Saturday, May 24, 2014

How to Analyze a Scene/ Passage in a Play

How to Analyze a Scene/Passage in a Play

  1. Read the entire play first. Often the consequences of an action aren't clear until the end of the play.
  2. Re-read the scene/passage you're analyzing and answer the following questions:
    • Who are the characters on the stage?
    • What is the central issue the characters are discussing?
    • What are the views of the characters in the scene? Since drama is based on conflicts, at least two of the characters will differ in their viewpoints. Remember that there may be more than two sides to the issue.
    • Does the author seem to try to get you to side with one particular side?
    • Does the action that follows suggest that one or more of the characters were right? That one or more characters were wrong?
    • If the actions or beliefs of the character(s) you were siding with prove to be wrong in some way, why might the author have led you to sympathize with this character before you found out the results of the character's beliefs?
    • What lessons do the various characters learn by the end of the play? Does their understanding suggest some sort of theme?
  3. Given your understanding of the entire play, what is the theme of the scene/passage? (Remember to state the theme in general or universal terms, rather than just summarizing the particular actions or beliefs of the particular characters.)
  4. Now that you've chosen a theme, re-read the scene/passage and look for details in the characters' speeches and actions (or lack thereof) that support your interpretation. Be sure to note any ironies in word or deed. (In general, irony results from a discrepancy between someone's actions or beliefs and the reality of the situation. For example, if someone who claims to be against violence hits her opponent in a debate, then her action may be termed ironic. (Other examples of irony: a preacher who has an affair with a member of his congregation, a psychiatrist who can't solve his own problems). In plays and film, a special kind of irony-- dramatic irony--emphasizes the discrpancy between what a character does or thinks and what the audience knows to be the case. Tragedies often use dramatic irony: the baby sitter who tells the children upstairs to be quiet, not realizing (as the audience does) that the psychopathic killer is the one making the noise. A playwright may use dramatic irony to illustrate the limitations of human perceptions or beliefs, or the inability of a character to admit having those limitations.

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