwhile, the parade of existence is flying by. So drop the bottle of painkillers and climb up that ladder, and see what’s in the window. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself on the other side.


Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd. New York: Anchor, 1961

Jacobus, Lee. The Complete Bedford Introduction to Drama. 4th Ed. New York, Boston: Bedford/St.Martin: 2001. 

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