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Realism Theatre

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Essay title: Realism Theatre

Realism is the movement toward representing reality as it is, in art. Realistic

drama is an attempt to portray life on stage, a movement away from the

conventional melodramas and sentimental comedies of the 1700s. It is expressed

in theatre through the use of symbolism, character development, stage setting

and storyline and is exemplified in plays such as Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House

and Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters. The arrival of realism was indeed good

for theatre as it promoted greater audience involvement and raised awareness of

contemporary social and moral issues. It also provided and continues to provide

a medium through which playwrights can express their views about societal

values, attitudes and morals. A Doll's House is the tragedy of a Norwegian

housewife who is compelled to challenge law, society and her husband's value

system. It can be clearly recognized as a realistic problem drama, for it is a

case where the individual is in opposition to a hostile society. Ibsen's

sympathy with the feminine cause has been praised and criticized; as he requires

the audience to judge the words and actions of the characters in order to

reassess the values of society. The characters in A Doll's House are quite

complex and contradictory, no longer stereotypes. In Act II, Nora expresses her

repulsion about a fancy dress worn to please Torvald (her husband): "I wish

I'd torn it to pieces"; she attempts to restore it and resign herself to

her situation right after: "I'll ask Mrs Linde to help". In Act III,

Torvald ignores his wife's plea for forgiveness in order to make a moral

judgement: "You've killed my happiness.You've destroyed my future".

"I can never trust you again." Later on in the same act, he

contradicts himself: "I'll change. I can change-"; much after Nora

confronts him: "Sit here, Torvald. We have to come to terms".

"…There's a lot to say". Here, Ibsen shows us he has worked in depth

with the psychology of the characters, giving them a sense of complexity and

realism. Playgoers therefore recognize the revelation of characters through

memory. Thus drama became an experience closely impinging on the conscience of

the audience. Ibsen was also unique for his use of symbolism to assist realism

on stage. Symbolic significance is presented through the detail of design, props

and actions of the characters. For example, in Act III, Nora goes offstage to

get changed; "I'm changing. No more fancy dress". It is a symbolic

representation of her personal change, one where she has come to the realization

that she has been living the life of a doll, confined to the roles of a

"featherbrain", "plaything", "dove",

"skylark" and "songbird". Thus, symbolism enhanced realism,

and its effect can be seen as positive in the sense that it stirred conscious

awareness of values. The stage settings of A Doll's House are an integral part

of the theatrical design, and not mere dйcor to be overlooked. The setting in

Act II; "…the Christmas tree stands stripped of its decorations and with

its candles burnt to stumps" is symbolic of the lack of happiness in Nora's

life at that moment. Also the change of setting in Act III; "The tables and

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