IGNOU Assignment Question and Answers: MEG-17

GNOU Assignment Question and Answers

IGNOU Assignment Question and Answers: MEG-17

Course Code: MEG-17
Assignment Code: MEG-17/TMA/2023-24
Max. Marks: 100

1. Had it not been for Puritans, American Drama would have been different – discuss.

2. What do you understand by Experimental Theatre?

3. Attempt a critical note on ‘Musical’ and ‘Farce’ as forms of American Drama.

4. Discuss William Dean Howell’s ‘Self Sacrifice’ as a Farce.

5. Discuss ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ as a Marxist play.

6. What is Absurd Theatre? Elucidate with some example.

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GNOU Assignment Question and Answers

The impact of Puritans on American drama is a complex and multifaceted topic that has shaped the trajectory of theatrical expression in the United States. To understand the influence of Puritanism on American drama, we must delve into the historical, cultural, and ideological dimensions that characterize this relationship.

The Puritans were a religious group that emerged in England during the 16th and 17th centuries. They were known for their strict interpretation of Protestantism, emphasizing personal piety, moral discipline, and a focus on the Bible. In the early 17th century, a group of Puritans known as the Pilgrims migrated to America seeking religious freedom. Their arrival marked the beginning of a cultural legacy that would significantly impact various aspects of American life, including the arts.

One of the key aspects of Puritan ideology that influenced American drama was their view on entertainment and the performing arts. Puritans viewed the theater with suspicion, considering it a frivolous and morally corrupting form of entertainment. They believed that the portrayal of worldly pleasures and the imitation of sinful behavior on stage were detrimental to spiritual well-being. As a result, Puritan communities in America often banned or heavily regulated theatrical performances.

This aversion to theater had a profound impact on the development of American drama. In contrast to European countries where theater flourished as a vibrant art form, early American theater faced significant obstacles. The absence of a strong theatrical tradition meant that dramatic expression in America had to navigate through Puritanical scrutiny and censorship.

Despite these challenges, Puritan influence also contributed to certain thematic and stylistic elements in American drama. Puritan values such as the importance of individual conscience, moral dilemmas, and the tension between personal beliefs and societal expectations found their way into early American plays. Writers and playwrights grappled with themes of redemption, sin, and the human condition, often exploring moral complexities and ethical dilemmas.

Moreover, the Puritan emphasis on simplicity and directness in communication influenced the language and structure of American drama. Plays were often characterized by plain language, straightforward dialogue, and a focus on moral lessons or religious themes. This can be seen in works such as Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” which explores the Salem witch trials through a lens of moral introspection and societal critique.

However, it is essential to recognize that the influence of Puritanism on American drama was not unidimensional or static. As American society evolved and diversified, so did its theatrical expressions. The 19th and 20th centuries witnessed a flourishing of various theatrical movements, from romanticism and realism to experimental and avant-garde forms.

These movements often challenged or subverted traditional Puritanical norms, embracing themes and styles that were once deemed taboo or unacceptable. Playwrights such as Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, and Lorraine Hansberry tackled issues of sexuality, race, class, and existential angst, pushing the boundaries of what could be explored on stage.

In this sense, while Puritanism undoubtedly left its mark on American drama, it would be simplistic to attribute the entire landscape of American theater solely to Puritan influence. The interplay of historical, cultural, and artistic forces has led to a rich tapestry of dramatic expression that reflects the complexities and contradictions of American society.

In conclusion, the impact of Puritans on American drama is significant but nuanced. Their religious beliefs and cultural values shaped early theatrical developments in America, influencing themes, language, and moral sensibilities. However, American drama has also evolved beyond Puritan constraints, embracing diverse voices and perspectives that continue to enrich the theatrical landscape. Understanding this dynamic interplay is essential to appreciate the breadth and depth of American dramatic tradition.

Experimental theatre is a dynamic and innovative form of performance that challenges traditional conventions, pushes boundaries, and explores new artistic territories. Unlike conventional theatre, which often follows established norms of storytelling, character development, and staging, experimental theatre embraces risk-taking, unconventional techniques, and a spirit of exploration.

At its core, experimental theatre seeks to question, provoke, and engage audiences in ways that go beyond mere entertainment. It is a platform for artistic experimentation, where creators and performers can break free from conventional constraints and explore the possibilities of theatrical expression in bold and unexpected ways.

One of the defining features of experimental theatre is its rejection of prescribed structures and formulas. Instead of adhering to traditional narrative arcs or character development, experimental productions often prioritize concepts, themes, or emotions. This can result in non-linear storytelling, fragmented narratives, or abstract representations that challenge audiences to interpret and engage actively with the performance.

