UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reflections on the non-realistic drama since Strindberg with two original plays : Where the hell is she? and The fabulous fountain of youth. McGuire, Michael


Following are two one-act plays in the non-realistic tradition of modern theatre with a critical introduction about this tradition since Strindberg. It is first seen that non-realism is extremely difficult to define--theatrical performance always involves some non-realistic elements. It is found that generally those plays which emphasize some element of drama other than character (e.g. song or dance) may be termed non-realistic. The tradition is then traced through Strindberg, Yeats, Eliot, Ionesco, Sartre, Genet, and Beckett, The dissolution of character before other elements of the drama is observed in Strindberg’s Miss Julie.The poetic drama of Eliot, and more especially of Yeats, is shown to emphasize language (Aristotle’s category of diction), at the expense of normal character development and interaction. Huis Clos, Sartre's tour de force, illustrates the impossibility of a rigid classification of plays into the categories of realistic and non-realistic, for, though Sartre has created a purely hypothetical world, or hell, his characters behave and act upon one another in a thoroughly believable and consistently motivated manner. Ionesco's characters are shown to cancel their own existence by their absurd behavior in an insolite world where anything can happen. Again language, or the attack upon language (and through language-thought) is shown to be the primary element in this non-realistic theatre. Genet's characters are merely reflections of social roles. They behave, not as individuals, but as socio-economic types in a world of abstractions. Le Balcon, especially the first four scenes, is seen to rely more on stage activity (gesture and visual factors) than on character to convey dramatic action. The characters of Samuel Beckett are not whole characters; they are merely parts of characters. In both Waiting for Godot and Endgame one character is primarily emotional; the other intellectual. Only together can they form a whole character. Beckett's plays are concerned with revealing a state of being, not with portraying an event. In order to do this, they rely primarily on thought (conveyed through rhythmical diction) rather than character—the most necessary element in a strong plot. Happy Days follows the same lines as the two earlier plays, but here language itself has become the object of examination, as in the Ionesco plays. Finally, our conception of non-realistic drama having been clarified, and our acquaintance with its tradition renewed, we can see how the author's two plays, Where the Hell is She? and The Fabulous Fountain of Youth, function and how they fit into the non-realistic tradition of modern theatre.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.