Naturalism: essay notes

At classicism period tragedy ruled in drama:
  • Tragedy was intolerant about everything “new, fresh and innovative” (Zola, Naturalism, pg. 126)
  • Based on social conditions (pg 130)
  • Infancy of the art (pg 130)
  • Antique themes, greeks and romans (Zola pg. 127)
After 200 years romantic drama started to exist amongst the tragedy
  • Middle ages, paraded knights and ladies
  • Natural link between classicism and naturalism
  • Farces and te mystery plays of the Middle Ages, primitive sets (pg 130)
  • Based on the fantasy of poets, malady of minds impressed by history
  • The characters remained marionettes in new clothing, only the appearance changed (pg 130)
  • Characters stayed splendid and superior as in tragedy (Zola pg. 127)
  • Romantic drama arose just when tragedy started to be childish
  • 1830 movement is announced as te triumphal entry into human truth, but was actually a monstrous exaggeration (liialdus) of reality, a fantasy that has decreased into excesses.
  • Cleared the ground, supported freedom of art
Creative geniuses each shine within their civilization and formula of their time (pg 128)
Art takes the same strides as humanity (pg 128)
The romantic drama was a first step in the direction of the naturalistic drama
Today tragedy and romantic drama are both equally worn out (pg. 128)
At 19 century science and discoveries revolutionized arts (dramatic art was left beside, as if isolated) (pg129)
It also made humankind to go back to the beginning and reanalyse what man and nature is, what is art for etc. (pg 129)
Honore de Balzac – French novelist and playwright; one of the founders of realism in European literature; characters are morally ambiguous;
We hardly understand the liberty we have won if we use it only to imprison ourselves in a new tradition. (pg 131)
Although there was audience who kept loving melodrama, romantic drama and spectacles, it was more likely to change; more and more people thirsted for something believable and new. (pg 132)
Tragedy and romantic drama based on principle that truth is not good enough, the nature must be magnified (pg 132)
Naturalistic thinkers are saying that truth doesn’t need clothing, it can walk naked. (pg 132)
  • V. Hugo, Emile Augier, A. Dumas, Sardou had one task – to increase the reality of drama, to progress towards truthfulness (pg 135)
  • Everything in the theatre is interdependent – lifelike costumes look wrong if the sets, the diction, the plays themselves aren’t lifelike. (pg 136)
  • The environment must determine the character – when a set is planned as the curtain rises, one catches the first glimpse of the characters, their personalities and behavious, the importance of exact reproduction in the décor will be appreciated. (pg 136)
  • Environment, the study of which has transformed science and literature, will have to take a large role in the theatre. (pg 136)
  • The criticts could not respect the new thinking of naturalism and refused to judge it’s progress. Instead of this they were still stuck in the old-fashioned style. (at the and of pg 136)
  • There is no such thing as theatre language” as the tragedy and romantic drama tried to cling to. (pg 137)
  • You must give characters not merely an accurate dress and environment but an individual way of thinking and expressing themselves.”
  • The progress, changing and battle will undoubtedly last forever, as the society and art are dependent from each other.
  • Ibsen’s revolutionary impact and ultimate success showed that drama could be more than a shallow enterntainment. (pg 73)
  • Ibsen proved that the theatre could be a forum for the serious consideration of the problems of the age. (pg 72)
  • In the old-style plays audience did not have to deduce the motivations of the actions, because the aims were told through monologues or dialogues between the characters before the action, so it was understandable and clear for every single one. (pg73-74)
  • Ibsen’s naturalistic plays did not explain the thoughts and motives before the actions, even not whilst the actions, which was much more realistic. Even in real life we do not talk about our secret aims and reasons of actions. Quite often we are not aware of the inner motivations and reasons of our behaviour ourselves. Moreover the development coincided in time with the discovery of the unconscious mind and behaviour, the study of human psyche. (pg 74)
  • As long as man was deemed to have an eternal essence, a soul which had been especially created for him by God and destined to persist, there was no problem about the nature of human identity. If transcendental beliefs lost – nature human identity became a problem. As theatre was taking more and more considerable role of dealing social problems, the issue of the origin of the humankind and self philosophy was also represented in all kinds of arts, so in theatre.
  • The more creative, the more complex, the more original, the more poetic the imagination of the writer, the greater will be his work. (pg 81)
  • The power of drama springs its innermost poetic nature as a metaphor of reality, a representation of the whole of reality whoch of necessity must include the internal world, the world of the mind (both conscious and subconscious), as well as the external reality of rooms, furniture, and cups of coffee. (pg 82)
  • Goethe Faust: all our ephemeral, evanescent reality is itself, ultimately merely metaphor, symbol.
  • Naturalism is about content rather than form (Williams 1978:498) from Lacey on realism page 63
  • As the term ‘realism’ is used in various contexts, in different kinds of art, sociality, politics, way of thinking, it is much more useful to think of realism not as a fixed category, but as a series of debated, which are historically varable, which operate differently across different cultural forms, but which have a set of common issues at their core. (Lacey 64)
  • ..the development of science and historical attitudes towards society begin radically to alter the sense of motivation in the drama, and to restructure dramatic logic to exclude the divine and the supernatural as agents in the narrative. (pg 64 Lacey)
  • Stuart Hall has noted, ‘the attempt to capture the rythms and situations of real life has always been there’ (Hall1970:214)
  • Everything on the stage must be a nearly as possible real: ceilings, stucco cornices, fireplaces, wallpaper, stove-doors, air-vents, etc. (pg 23)
  • As it was impossible to use all original details (for example in historical plays) the technique of copying historical styles was born, to make the performance and appearance as naturalistic as possible. (pg 24)
  • The naturalistic theatre has created actors most adept in the art of reincarnation, which requires a knowledge of make-up and the ability to adapt the tongue to various accents and dialects, the voice being employed as a means of sound-reproduction” “..” The actor is expected to lose his self-consciousness rather than develop a sense of aestheticism..” pg 24)
