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Thematic Study

Page history last edited by Matt Peterson 11 years, 4 months ago

Matters to Observe in Drama

          Adapted from: Croft, S. and Cross, H. English for the IB Diploma. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

     1. How the dramatists present characters and convey to the audience their thoughts and motives

     2. The structure of the plays

     3. The importance of conflict in drama

     4. Dramatic techniques and staging

     5. How dramatists present their ideas and thematic strands

     6. The use of language in plays (254)



     7. Visualize the text

     8. Consider the power of the opening scene

          A. What effect does the writer want this scene to have on the audience?

          B. What purpose does the scene serve in the play as a whole?


           Possible answers:

               a. Exposition--provides background information and necessary details

               b. Establish setting and context

               c. Create mood

               d. Create tension or interest

               e. Introduce characters, circumstances, and relationships    



Our Tack

The affliction by the past

The power or inadequacy of dreams

What it means to be a family  



TGM is a great play to study with Miller's Death of a Salesman. Enjoy the many ways to link, compare, and contrast the characters:


  • Tom-Biff
  • Jim-The Loman Brothers
  • Jim-Ben
  • Amanda-Willy
  • Laura-Willy
  • Laura-Biff



DoS is a great play to study with Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House (1879). Enjoy the many ways to link, compare, and contrast the characters:

  • Willy-Nora
  • Linda-Nora
  • Biff-Nora
  • Willy-Helmer


Also notice how very different the plays feel:

  • Pace/length of lines
  • Texture of language
  • Number of characters on stage and active
  • Chronology
  • Conveyance of time: exposition vs. dramatization
  • Thematic communication by set, or not
  • Thematic communication of stage direction or lighting
  • Specificity of stage direction
  • Lighting 
  • Music


Note that throughout the play, features overlap and complement each other.    


  Death of a Salesman The Glass Menagerie A Doll's House

Figurative Element: Motifs, Metaphors, and Symbols

Chevy ()

back yard ()

rubber pipe () 

football ()



Christmas tree

the New Year

Tarantella dance 


Female sacrifice






Duty/Bond/contract--debt and marriage




the past 




Gender inequality--women are oppressed by _dominant males, by societal expectations_

Facades--What families present is not necessarily what they are. 

Role play--Gender roles demand females' habitual sacrifice and conformity. 




Lomans' house

(paying off)




The Tovald Helmer household

One room shown 

Theatrical/Dramatic Qualities (Below)   (Below)
Music/Sound Effects      
Stage Setting and Props    

Christmas tree


Outdoor clothes


Stage Direction      

Willy Loman

Linda Loman

Biff Loman

Happy Loman


Bernard (Charlie's son)

Ben (Willy's brother

--in white, a real memory and a delusion)

The Woman 



Torvald Helmer


Dr. Rank

Mrs. Linde





Former Paper 2 drama questions 

1. With reference to two or three plays you have studied, examine the dramatic significance of

failures in communication.


2. Consider the ways in which scene changes may highlight the development of the characters and

their relationships in two or three plays you have studied. 


3. The desire for power drives many of the tensions of drama. Discuss the ways in which dramatists

have presented tensions which arise from the desire for power in at least two plays.


4. “In drama there are more interesting roles for men than for women.” Discuss to what extent

you agree with this statement and what it is that makes a role interesting. Refer closely to at

least two plays you have studied.


5. How do guilt and/or blame contribute to conflict and the overall effect in at least two of the

plays you have studied?


6. How do characters and the choices they make contribute to meaning in two or three plays you have studied?


7. Compare and contrast how dramatists create and use suspense in the development of two or three plays you have studied.


8. Compare the means by which atmosphere is created in two or three plays you have studied. In each case, discuss how the atmosphere presented contributes to your appreciation and understanding of the play as a whole.


9. Through an analysis of some of the characters in two or three plays you have studied, compare the ways in which the struggle between internal and external forces is presented.


10. “Drama at its best investigates the problems that beset ordinary individuals.” In light of

this statement consider the ways in which two or three dramatists you have studied

explore the problems that affect individuals.


11. Compare the presentation and functions of the openings in two or three plays you have



12. All characters in a play are mouthpieces for their author. From a consideration of some

characters from the plays you have studied, say how far you agree.


13. A necessary part of drama is not only to present conflict between the characters in a play

but also to create conflicts within each member of the audience. Compare and contrast

two or three plays you have studied in the light of this comment.


14. The theatre brings into the open important issues of the time.

How have dramatists presented important issues in plays you have studied?


15. Compare and discuss how the action unfolds in two or three plays you have studied,

paying attention to the sequence of particular scenes. How effective do you find the

arrangements to be in each play as a whole?

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