Moreover, experimental theatre frequently incorporates multimedia elements, such as video projections, soundscapes, interactive technology, and unconventional stage designs. These elements enhance the sensory experience for audiences, creating immersive and multi-dimensional theatrical worlds that blur the boundaries between reality and fiction.

Another hallmark of experimental theatre is its emphasis on collaboration and collective creation. Unlike traditional theatre, where roles are often delineated between playwrights, directors, actors, and designers, experimental productions often involve interdisciplinary teams working collaboratively to generate ideas, devise performances, and shape the overall artistic vision.

This collaborative approach extends to the relationship between performers and audiences. In experimental theatre, the audience is often seen as active participants rather than passive observers. Performances may involve audience interaction, participation, or immersive experiences that break down the fourth wall and invite viewers to become co-creators of the theatrical experience.

Furthermore, experimental theatre is characterized by its willingness to explore unconventional themes, perspectives, and subject matter. It can address social, political, cultural, and existential questions in ways that challenge dominant narratives and provoke critical reflection. By pushing boundaries and confronting taboos, experimental theatre can catalyze conversations, foster empathy, and inspire new ways of thinking about the world.

Examples of experimental theatre can range from avant-garde performances in intimate black box theaters to large-scale multimedia spectacles in unconventional spaces. Artists and companies known for their experimental work include The Wooster Group, Forced Entertainment, Elevator Repair Service, and companies associated with movements such as Theatre of the Absurd, postdramatic theatre, and devised theatre.

In summary, experimental theatre is a vibrant and diverse form of artistic expression that defies categorization and embraces innovation. It challenges conventional norms, invites collaboration and participation, and explores bold ideas and unconventional techniques. By pushing boundaries and expanding the possibilities of theatrical storytelling, experimental theatre continues to inspire audiences and artists alike, shaping the evolving landscape of contemporary performance art.

Musical theatre and farce are two distinct yet influential forms of American drama that have left a lasting impact on the theatrical landscape. Each form brings its unique characteristics, strengths, and challenges, contributing to the richness and diversity of American theatrical expression.

Musical theatre, often referred to simply as “musicals,” combines elements of drama, music, dance, and spectacle to create a vibrant and engaging theatrical experience. It is characterized by the integration of songs and musical numbers into the narrative, with lyrics and music playing a significant role in advancing the plot, developing characters, and conveying emotions.

One of the key strengths of musical theatre is its ability to appeal to a wide audience range. The combination of storytelling through music and dance can evoke powerful emotions, making musicals particularly effective in conveying themes of love, passion, triumph, and heartbreak. Iconic musicals such as “West Side Story,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and “Hamilton” have achieved widespread acclaim for their memorable songs, dynamic choreography, and compelling storytelling.

Moreover, musical theatre has the versatility to explore diverse genres, styles, and themes. From classic Broadway musicals to contemporary rock operas, musical theatre spans a wide spectrum of artistic expression. It can tackle social issues, historical events, and literary adaptations while entertaining and captivating audiences with its spectacle and artistry.

However, musical theatre also faces challenges, particularly in balancing the integration of music and narrative cohesively. The seamless transition between spoken dialogue and musical numbers requires skillful craftsmanship to maintain dramatic tension and emotional resonance throughout the performance. Additionally, the production costs associated with elaborate sets, costumes, and live orchestras can pose financial challenges for theatre companies and producers.

On the other hand, farce is a comedic form of drama characterized by exaggerated characters, absurd situations, mistaken identities, and rapid-fire dialogue. Farces often rely on physical comedy, slapstick humor, and verbal wit to generate laughter and entertain audiences. The fast-paced nature of farce, with its comedic timing and intricately plotted misunderstandings, creates a sense of comedic chaos that delights viewers.

One of the strengths of farce is its ability to provide pure escapism and laughter. Farces are designed to entertain and amuse, offering a lighthearted and comedic respite from everyday life. The exaggerated characters and ludicrous scenarios in farce allow for comedic exaggeration and satire, poking fun at societal norms, conventions, and human foibles.

Farce also offers actors and directors opportunities for creative expression and physical comedy. The exaggerated gestures, comedic timing, and rapid pace of dialogue challenge performers to master comedic skills and engage audiences with their comedic prowess. Classic farces such as “Noises Off,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and “One Man, Two Guvnors” continue to be popular choices for theatregoers seeking laughter and entertainment.

However, farce can also be criticized for its reliance on formulaic structures and predictable comedic tropes. The repetitive nature of mistaken identities, misunderstandings, and farcical situations may lead to audience fatigue or a sense of predictability. Moreover, farces that rely too heavily on slapstick humor or rely on outdated stereotypes may risk alienating modern audiences.

