22 Jun 2010

Sample Essay: World Theatre

“Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off” by Liz Lochhead and “Antigone” by Jean Anouilh

Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off” by Liz Lochhead and “Antigone” by Jean Anouilh seem at first sight to have little in common. However, both plays include themes as conflict, sisters’ rivalry and female sexuality; themes that are interesting to reflect on to understand the social realities depicted in the works. “Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped off” is set in the 16th century and is therefore based on real historical events that serve the purpose of representing the way of life of that particular period. The relationship between Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I, with all that includes in terms of conflict and rivalry, is well drawn on in the play illustrating both the sphere within the Royal court as well as the hierarchical functioning of British society during the 16th century. “Antigone” deals on the other hand with similar themes of conflict and struggle for power through the depicted clash between Antigone and Creon. Both plays shed therefore light on the nature of power, fate, choice and conflict particularly in relation to the royal authoritative zones. These notions and themes are especially well understood through the particular performance style adopted in the enactment of each play. Whether the focus is on the stimulation of the intellectuality or the emotions of the audience makes a great difference in the overall perception and comprehension among the viewers of the particular themes and ideas conveyed in the play. In short, “Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off” by Liz Lochhead and “Antigone” by Jean Anouilh are interesting works to examine from a historical perspective in order to understand the dynamics of the social realities depicted and come to terms with the most effective performance methods through which to convey these ideas most successfully.

Reading both plays from a historical perspective helps shed light on themes as rivalry, conflict, struggle for power and female sexuality within the relative societies depicted in each work. These themes are undeniably present in both works and help illuminate the functioning of the society in general and the royal arena in particular. In “Antigone”, the subject of conflict is present in the struggle between Creon and Antigone as well as in the complicated relationship between the Sophocles” sisters: Ismene and Antigone. Both appear to be rivals and opposites in character. While Ismene is presented as reasonable and timid, Antigone is moody, impulsive and more of a dominant personality in terms of her continuous persistence in resisting the overall definition of what constitutes her girlhood. (Spark-notes) This opposition sheds light on the social status of women during the era of the play. Women were expected to be obedient, full-figured creatures. Therefore, women as Antigone who resisted the general pattern were frowned down at and perceived with suspicion. For this reason, the conflict between Ismene and Antigone is a reflection of the clash between the dominant accepted social view of womanhood and the feminine desire to revolt against it. Whereas Ismene is the good appropriate girl, Antigone curses her feminine aspects and voices her hatred and rejection of the manifestation of feminism that Ismene embodies throughout her life. This is how the themes of conflict and sisters’ rivalry are closely knitted to the idea of women’s position and status in the play’s society.

“Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off” is very similar to “Antigone” in its manner of approaching these same themes to illuminate notions as womanhood and power struggle as essential traits of the authoritarian power circles. The conflict between Mary and Elizabeth that leads to Mary’s beheading is a story that reflects woman’s power to shape history. In the same manner as Antigone binds her sister to a tree as a child to stage her mutilation, Elizabeth kills her own sister to secure the thrown of England. (Publisher’s Weekly) These almost inhumanly cruel and extremely self-centered actions prove essential to survive in a male dominated world. It is this determined female energy and willingness to ensure expression of strength at any expense that makes Antigone and Elizabeth stand out in both plays as the embodiment of a new voice of feminism. The two plays reflect thus on the idea of the necessity of social hierarchical change especially in regard to women’s position. In short, these two literary works manage to effectively shed light on the subjects of struggle, power, conflict, and sisters’ rivalry which all illuminates the idea of womanhood within the relative societies depicted in each play.

“Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off” and “Antigone” are two literary works that are thus concerned with the depiction of similar themes ranging from power struggle to the relative perception of womanhood. It is however interesting and crucial to reflect on the extent of each play’s successful realistic depiction of the subjects and people included in order to shed light on the most effective performance methods through which to convey these ideas even more successfully. For example, in “Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off” it is noticeable that the events are set in 16th century Britain to correspond with the historical data available in regard to the plays’ events that did take place in real life. However, what is also interesting to note in the style of writing is the author’s frequent usage of anachronisms that confuse and alienate the reader. This technique serves to implicate the author’s need to distance the plays’ historical events, which factually occurred, from the realm of realistic representation. The author’s style and tone suggests also that though the play represents life, it is no imitation of it. This is especially noticeable in the parallels drawn between the events within the 16th century and the modern age in terms of the themes examined so far. What also underlines the author’s attempts to alienate the reader or viewer from perceiving all depicted as factual and realistic is the choice of the narrator: La Corie. The narrator sheds light on the events and characters and hence leads the reader through the play. The logical conclusion would be that his role is founded on illuminating the play to the reader or viewer rather than providing contradictory evidence or statements to confuse and hence alienate him personally as a reliable narrator. However, this technique is very noticeable in the narrator’s style which suggests Liz Lochhead’s desire to distance the reader from the events as factual representations of historical reality. The author’s adoption of this approach consequentially stimulates the reader or viewer to form his own opinion and rely on his own interpretations and intellectuality to comprehend the depicted social reality in the play. This suggests a similar approach in the actual enactment of the play itself.