  • The sketches of great masters often produce a stonger impression than their finished paintings..” & “Wax figures have no aesthetic impact even though they represent the closest imitation of nature. It is impossible to regard them as artistic creations, because they leave nothing to the imagination of the spectator” (Schopenhauer)
  • In the theatre the spectator’s imagination is able to supply that which is left unsaid. It is the mystery and the desire to solve it which draw so many people to the theatre’ (pg 25)
  • “…” just as a sailor can plumb his lead only to the depth which his line allows.’ (Schopenhauer)
  • Theatre has to leave enough to the audience to imagine, not to show, say and explain everything too clear, because when the spectator can use their imagination, it will be the most meaningful and enjoyable for each one of them, as they refer the ideas with their own ones. So it is all about stirring the imagination with the ideas. (pg 26-27)
  • The worst thing is, when you firstly you leave space to imagine smth particular, but later show it clearly, which makes the spectator disenchanted and angry, because the mystery and the ‘picture in their mind’ has vanished, blown away, dreams are shattered. (pg 26)
  • Time is very precious element on the stage – nothing must not last longer than necessary, because it tires the audience, wipes away their attention and they most probably will lose the next good scenes, ideas and motives. (pg 28)
  • If a scene is too complicated and long the spectator spends all their energy to understand this and loses the act’s leitmotiv. (pg 29)
  • The urge to show everything, the fear of staying unclear, or being misunderstood, turns the theatre into a mere illustration of the author’s words, which doesn’t have any impact or doesn’t impress the audience, doesn’t inspire or give anything to think about. (pg 30)
  • The naturalistic theatre has conducted a never-ending search for the fourth wall which has led it into a whole series of absurdities, trying to make everything ‘just like real life’ and turned the stage into some sort of antique shop. (pg 30)
  • There is no point to make a sound of the wind if the cloaks stay still. (pg 31)
  • Another problem of realistic stagecraft, which doesn’t look realistic with the actors within it – because when the actor moves back and forth, left and right – the background stays the same, the actor looks basically the same size – the 3D doesn’t work properly. (pg 31)
  • Coquelin, a star of Comedie Franqaise – dual personality of the actor (his first self, the player – person to be created; and his second self, which is the instrument, characteristic of the actor. Critisized actors who let their ‘second self’ dominate and thus perform all their roles as minor variations on their own personalities.
Fracois Delsarte had a triadic theory of human: Body, Soul and Mind- functions: Vital, Emotional and Intellectual
Before 1700 most people named their identity in terms of their social role- a mother, aristrocrat or a slave – it was logical step to see your primary identity as a social self. The plays of Shakespeare and Moliere are full of characters who understand themselves mostly in terms of their social roles. From 18th century, however, various European cultures began to redefine identity in locational and physical terms and actors had to work with new concepts of identity – for selves, roles and actors/characters – to accommodate the change. (pg 376)
Stanislavski created an acting study, which looked deep into characters mind and soul, the actors needed to empathize the characters, as they were also complex human beings with many attributers, feelings and unconscious desires with whom readers/observes would empathize. What would I do as this character in the midst of the circumstances of this scene.
Stanislaski believed in three circles of self and wanted actors to discover the inner circle of a character. He taught that actors must restrict themselves to the smallest possible circles necessary for the moment-to-moment performance of their roles in order to retain a sense of themselves as private people, despite their public exposure on the stage.
From Meyerhold’s point of view, the characters had to serve the purposes of the actor’s performance and the director’s production, not the other way around. (pg 379)
Meyerhold always wanted the audience to understand that theatre was a game (pg 380)
While Stanislavsky thought of audiences as similar to novel readers – bringing individual, psychological responses to what they saw and heard. Meyerhold conceived of spectators as a group of filmgoers whose social responses would help tp transform the new Soviet nation (self-conscious viewers aware of the construction of film montage and meaning. Rather than creating an illusion on the stage Meyerhold sought to create a kind of carnival in the entire auditorium, and often had his actors breaking the illusion of the fourth wall or even running through the playhouse to engage spectators directly. (pg 380)
Meyerhold trained his actors to physicalize social types for the stage and wanted to call attention to the kinds of physical and social transformations necessary for the welfare of the new Soviet Union. In the 1920s he believed that his theatre could help to move Russia toward a Communist utpia by providing new social models trained an energized with physical efficiency. (pg 380)
In 1960 new actor trainers started to mix these two systems. For instance, movement based work of Jacues LeCoq, psychophysical regimen for actors in Japan Suzuki Tadashi, and the actor-as-facilitator model developed and applied by Brazilian Augusto Boal.
  • It takes a lot of tiredless patience and reharsals to reach the believable point to imagine the 4th wall. so it takes tons of work to reach the initiative and lifelike point.(pg 92)
  • Being a director is devided into two parts- creating the stageset, the environment, home for the characters; and then let the characters live, have emotions, feelings, purposes etc. Because environment must influence the actors, not vice versa. (pg98/99)
  • Now we need real characters with past, routines, resistances , to live their daily lives, BUT we get men and woman who have been taught never to talk while walking, speak to the audience, have the proper inflection, declaim according to the rules, recite their lines elegantly, not to sound familiar or vulgar, they play effects of detail, even though they do not pay attention to the over-all picture, but express theirselves only with face and voice, and don not use their whole body, they ignore nuances of modern dialogue – its turns of phase, subtle intonations, overtones and eloquent silences. (pg 99)
  • Contemporary actors know that movement is the actor’s most intense means of expression; theis whole physical make-up is part of the character, they represent the action in their hands, their back, feet. They know that every scene in a play is subordinated in turn to general movement of the play; and nothing must disturb a group effect. They make the characters come alive, depict for us every aspect of the character, the material as well as the spiritual (pg 100)
  • Every time when the actor him/herself reveals beneath the character, the dramatic continuity is broken. (pg 100)

