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The Changing Relationship Between Individual And Society In Modern Drama

4379 words - 18 pages

Teaching through story telling, and later on stage, was - and indeed still is although perhaps less so now - the most effective passage to the education of the masses, regardless of race, religion, age or class distinction, drama is more than mere mindless entertainment; it's the guidelines to an entire world of philosophical ideologies and political insights meant to shape society and help it along the path to... enlightenment? Playwrights, however, need not necessarily follow the current sways of politics or the en vogue intellectuals, they write what they believe is the most valuable message to mankind; theirs is the role of observing, criticising and evaluating. A common theme visited by playwrights in modern drama, was the question of the relationship between the individual, and the society in which he lived. The Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, who wrote in the last half of the 19th Century, broached the subject from a rather feminist angle, stipulating that it was wrong to view an individual woman as a nonentity without rights outside the role of motherhood or marriage; In the 1930's and 40's, German-born writer Bertolt Brecht, produced a series of plays following ideologies common of Nihilist and later Marxist values; Following the second world war, Arthur Miller wrote to American audiences that individuals and their society are equally damning forces on one another. By following Ibsen, Brecht and Miller, three authors from three different countries, backgrounds and time frames, it is possible to witness the changing relationship between individuals and society in modern drama.

Drama in its most influential and essential state, started with the classical Greeks, who used the ritual and social functions of the stage to exert their messages within the culture of Ancient Greece. Their psychological interest in the characters on stage demonstrated to their audiences their connections to both natural law and mortal law in the context of tragedies. These tragic occurrences `must have had their therapeutic effect by raising to conscious awareness the clan's capacity for brutal and unredeemed violence so that it could be sublimated and contained by new institutions' . In this way, the Greek dramatists taught the western mind the law: the relationship between individuals and the society in which they lived together. This social drama dealt with the specific differences between individuals, but also their inherent sameness because it was only through this awareness of similarity that society was possible. "The social drama .... is only incidentally an arraignment of society."

Ibsen was brought up in a Lutheran environment in Norway, which held St Paul to be `divinely inspired' when he wrote: "Let women be silent!" This attitude was clear in his childhood upbringing in which his mother, not being "able to improve relations at home, had to succumb to her husband's tyranny" Therefore from a young child he observed the derogatory...

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