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THEATRE (From Shaw to Pinter via Beckett)

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THEATRE (From Shaw to Pinter via Beckett)

Types of skills


Types of tasks



Ознакомительное, просмотровое/поисковое, изучающее- с целью полного понимания отрывков из произведений художественной литературы.

Ответы на вопросы, выбор правильного ответа




Передача и запрос информации, выражение отношения к прочитанному, драматизация прочитанного.




Написание эссе

(описательного характера)


The time period of the 1910s-1960s

  1. Sculpture in Britain

a) His expression is pagan-like. It resembles a Satyr from Greek mythology. It wants to capture his free, individualistic, almost wild spirit. Epstein works with exaggerated, slightly distorted, expressive features.

Возможные варианты
b) tenderness, subtlety, control, mastership, perfectionism, beauty
возможные варианты (if negative)
c) it reminds us of a nightmare – a Kafkaesque world, his Metamorphosis, the experience of war horrors, absurdity of the world
adjectives: disturbing, disquieting, provoking, misshapen, unpleasant, unclear, confusing, animal-like, man-like
pagan formerly not Christian, pre-Christian reminding

Kafkaesque of the characters and atmosphere of Kafka’s

novels, full of anxiety, fear, misunderstanding, misplacement

  1. Timeline

Draw a timeline on the board, vertically so that there is enough space for names next to it. The students will work in pairs. When finished, they will write their results on the timeline on the board. A similar timeline can be drawn, as team work, on a larger sheet of paper to be displayed in the classroom. Then, the project can contain more details as the students consult and study respective materials.
15th century – Shakespeare

16th century –

17th century – comedy of manners

18th century –

19th century – O. Wilde

20th century – 10s-20s – G. B. Shaw

30s-40s – T. S. Elliot

40s-50s – S. Beckett – the Theatre of the Absurd

50s-60s – J. Osborne – Angry Young Men

60s-70s – H. Pinter – the Theatre of the Absurd

b) Shakespeare was a versatile and prolific writer. He wrote about 37 tragedies, comedies and historical plays. Then, there is a line of comedies starting with the comedies of manners (Restoration comedies) which were bawdy and full of hints at the sexual life of their heroes. The line goes on via O. Wilde’s comedies (variations of comedy of manners set in the Victorian period), towards G. B. Shaw, who was even more openly critical of the British class society and attacked social and moral problems;

c) Some of the possible answers can be: Irishness – the same background, Wilde, Shaw and Beckett were born in Dublin with a strong oral tradition, wit, use of words;

d) Open to discussion, from the contemporary dramatists we should mention an Irishman Brian Friel (Dancing at Lughnasa, Translations) or Ronald Harwood (The Dresser, Poison Pen), Timberlake Wertenbaker (Our Country’s Good) and already a classic Tom Stoppard.

  1. Pygmalion

Stage Instructions – Act Two

Pre-reading introduction

  1. A possible answer can be: yes, it is important – a future play-write will get practical experience of the stage, its size, the effect the movement on the stage creates, the sense of timing for humorous effects;

  2. Pygmalion was a king from Greek mythology. He fell in love with a statue he had made and through his prayers the statue eventually became live. Here the connecting idea is that of the transformation of a woman into an idol (and vice versa);

  3. c) You will probably have to explain the following terms:


(fƏ’nolƏdži) science concerned with distinguishing sounds in the language (phonetics)

Cockney a strong London accent special rhyming slang, dropping the “h”s


(‘bæčƏlƏ) an unmarried man

Covent Garden a famous London theatre and a market place
Some possible answers can be: Higgins shows his superiority, he is firmly set in his bachelor style of life. He is a well-known scientist, deeply interested in studying speech accents. He takes an interest in Liza not as a woman, but an object of his experiments. Pickering admires Higgins professionally. He seems to be more friendly to Liza than Higgins. Liza worships Higgins at first. She is aware that he has the key to a better life for her. Liza is eager to learn, later she becomes an independent woman who knows her value;

  1. open to discussion;

  2. One possible solution can be: the way people speak certainly tells us a lot about them, but did even more so in Shaw’s time. Speakers were classified according to their regions, but more importantly into a certain social class;

Shaw himself was much concerned with the connection between language and class. He also ardently fought for the simplification of written English, bringing it closer to its spoken form;

  1. The students try to visualize Higgins’s phonetic laboratory, his sacred place and draw its picture – a simple outline will do. They will work in pairs and discuss the effect of his bachelorhood on the way Higgins might have furnished his room. Finally they will compare their pictures with those of their neighbours;

  2. Appetizing (‘æpƏtaiziŋ) now used only about food, meaning stimulating

the appetite
The additional questions could start up a discussion on Higgins as the prototype of somebody who, living alone, has learnt how to be selfish. How do you imagine an appetizing person? Do you thing this is an appropriate adjective to characterize Higgins?

