I’m studying for my Writing class and don’t understand how to answer this. Can you help me study?
Toward the beginning of the course, we learned that theatre is about the inner processes–motivations, yearning, and needs–of life. The character of Troy gives us an excellent opportunity to think and write about such inner processes as they relate to him.
In one paragraph of between 150 and 200 words, write your response to this question: Why do you suppose Troy denies his son the opportunity for a football scholarship to college?
Know that there is not just one possible answer. Since Troy is a complex character, a number of possible motivations exist. You should include one such motivation and make a clear argument for it. Your argument should be based on evidence from the play and you should include that evidence in your discussion.
To stay within the word limit necessitates that you write concisely. State what you believe to be Troy’s motivation in the first sentence. Then, use the rest of the paragraph to list and describe two or three reasons for your interpretation. Make sure your reasons come from evidence from the text. Evidence would include his words and actions–concrete proof as to why he makes the decision he makes.
Avoid the mistake of confusing Troy’s moods with his motivations. His moods are many and they come and go. That’s true of all of us. Moods include anger, agitation, mean-spiritedness, and more. Motivations, on the other hand, are anchored in such concrete aspects of his life and being, in particular, what kind of life experiences he has endured that would shape his attitude toward others, especially white people. In conclusion, citing moods like anger or mean-spiritedness as motivations would NOT be an adequate response to this question.
Avoid the mistake of including long quotations from the play. Such a response would not be valid and result in a low grade. Almost all of your response should be your words, not quotations from the text.
If you decide to re-write the assignment after you’ve already turned in one draft, you may turn in another. Simply submit the next draft.
Write and submit your assignment using .doc or .docx. Use easy-to-read font styles like Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial, black lettering, and 11- or 12-point font size. Also, use one-inch margins on all fours sides of the page.
These parameters help me in grading. So, thank you for observing them!
Post your assignment by the beginning of the f2f class for this module, which is at 10:05 A.M. on Thursday, October 1. Any assignment posted between the deadline and 12:00 P.M. (noon) the following Saturday, October 3, will be lowered by 5 points. After 12:00 P.M. on Saturday, October 3, the assignment will no longer be available. Any students who have not posted a comment by then will receive zero points.
This assignment is worth 25 points.
Your posts will be graded on accuracy, completeness, and clarity.
All posts must be earnest, relevant, and respectful. Any post not meeting these standards, as deemed by the professor, will be given a failing grade.
Some Tips for Writing Well
- Even though this is quite a short piece of writing I’m asking you to do, take in the following writing tips in order to craft well all of your assignments for this course.
- While this is a post to a discussion, avoid the mistake of thinking of it as a text message or a comment in social media. This is an assignment for a class. Therefore, pay attention to word choice, clarity of meaning, mechanics of writing, and so forth.
- Do not wait until the day before the assignment is due to churn out a rushed response. A thoughtful response–that is, one that takes into account all relevant parts of Troy’s character as revealed through the dialogue of the play–takes several drafts over several days.
- For the first comment, do several drafts and allow at least a night to go by between each one so that you can come back to the next revision with fresh eyes. That means completing your first draft no later than Sunday.
- Think of your writing as a piece of sculpture. You chisel away until the truth of what you mean to communicate emerges.
- When you do go back to your latest draft, pretend you’ve never read it before. With that mindset, ask yourself whether what you’ve written makes sense, carries the reader along from one point to the next in a logical way, and engages the reader with thoughtful points.
- Find the right balance between too much detail and not enough.
All posts should be of your own thinking and writing. Copying from each other’s work or from other sources will be considered a breach of academic honesty. See the course syllabus for more information about academic honesty. When quoting from the text of the play, use quotation marks and indicate the page numbers from which the quotations are taken in parentheses following the quotation. Turnitin will be turned on for this assignment. For more information about Turnitin, see the syllabus.