The performance of the aforementioned two plays ought to rely on very meticulous and well-thought of methods to effectively convey the complicated themes to the audience. Whether these methods would focus on provoking the intellectuality or emotions of the audience is of great significance to the overall impact of the play at the end. Planned and organized performance is hence very essential to bring out all the themes discussed so far better to the foreground. The similarities in themes between the two plays suggest the ability to approach both in a similar manner when it comes to the envisionment of reliable performance techniques to use on stage. Since both plays include subjects crucial to the understanding of serious and grand ideas as power and women’s changing social position and sexuality, a focus on stimulating the intellectuality of the audience through the adoption of alienating performance techniques as captions, the enactment of the plays as “a play within a play”, the stylized nature of the chorus and the direct address of the audience, could bring about beneficial results in regard to the in-depth comprehension of the performed act. These techniques would place emphasis on the theatricality of the production and remind the audience constantly of the formality of the chorus which is thus a very effective alienating device. This would not bring about complete emotional un-attachment from the play among the audience but would serve to remind them of the fact that anything viewed is performed but nevertheless still representative of a certain undeniable human reality perceivable in past and current societies through the continuous struggle for change and power. The performers’ ability to effectively convey these themes with an emotional force combined with an intellectual distance is the only way through which to achieve a balance that would enable the audience to be still aware of the emotional facets of the events while focusing on the intellectual significance of it. (Burke) However, balancing these two aspects of performance can prove to be more complicated in practice and would require an adoption of different philosophies from various theatre performance critics and experts such as Brecht and Stanislavski.

Creating a self-contained drama on live stage is not an easy thing to accomplish without the necessary background knowledge of the essential theatre theories that will guide the performance. Telling a story in the most effective manner requires a certain understanding of the existing theories regarding theatre or performance. The range from Aristotle’s view of the theatre to Konstantin Stanislavski, Bertolt Brecht, Orson Welles, Antonin Artaud and Peter Brook. Aristotle approached theatre from a simple angle. He argued that any performance required six essential ingredients as plot, character, idea, language, music and spectacle. (Hatcher, p.21)Konstantin Stanislavski on the other hand is considered to be the founder of theater technique because he is in fact the first person to write about the subject. For this reason, most of what is known today as modern western theatre is somehow based on his system in which he advocates for exploring a character from the ‘inside out’ and the ‘outside in’. His theatre philosophy or his system is mainly focused on training actors to provide the most effective performance. The focus in this training is on improving the faculties of concentration, voice, physical skills, harmony, analysis, observation and personalization. His theory advocates also for “living the part” enacted during a performance through referring the events to a personal emotional context or using imagination, in case the first is too painful, to fully comprehend the act enacted in order to convey it with emotional force to the audience. Therefore, Stanislavski’s approach and solution for finding a balance in the performer’s act that would evoke both the intellectuality and emotions of the audience, is based on the theory that actors should first experience their own emotions and embody them through the theatre language which in its turn focuses on improving the concentration and observation of the actor to have him convey his moving experience most successfully to the audience. (Roose-Evans, p.6-7) If this approach is applied to the two plays the outcome would be the provocation of deep thought and feelings as a result of the almost live and realistic performance that is not an act but a representation of the actors’ lives and experiences placed within the context of the plays’ events. This would be a dramatic manner through which to approach the performance of the plays as it would bring everything enacted to life. However, the two plays can also be approached from a more rationalistic angle such as through the adoption of Brecht’s approach to theatre.

