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Scribe in the 19th century, and many others before him (Cumberland, Kotzebue, etc.) wrote hundreds of plays by formula – exposition, first complication, etc. – all in a three-act structure, which demanded a beginning-middle-end arrangement of plot development. In this post-modern age, however, the two-act play structure allows for a different kind of dramatic exploration: the mise-en-scene in situ, and the changes that precipitous alteration makes or fails to make. Ionesco, Shepard, Mamet, etc. dramatize a world with flaws in the first act, then dramatize the changes/non-changes caused by an alteration in outward circumstances. Beckett’s Waiting for Godot is a good example of the dramatization of non-change; Ionesco’s Rhinoceros can serve as a model of change. The ultimate purpose of these two-act play conventions is to discuss the phenomenon of “useless change,” the philosophical and political belief that no “improvements” can alter “human nature,” that working toward social change is an illusion. The only modern-day dramas that use Scribe’s formula are television dramas, which are very formulaic, demands an "unfolding" very much like the "well-made" play.
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