So far in this unit, we have focused on dialogue and action as two main ingredients of plays. In doing so, the third main ingredient, character, has already emerged. After all, who speaks dialogue and takes action as a result of motivated desires and needs? Character. Of course. The next few slides are from live productions. I have attended. I think that for me character is the most memorable of the three ingredients of plays. I don’t always remember just exactly how the plot of the play unfolds or how the dialogue is written. But, I do remember the important characters. They are memorable because they provoke and me strong feelings. Feelings such as compassion, frustration, delight, hope, horror, and sorrow, to name a few. Let’s remember that plays are usually not much longer than a couple of hours. That raises the question of how playwrights create characters that impact us with so much feeling in so little time. There are several answers to this question. First, playwrights put lead characters into situations of difficulty or crisis, which they–the characters– must overcome. For this reason, we call the main character of a play. the protagonist, which comes from the Greek word agonists, meaning both combatant and actor. Sometimes, the protagonist encounters someone who is motivated to thwart his or her desires. That character is called the antagonist. When we talked about theatrical spaces and audiences, we emphasized that they reflect cultural values. The same is true of dramatic characters. Playwrights of every era and of every culture create characters according to the values of their own time and culture. For example, while the ancient Greek playwrights and their audiences saw human action as a struggle with the gods, the playwrights and audiences of the late 19th and 20th centuries, influenced, as they were, by the ideas of Sigmund Freud and others, saw human action as motivated by psychological and sociological forces. It stands to reason that the characters created by the ancient Greeks are different in worldview and behavior from characters created closer to our own time. Let’s look at five major categories of characters that developed during different historical periods of Western theatre. As we take up each category, we”ll mention examples. Let’s start with archetypal characters, which personify important aspects or traits of humanity that speak across cultures and time. In archetypal characters, we see extraordinary people struggling with extraordinary conditions. Because of this, they influence the way all of us perceive our reality. The great tragic heroes of ancient Greece, the English Renaissance, and American Modernism provide examples. Oedipus the King by Sophocles is an archetype of the powerful man brought low by his own willfulness. Oedipus’s daughter, Antigone, is an archetype of a strong woman of independent mind and moral compass, willing to die for what she believes is right. This photo is from the 2012 production at Royal National Theatre, in London, and shows Antigone on the left and her sister, Ismene, on the right. Macbeth by Shakespeare is an archetype of a loyal man held in high esteem lured by empty promises of power into committing acts of treason, regicide, and tyranny. Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare are archetypes of young, innocent lovers victimized by the selfish pride of their parents. Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is an archetype of the little man suffering from delusions of the American Dream. Troy in Fences by August Wilson is the archetype of an African-American man struggling to carve out a life for himself and his family in a racist society. Rose is the archetype of an African-American woman struggling to hold her family together. Next, let’s turn our attention to psychological characters. These are characters whose desires, emotions, and motivations are drawn in great detail. The field of psychology began in the 1870’s. So, from that time forward, some playwrights took an interest in writing complex characters. Of course, characters of deep complexity had been created prior to this. For example, many of Shakespeare’s characters are psychologically complex. He was ahead of his own time. Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s character, Nora, from his play A Doll’s House, written in the 1870’s, is a portrait of a woman who finds herself in a crisis that threatens her reputation as well as that of her husband’s. When her husband finds out about her predicament, she learns just how self-centered he is and on what lies her marriage to him is based. American playwright Tennessee Williams’s play A Streetcar Named Desire, written in 1947, presents Blanche Dubois, a woman who pretends to be someone she is not in order to hide the sadness and vulnerability of her difficult time. In the next video, we’ll pick up with more categories of characters.