In conclusion, both musical theatre and farce are vibrant forms of American drama that offer unique contributions to the theatrical landscape. Musical theatre captivates audiences with its blend of storytelling, music, and spectacle, while farce delights viewers with its comedic chaos and exaggerated humor. While each form has its strengths and challenges, they both play integral roles in shaping the diverse and dynamic world of American theatre, providing audiences with memorable experiences and moments of theatrical magic.

William Dean Howells, a prominent American writer and literary critic of the 19th century, is not typically associated with farce in the same way as some other playwrights or authors. Howells is more commonly known for his realistic and naturalistic works that delve into social issues, human psychology, and ethical dilemmas. However, one of his lesser-known plays, “Self Sacrifice,” can indeed be examined through the lens of farce, albeit with a nuanced understanding of Howells’ style and intentions.

“Self Sacrifice,” written in 1863, is a one-act play that satirizes romantic conventions, societal expectations, and the concept of selfless devotion. The play centers around the character of Mr. Ferris, a middle-aged bachelor who is romantically pursued by two sisters, Miss Prettyman and Miss Upperside. Miss Prettyman represents the ideal of self-sacrificing love, while Miss Upperside embodies a more pragmatic and assertive approach to courtship.

The farcical elements of “Self Sacrifice” are evident in the exaggerated characterizations, comedic misunderstandings, and absurd situations that unfold throughout the play. Mr. Ferris, portrayed as a somewhat clueless and indecisive character, finds himself entangled in the sisters’ competing affections, leading to comedic confusion and misunderstandings.

One of the central farcical devices in the play is the mistaken identity trope. Mr. Ferris repeatedly confuses the identities and intentions of the two sisters, mixing up their names, attributes, and desires. This confusion is played for comedic effect, highlighting the absurdity of romantic pursuits based on superficial ideals and societal expectations.

The character of Miss Prettyman embodies the farcical notion of self-sacrifice taken to an extreme. She is portrayed as overly dramatic, melodramatic, and self-righteous in her pursuit of Mr. Ferris. Her exaggerated expressions of selflessness and devotion border on parody, exposing the absurdity of idealized notions of love and sacrifice.

In contrast, Miss Upperside provides a counterpoint to Miss Prettyman’s farcical portrayal. She is more pragmatic, assertive, and grounded in her approach to relationships. Her interactions with Mr. Ferris often highlight the absurdity of romantic ideals and societal norms, challenging conventional expectations and gender roles.

The comedic elements of “Self Sacrifice” are further enhanced by Howells’ sharp wit, clever dialogue, and satirical commentary on Victorian-era manners and mores. The play’s structure, with its rapid-fire exchanges and escalating misunderstandings, builds comedic momentum and culminates in a farcical resolution that subverts romantic clichés and expectations.

While “Self Sacrifice” can be interpreted as a farce due to its comedic elements and exaggerated characterizations, it is important to note that Howells’ treatment of the subject matter is more nuanced than a typical farce. He uses the farcical framework to critique societal norms, challenge romantic ideals, and explore the complexities of human relationships.

In conclusion, William Dean Howells’ “Self Sacrifice” can be viewed as a farce that satirizes romantic conventions and societal expectations. Through exaggerated characters, comedic misunderstandings, and witty dialogue, Howells creates a comedic exploration of love, selflessness, and the absurdities of human behavior. While not a conventional farce in the traditional sense, “Self Sacrifice” demonstrates Howells’ versatility as a playwright and his ability to infuse humor and social commentary into his works.

“A Raisin in the Sun,” written by Lorraine Hansberry in 1959, is a seminal work in American literature that explores themes of race, class, and the pursuit of the American Dream. While it may not fit neatly into a Marxist framework as a strictly ideological or didactic play, it contains elements and critiques that can be analyzed through a Marxist lens, particularly regarding social and economic disparities, power dynamics, and the impact of capitalism on marginalized communities.

At its core, “A Raisin in the Sun” presents a Marxist critique of the American capitalist system and its effects on African American families like the Youngers, the protagonists of the play. The Youngers’ struggles reflect broader societal inequalities and economic injustices faced by minority communities during the mid-20th century.

One of the central themes in the play is the quest for upward mobility and financial security. The Younger family’s desire to improve their socioeconomic status and escape poverty mirrors the Marxist concept of class consciousness and the struggle of the proletariat against economic oppression. Walter Lee Younger’s aspirations to invest in a business venture represent his desire to break free from the constraints of wage labor and achieve economic independence.

