Theatre and Reality Analytical Essay by Fenshae

Theatre and Reality
An analysis of the conflicted relationship between reality and the fantasy of theatre in Shalespeare's plays "The Tempest" and "Macbeth".
# 112829 | 1,325 words | 2 sources | MLA | 2006 | US

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This paper seeks to examine the relationship between the meta-theatrical elements of "The Tempest" and "Macbeth", relating especially to the link between hallucination or dreams, which serve to blur the lines between the audience's relationship with the characters, and the characters' relationships with each other. The paper points out the insinuations of unstable divisions between fiction and reality which can be read in the plays. An annotated bibliography is included with the paper.

From the Paper:

"Fiction is defined by its separation from reality, a boundary which it is also conventional to cross or question. Drama, in particular, is well-disposed to make transgressions across these limits, as the audience is in both a physical and mental proximity to the workings of the characters and could easily be drawn into their story in more than a figurative sense. Shakespeare's plays Macbeth and The Tempest both prompt this sort of audience participation by leaving parts of their stories obscured to portions of the cast, so that there are shared experiences among the audience and characters, but not between characters; doing this brings the audience closer to key characters while separating those characters from their stage-fellows, and makes all parties involved, both within and without the production, realize if only for a brief moment that the story is, in fact, only a play. From Macbeth and his wife's hallucinations to Prospero's reflections on the nature of life and the stage as a dream, Shakespeare invites audiences to reconsider the meaning of drama and its relationship to life, all while making his characters all-too-aware of their status within the imaginations of another."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Lewin, Jennifer. "Your Actions Are My Dreams: Sleepy Minds in Shakespeare's Last Plays." Shakespeare Studies 31. (Annual 2003): p184 (22). This source is primarily about the use of sleep and dreams in A Winter's Tale and The Tempest, most especially in the use of dreams in order to connect characters more closely to their emotional awareness and puts others in the position of viewing them in an objective way, more like an audience to a private theatre. The article opens with a description of the imagination as its own staged drama, and dreams as the most full productions of the aforementioned mental theatre. Lewin then goes on to describe the ability of dreams to simultaneously awaken self-knowledge within the dreaming character, and also, in the case of The Tempest, to seduce individuals into action, as sleep-states are one of Prospero and Ariel's major forms of magical manipulation. Also discussed is Caliban's relationship to sleep and dreams, a state of being which he finds preferential to waking due to its fantasy elements--a theme also evident in the meta-theatrical production of the play itself. This source, with its lengthy explanations of the dramatic line-blurrings between dreams, drama, and waking, will further support my thesis.
  • Wehrs, Donald R. "Moral Physiology, Ethnical Prototypes, and the Denaturing of Sense in Shakespearean Tragedy." College Literature 33.1 (Wntr 2006): p67(26). This source, primarily concerned with the nature of philosophical morality, follows the development of tragedy from the Greeks through Shakespeare along the lines of moral and ethical forces and the way in which this reflects philosophical and psychological thought of respective communities. The first argument Wehrs makes is that Shakespearean tragedy replaces the Greek concept of external forces driving otherwise noble characters into immoral actions with psychological equivalents in the form of thought patterns. The article then goes onto a somewhat lengthy discussion of neuroscience and its role in the philosophical discussion of thought and morality, making the argument that there is a somatic response to unethicality which transcends human thought and reaches the individual on a physical, instinctual level; it is this, Wehrs argues, which the characters of Shakespearean tragedy react to and which causes the fundamental conflict of their actions. Wehrs also discusses how the political and religious habitat of England was such as to respond well to this shift in relations to morality. Finally, the article gives an in-depth investigation of Shakespearean tragedy, including Macbeth, Hamlet and Julius Caesar and the relationship of the characters to somatic morality. By experiencing ethical (or non-ethical, as the case may be) stimulus as a physical presence, the actions and motivations of the characters can be described in psychological ways, rather than the previously ascribed external forces of fate. The physicality of this conscientiousness is manifested clearly be Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's hallucinations, and plays upon the themes of meta-theatricality which are central to this paper.

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