Now, let’s move on to stock characters. Stock characters may be thought of as the opposite of psychological characters because they are defined by external attributes like class, occupation, or marital status rather than by internal qualities like desire or need. Roman Comedy, most notably the plays written by Plautus and Terence in the 2nd century BCE, and Commedia dell’arte, a popular form of theatre that originated in Italy and flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries CE, are two types of theatre that offered stock characters. They included character types like the wily maid, the innocent lovers, the overbearing father, the braggart soldier, the shrewish wife, and so on. These characters were recycled from play to play, used as a way of advancing plot more than for any individual qualities they may have possessed. The actors would wear masks that would define their characters, and they would wear the same mask from play to play. Because of this, the characters came to be known as “masks”. You can see some of the popular masks from Commedia dell’arte in the image posted here. There’s Il Capitano, the braggart warrior, in the top left. Just to his right is Pantalone a cunning and yet often deceived merchant. Just below him, is Il Dottore, known for his loquaciousness and his pedantic learning. In other words he was very a talkative doctor who would go on and on in an ostentatious way about learned topics. Modern examples of stock characters exist too–well, without the masks, I should say–especially in television situation comedies or sitcoms. Think of the goofy dad Phil on Modern Family. Our next category of characters is those with dominant traits. These characters were particularly popular in plays of the Restoration, that is, plays written during a period of time in England when they restored the monarchy after about eighteen years of not having one. Thus, the name “Restoration” to describe the arts, literature, and theatre that were created during that time. The dates are 1660 to 1714 CE. During that time, playwrights created characters whose very names indicated dominant character traits. Examples include Sir Fopling Flutter, a character created by George Etheredge in his play A Man of Mode, who is very much a fop, that is, a man more concerned about his appearance and manners than anything of more substance. Then, there is Lady Sneerwell, who, along with her servant Snake, stirs up scandal among members of society in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comedy The School for Scandal. During roughly the same period of time, in France, playwright and actor Moliere gave psychological depth to obsessive personality types. Like Shakespeare, he was ahead of his time. For example, in his play, Tartuffe, we meet Orgon, whose devotion to the seeming piety of religious hypocrite Tartuffe, nearly ruins Orgon’s family and home. The 20th century saw the rise of depersonalized characters, who, because they exist in an inhospitable world where engaging meaningfully with others seems impossible, fill their existence with meaningless activities or chatter. We find depersonalized characters in some of the plays of playwrights who, as a result of the devastation from two world wars, saw the world in bleak terms and questioned the possibility of finding meaning. Playwrights like Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco wrote Waiting for Godot and The Bald Soprano, respectively, in which characters who seem to lack any sort of defining past, find themselves doing their best just to get from one moment to the next without much purpose, or for that matter, even without much prospect for change. For them, life boils down to a series of coincidences mixed with meaningless talk. Depersonalized characters are associated with Absurdist plays which we identified in an earlier module as plays with circular plot structures. Finally, the last category of characters we will discuss in this video is deconstructed characters. This is a kind of character that began to appear in plays in the late 20th century when playwrights became interested in the notion that all roles, those in plays as well as those in life, are made up of, or constructed by, external pressures like societal expectations, family pressures, historical circumstances, and so forth. To explore this notion, playwrights created characters as constructs of such external pressures. For example, in Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill, the character, Betty, is a wife and mother living in East Africa as part of the British Empire during the late 19th century. Churchill wanted to show that Betty’s role is a construct of her husband’s expectations, her mother in law’s criticisms, and Victorian cultural values that enforced rigid roles for women. So, Churchill imagine Betty as a very nervous and confused woman, so focused on living up to the expectations placed upon her that she has little to no understanding of herself, how she feels, what she wants, or who she is. Furthermore, Churchill imagined the role of Betty to be played by a man with the intention of showing the degree to which she, as a dutiful Victorian wife and mother, is a man’s creation. In conclusion, I think it is important to point out that some dramatic characters do not fit neatly into just one of these five categories. For example, while Betty is an excellent example of a deconstructed character, we can also identify aspects of her that are associated with characters with a dominant trait. In her case, that dominant trait might be to please her husband and maintain an outward appearance of unimpeachable propriety. Then, too, over the course of the first act of the play, we begin to pick up on her inner life, that is to say, her inner feelings and thoughts. For this reason, she begins to show some hints of what we have termed a psychological character. That brings us to the end of our discussion of the five major categories of characters in Western theater.