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The Modernist Theater’s Departure from the Romantic Theater Essay

From the early theater of the Greeks to Broadway, theater had definitely evolved to one of the most accepted and highly communicated form of art. After all, everything is subject to change, the world of theater is no exception. The theater that we know today had undergone heavy changes. In those stages of changes, it had seemed that just after a type of theater has been accepted by the public, another type of theater will arise.

It also seems that the following type of theater intentionally digresses from its predecessor just like in the case of the shift from theater of the Romantic period to the Modernist Theater. Much of the theater that our generation experiences (this type of theater can be categorized as post-modern) owes much from Modernist Theater. With that taken into account, Modern theater also owes much from its forerunner Romantic Theater even though Modern Theater intentionally defies the convention set by the theater of the Romantic period.

To start off, we will have a brief background of the kind of theater in the Romantic period. The Romantic period followed after period Neoclassical had receded. Perhaps the best and concise way of theater of the Romantic period could be described is with the name of probably one greatest playwright that had ever written, William Shakespeare. He is considered as an immortal in the world of literature simply because his works are still the most popular of plays even if it has been generations since he had wrought it.

Other famous playwrights during this time are Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and Victor Hugo among many others. They plays of William Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights during the Romantic period are usually written in poetic language. This poetic language could also be called as “elevated language” that is seemingly too complicated to be used in conversations of our generation. The plays during this time were mostly plot driven. The theater of the Romantic period is often criticized as appealing more to the emotion and not to the intellect.

It is also a convention that the characters of the plays were of noble status in the society. The plays were designed to be long that they could run for several long acts. Moreover, one their theater many practices is having the audiences distributed within the theater according to the amount that they had paid. (Kermode 2005) All of those conventions and practices were intentionally defied by the Modernist Theater. The language that they used is prosaic, imitating the way people normally speak in casual conversations.

The plays are also centering on the characters themselves rather than the plot. Modernist Theater also gave way to the rise of one-act plays that would run for just minutes as opposed to hours in Romantic plays. The plays of Modernist Theater is appealing more to the intellect rather than the emotion, thus they can be called intelligent plays. The seats for the audience are fashioned in such way that there will be no marginalization of the poor and the rich. That is because Modernists wanted to have what they call a “classless” theater.

Aside from the direct deviations from the Romantic Theater, Modernists also gave way for revolutions in the theater world. They had formulated plots that can be considered contemporary so the audience could relate more to the play. Modernists Theater also gave way to a new kind of conflict for plays that they call as “inner conflict. ” (Wainscott 1997) All in all, the Modernist Theater had surfaced because (just like how the Romantic period had replaced the Neoclassical period) the context of theater in general is changed through time.

The times are changing and so are the demands of the new audience. Modernist Theater had defied the theater of the Romantic period not because the former has no respect to the latter. It just because some things are not fitting anymore, and the new generations requires changes. Reference Kermode, F. 2005. The Age of Shakespeare. Random House Publishing Group: Ontario Wainscott, R. H. 1997. The Emergence of the Modern American Theater, 1914-1929. Yale University Press


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