The performance of both plays could also be approached from Brecht’s perspective: the epic theatre. Most of Brecht’s techniques revolve generally around preventing the audience from identifying wit the actions seen while maintaining focus on provoking rational self-reflection. These techniques focus on reminding the spectator that all seen is a representation of reality and not reality itself. Brecht called this the Verfremdungseffekt which includes for example exaggerated stage lighting, direct address of the actors to the audience, and the use of songs or captions that explain and present the events. It is thus possible and logical to approach both plays through the usage of a combination of different alienating styles that range from captions and interludes to the enactment of the plays as a “play within a play”. This would enable the audience to concentrate its energy more on the comprehension of the themes discussed.  The use of captions as is done in episodic narrative theatre could be accomplished through the display of the events to come in writing or through simply announcing them out by reading out. In either way, the audience is forced to focus its energy on interpreting the events to come rather than just following the story since it has already been announced. This is an effective alienating device that could be very useful in the performance of both plays. Thereby, another method used in the episodic narrative theatre that would be beneficial in the enactment of both “Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off” and “Antigone” is through the inclusion of interludes in which the performers stand back from their roles and comment on the actions of the characters. These interludes would be most effective in the aftermath of a scene full of action as it would again channel the audience’s focus away from the story line to the significance and meaning behind it. The “play within the play” could on the other hand be done through the inclusion of a presenter, a narrator, in the form of a singer or actor who guides the audience throughout. This presenter’s role would not be simply confined to narration but would include also commentary. All the aforementioned techniques and methods would provide opportunity for reflection on the themes in the play away from the distraction generally generated by suspense which is thus effectively eliminated through the aforementioned devices. (teachit.co.uk)

It is therefore undeniable that an effective performance can transform the audience’s perception towards many themes and issues which is why theatre has been a mode of conveying ideas of great social and political significance. A successful and well-planned live performance would greatly impact the perception of the viewer. For these reasons, effective methods through which to convey the themes in the plays of “Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off” by Liz Lochhead and “Antigone” by Jean Anouilh are important to consider in advance. Whether the enactment of the events focuses on emotionally engaging the audience or intellectually motivating them could make a great difference as has been mentioned. As a result of the two plays’ inclusion of several significant and complicated themes whose importance is neither confined to the ancient Greek period or 16th century British era, a focus on stimulating the intellectual faculty of the audience through the adoption of several alienating devices as, among others, the direct address of the audience, the inclusion of a “play within a play”, the performers’ commentary on events during interludes and the use of captions, is deemed most effective in underlining the full dimensions and dynamics of these two interesting plays.

Works Cited

Burke, Alison. “Characterizing the Chorus: Individual and Collective in Four Recent Productions of Greek Tragedy.” The Open University. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2010. <www2.open.ac.uk/ClassicalStudies/GreekPlays/Seminar02/AlisonFinal.htm#_ednref38>.

Hatcher, Jeffrey  The art & craft of playwriting. Writer’s Digest Books, 2000. Print.

Roose-Evans, James. Experimental Theatre from Stanislavsky to Peter Brook. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.

“Spark-Notes: Antigone: Themes, Motifs, and Symbols.” SparkNotes: Today’s Most Popular Study Guides. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2010. <http://www.sparknotes.com/drama/antigone/themes.html>.

“Studying Bertolt Brecht.” Teachit.co.uk – Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2010. <http://www.teachit.co.uk/armoore/drama/brecht.htm>.

The Life of Mary Queen of Scots: An Accidental Tragedy.” Publishers Weekly 256.19 (2009): 41-42. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 6 Apr. 2010.

15 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: Why The Cold War Was Good For America

During the whole period, rivalry was expressed through propaganda, image distortion, dirt of dangerous weapons, military conditions; competitive in technology e.g. space race and industrial advances. Both USSR and US spent exotically in defense. Despite their allying against the axis powers in the world war two, they fell in sharp differences on the post-war world’s image as they had become the worlds supper powers based on economy, technology and even politics. This conflict divided the world in a bipolar world due to a prompt for countries to align themselves with either of these powers. This rivalry in a suppressed form had greatly spread all over the world within a short time pf start existence and being.

The cold war was in real sense is a struggle hence conflict between two opposing ideologies, communism and capitalism. Capitalism, which would also be termed as anti communism, was well adopted and embraced by the Americans in their overall politics while communism dominated the USSR political domain in all aspects of its being. The cold war continued making remarkable impacts on not only these parties involved but the entire world. After all was said, occurred and done impacts could be felt either positively or negatively in dependence to regio[i]ns initial state of being and the current stage propagated  by this rivalry caused by difference in ideologies. The impact on Americans as frequently argued out was on different basic areas of dependence.

It is very true that cold war brought good results. One of them is the introduction of communism. This finally brought to an end the soviet unions collapse. In addition to this, the, the cold war was a causative factor of a tremendous revolution of in technology that has ever been in the history of humanity1. In a confident way, I would in every bid possible, put forward an evidence to prove that the cold war in its occurrence brought some benefits to the USA more so in these ways.

The cold war resulted into an ultimate strengthening and being of the communist Russian. This gave the US an only state of being the remaining supper power in a world that became unipolar.