However, the play also highlights the limitations and barriers faced by African Americans in a predominantly white society. Walter Lee’s dream of entrepreneurship is thwarted by systemic racism, lack of access to capital, and discriminatory practices that hinder black economic advancement. This aspect of the play aligns with Marxist analysis of capitalism perpetuating inequalities based on race, class, and power dynamics.

Moreover, “A Raisin in the Sun” explores the concept of alienation within the capitalist system. The Younger family experiences alienation not only from mainstream society but also within their own family dynamics. Walter Lee’s frustrations and conflicts with his family stem partly from his sense of alienation and powerlessness in a society that devalues and marginalizes African Americans.

The play also addresses issues of property ownership and housing discrimination, which are central concerns in Marxist analysis of urban inequality. The Youngers’ decision to move into a predominantly white neighborhood represents their desire for social mobility and acceptance, but it also exposes the structural barriers and prejudices they face in accessing equal opportunities and resources.

Additionally, “A Raisin in the Sun” critiques the commodification of the American Dream itself. The play questions the validity of a dream that is predicated on material wealth and consumerism, especially when such dreams come at the expense of personal integrity, cultural identity, and social justice. This critique resonates with Marxist ideas about the fetishization of commodities and the alienating effects of capitalist ideology.

It is essential to note that while “A Raisin in the Sun” contains Marxist themes and critiques, it also transcends simplistic categorizations. The play delves into complex human relationships, personal aspirations, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Lorraine Hansberry’s nuanced portrayal of the Younger family allows for multiple interpretations and layers of meaning beyond a strict Marxist analysis.

In conclusion, “A Raisin in the Sun” can be viewed as a Marxist play in its exploration of economic struggles, social inequalities, and the impact of capitalism on marginalized communities. The play’s themes of class consciousness, alienation, racial discrimination, and the pursuit of the American Dream provide fertile ground for examining Marxist critiques of society and the complexities of human experience within a capitalist framework.

Absurd theatre is a dramatic genre that emerged in the mid-20th century, characterized by its rejection of traditional dramatic conventions, logical narratives, and rational structures. Instead, absurd theatre presents a world that is chaotic, illogical, and devoid of meaning, often using exaggerated situations, nonsensical dialogue, and absurd actions to convey existential themes and philosophical inquiries.

One of the defining features of absurd theatre is its exploration of the absurdity of human existence. Playwrights associated with this genre, such as Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, and Harold Pinter, use theatre as a medium to depict the sense of alienation, confusion, and meaninglessness that can characterize modern life.

Samuel Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot” is perhaps the quintessential example of absurd theatre. The play follows two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, as they wait endlessly for someone named Godot, who never arrives. The repetitive nature of their interactions, the circular dialogue, and the lack of a clear resolution contribute to the sense of absurdity and futility in the play.

“Waiting for Godot” challenges traditional notions of plot, character development, and dramatic structure. Instead of a linear narrative with a clear beginning, middle, and end, the play presents a series of disjointed scenes and absurd encounters. The characters’ existential questioning, existential questioning, and struggle for meaning amidst a seemingly meaningless world reflect the core themes of absurd theatre.

Similarly, Eugene Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano” is another notable example of absurd theatre. The play subverts linguistic norms and social conventions, depicting a dinner party where the characters engage in nonsensical conversations, repetitive phrases, and illogical behaviors. Through this absurdity, Ionesco highlights the breakdown of communication, the emptiness of social rituals, and the absurdity of human interactions.

Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” also exemplifies elements of absurd theatre. The play unfolds in a boarding house where the protagonist, Stanley, becomes the target of mysterious and menacing characters. The ambiguity of the plot, the surreal atmosphere, and the underlying sense of threat contribute to the play’s absurdity, challenging audiences to question the nature of reality and identity.

Absurd theatre often employs techniques such as repetition, non sequiturs, fragmented dialogue, and surreal imagery to create a sense of disorientation and detachment. The use of absurdity is not meant to entertain in a traditional sense but rather to provoke thought, challenge assumptions, and confront audiences with the absurdity of human existence.

In addition to these well-known examples, other playwrights and artists have contributed to the development of absurd theatre, each bringing their unique style and perspective to the genre. The absurdity of the human condition, the search for meaning in a chaotic world, and the breakdown of communication and understanding are recurring themes in absurd theatre, making it a powerful and thought-provoking form of dramatic expression.

Overall, absurd theatre challenges conventional notions of reality, logic, and meaning, inviting audiences to confront the uncertainties and contradictions of the human experience. Through its use of absurdity, ambiguity, and surrealism, absurd theatre opens up avenues for philosophical reflection, social critique, and artistic experimentation, making it a distinctive and influential genre in the realm of contemporary theatre.

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