MILLING “Stanislavski’s theoretical system”

  • Stanislavki tried to work out a coherence between different situations in drama play, not just formulating a particular scene/piece, but creating an alternative performance text for acting in changing circumstances. (pg 3)
  • Although he was a good writer and he did write his ideas, theories and thoughts down, his students have finished the notes and it is difficult to track where and how exactly he came from one point to another, which experiences influenced particular ideas. This is why it is worth questioning if there is such thing as a system, or is it just the most influential myths of contemporary theatre. (pg 4)
  • Realism as a term has existed for ages, but was first used from 19th century
  • It has two aspects, intention and method, which are unseparable, though both can be observed as a complex factor.
  • If we are to discuss those later intentions, there is a certain obvious loss if we set intention aside and discuss only method, or think that we can reduce the question of intention to the question of method.” (pg 228)
  • The three characteristics to drama- 1) conscious movement towards social extension, 2) siting the actions in present, making action contemporary, 3) emphasis on secular action, moving away from religious themes, frames and way of thinking (pg 228-229)
  • Development of realism is directly connected to the progress and change of attitude towards rationalism and science.( pg 229)


  • Alexandre Dumas – French romanticism and historical fiction
  • Honore de Balzac – French one of the founders of realism in European literature. He was keen on details and famous for an unfiltered representation of society.
  • August Strindberg- Swedish playwright, novelist, essayins, poet, painter
  • Baron Hulot – a character of Balzac’s book La Cousine Bette
  • Cesar Birotteau – a book and a character by Honore de Balzac
  • Anton Chekhov – Russin physician, playwright and author, realist.
  • Edward Bond – English playwright, theatre director and screenwriter.
  • Emile Augier
  • Encore – who or what?
  • Eugene Ionesco
  • Eugene O’Neill
  • Genet
  • Geoffroy
  • Harold Pinter
  • Harold Pinter
  • Hauptmann
  • Ioneso
  • James Joyce
  • Kerkegaard
  • Lekain
  • M. Adolphe Jullien
  • Michael Sanderson
  • MM. Augier
  • Old Grandet
  • Peer Gynt
  • Pere Goriot
  • Samuel Beckett
  • Sardou
  • Sardou
  • Sartre
  • Schopenhauer
  • Sean Casey
  • Strindberg
  • Swedenborg
  • V. Hugo
  • Wedekind

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