All countries would be in recognition of the fact that US has become the overall overseer of these countries in the world. After the collapse of the USSR ,USA has ever since became a sole state that has preeminence in ever power , domain ,iron terms of , economy , military diplomacy ideology , technology and culture in opposition and capability to bring out it’s interests in every part of the world2[ii] .

When this war ended and consequently the Soviet Union’s existence and power diminished, the USSR’s ideology of communism also dropped and it faded away in the countries known to have been sole strong embracers of communism. The failure and drop of communism gave capital ideology a tremendous rice and acceptance in most countries.

The world in a unipolar state under the supremacy of it awards to USA in due process embraces and accepts capitalism. It is noteworthy that the US has benefited from the cold war in that its state no world’s view of it has changed. The USA has changed has gained the position and recognition of being a world’s supper power and in turn brings about respect and a great opportunity to impact the post cold war world in best way possible . Because the USA has become the supper power, many countries look unto her for help and support in terms of technical advice and financial age. This in turn keeps USA on toes in every domain that directly involves decision-making and policy formulation and enactment.

Had the Soviet Union not collapsed there would be division and loss of business parts and cooperates for USA because some of her partners were entirely embracing communism. This would consequently affect the American’s economy in a bigger way than at the moment.

The cold war was in a more clear way was beneficial to the USA than even the USSR which at the end of the span of time collapsed never to rise again. It brought about the numerous advancements to the USA in a wider range of aspects. More technologically, USA rose up to some notches higher than she was initially a bid to be ahead of the other, both USA and USSR manufactured and invented weapons that are more powerful.

The weapons manufactured during this time were powerful and found use by the military in defense. In a bid to advance in weapon to technology, USA adopted more practices that are scientific. This move helped to enhancing the USA’s technology in defense. Involvement of USA in arms race brought about the inventory and use of nuclear energy in manufacture of some more sophisticated weapons and equipment to be used. With the invention of nuclear energy there has therefore been the use of which consequently supplication to USA’s energy sources. Now apart from coal, the consumers could now use nuclear energy hence saving some reasonable amount of money. This nuclear technology has therefore provided an option to the Americans on the type of energy, and reduced her dependency on oil3. Though very dangerous to the human existence, nuclear energy brought about by the technology acquired during the cold war in the arms race.

The cold war also brought about state technology. During this rivalry, every party was in great attempt to outdo their rival by any means possible. The adoption and use of space by USSR promoted USA to adopt a space program that would also help gain information about her rival the USSR. The space programs have aided a great deal in Intelligence Corporation, which helps USA keep track of everything happening around her and her enemies. It has today helped them to deal with terrorism and any other security threat to USA in their air space4.

The USA benefited from the cold war in terms of racial integration within the military.  This was and is still very essential in the country’s defense. The entire population of America became united together in effort to defend their country and national heritage5. This was a common but very noble cause as they felt that this rivalry directed affected their lives in not only the military basis but also the society[iii]The Americans since and during this time became united and embraced promotion like never before. It is therefore noteworthy to conclude that the cold war killed racism to a certain level, brought about integration and the spirit of patriotism. This happened as USA was on her feet trying to outturn its rival in every possible way.

On a conclusive note despite the fact that the cold war brought a lot of negative effects in all aspects but especially the economy there is something positive that could be attributed to the cold war in USA even today .

All the advancements gained during the cold war can be put in a nutshell to include space technology and nuclear technology.  USA therefore rose in position to be a supper power and national integration of USA could greatly be attributed to the cold war .Today Americans can be proud of themselves and they are confident in terms of defense as they have one of remarkably sophisticated military systems ever since time in memorial.


Kenton J. Moody, Ian D. Hutcheon, Patrick M .Nuclear Forensic Analysis. NY: Grant.

China’s Nuclear Weapon Development, Modernization and Testing  http://www.nti.org/db/China/wnwmdat.htm

John, J. and Harvey A. Espionage in America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003

Harvey John, J. Espionage in America at the commence of the cold war. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

Hogan, Michael. The End of Cold War, Its meanings and Implications, Cambridge University Press, 1992

1.Nuclear Forensic Analysis By Kenton J. Moody, Ian D. Hutcheon, Patrick M. Grant pg. 34

2. China’s Nuclear Weapon Development, Modernization and Testing  http://www.nti.org/db/China/wnwmdat.htm

3 John, J. and Harvey A. Espionage in America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003

4 Harvey John, J. Espionage in America at the commence of the cold war. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003

5 Hogan, Michael. The End of Cold War, Its meanings and Implications, Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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