  1. Now they should compare their drawings with the text of the stage instructions (see the text below). Notice that Shaw uses a different spelling of “shew”. Tell the students that when reading, they should not get disrupted by the details of the furniture, but follow the basic terms only. We are concerned with the atmosphere;

  2. Technical terms are: phonograph, laryngoscope, organ pipes, bellows. The students should discuss the meaning of these words and how they are used today, in modern science. In which fields? Has their meaning changed or do the words still represent the same items? Eg a phonograph (a word from Edison’s times) has since been replaced by a gramophone, later a record player and now the term stereo is used. Bellows were used to blow into a fire in order to make it burn better.

  1. Pygmalion

Act Two
listening, reading
Whenever you read a scene from a play, always divide the roles and ask the students to read aloud. Only then will the words of the text become alive through the intonation and personal expression of their readers.

  1. notice: whats, youll, ive not, youll, don’t, lets, shew, I’ll shew

возможные варианты ответов

  1. she came to see him and asked him to be taught to speak like a lady;

  2. As a bachelor he is not interested in her as a woman, or in her as a social case, but in her as a mere object of his scientific studies and experimenting;

  3. My Fair Lady (USA 1964, directed by George Cukor);

Find out how many students have seen the film or know the story. Divide the class into smaller groups so that each group will have at least one student who knows the story. They should reconstruct it then.

If nobody knows it, here is a short description: After a series of funny scenes in which Higgins and Liza do their best, the transformation of Liza becomes a success. Higgins wins the bet from Colonel Pickering. The final test, the ball, shows Liza as the most charming young lady in the room. However, after the three months of staying in the Professor’s house, she has to face the problem of where she belongs now. No longer a Cockney girl, she cannot be accepted by the upper classes either. She is also confused about her personal feelings towards Higgins. While he is still able to see only interesting study material in her, she falls in love with him. The happy-end occurs only in the film version. In the play, she leaves Higgins for her young admirer Freddie.

  1. The Period: 1930s – 1940s

Thomas Stearns Eliot
If the students have no clue, help them by pointing out the historical period in the 12th century – the assassination of the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, the conflict between the Church and the King, pilgrimages to Canterbury and ultimately the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (‘džefri ‘čo:sƏ).

  1. as for the style: the Church and the person of Saint Becket represented the “high” theme which required an equally “high” form – Eliot chose to write his play in verse, in blank verse, with a chorus commenting on the plot like in ancient Greek tragedies. “Murder in the Cathedral” was one of the examples of what British theatre in that period was like. This play was aimed at intellectuals and was more concerned with the past than the present.

It should be mentioned that to divide writers according to their countries of their birth can sometimes be misleading. Where should eg Henry James (born in the USA, lived and wrote mostly in Britain), Thomas Stearns Eliot (born in the USA, lived and worked in England or Samuel Beckett (born in Britain, lived and worked in France) belong?

  1. The Period of the 1950s

Samuel Beckett – waiting for Godot

  1. The difference between them is that Vladimir is interested in finding out about Godot, he is calmer, more gentle to the boy. Estragon is more violent, impulsive, firing questions at the boy, talking fast;

  2. Estragon is even physically violent (shaking the boy by the arm, intimidating him). One student will act out a gesture, the others will guess its meaning.


  1. In most productions there is an empty stage, sometimes with a tree or a small hill (mound). No props;

  2. They are tramps, it means people without traditional family or home ties, the 20th century nomads, lost, without roots, past or future. They might be dressed in black, in tattered clothes, torn, with holes …;

  3. The language is simple, with easy vocabulary, quick, short words, colloquial, grammatically easy. The exchanges are fast, however, and the audience might get confused;

  4. It is an abrupt interrogation though the dialogues sound like real dialogues. They make no sense, there are many questions but the answers to them are not really satisfactory. In fact the questions seem to be more important than the answers, the characters in fact do NOT want to find the answers. The communication as such is not important. Vladimir’s way of “talking” to the boy reminds us of that of an inquisitor. The boy is like a robot, mechanically alternating the answers from “Yes, sir” to “I don’t know, sir”;

  5. Vladimir and Estragon make questions and give answers without getting anywhere. The play is NOT about solving the problem, about finding Godot, whoever he is, or about having a motive to do anything. It is rather about killing the time of waiting, of being bored and feeling playful without any further explanation. There is no reality, everything is relative and seen from an absurd perspective. The absurdity of existing corresponds to the absurdity of human relationships in the middle of the 20th century;

  6. We cannot see much sense in their existence. They resemble clowns in a circus, falling over each other and again helping each other to get up. We might feel affection, pity and caring towards them.

  1. Most 20th century artistic trends originated in Paris. Make the students see the connections between the art scene and literature (with the relevant isms – dadaism, surrealism …);

j) open to discussion
7. Harold Pinter

The Homecoming

  1. The students should fire their associations quickly, without giving them a second thought. Brainstorming should be fast and spontaneous.

Возможные варианты ответов
safety, warmth, meeting a familiar world, welcome, returning, good memories (possible idealization), bad memories, false memories, back to roots, self-knowledge, places frozen in time, realising change, sense of belonging, relaxation, place you do not have to put on a show …

  1. A familiar setting, a living room in a family house, conventional furniture …


  1. The students work in pairs. They should study the text carefully to see which of the two characters dominates which. Pinter’s characters show their dominance by:

  • changing the subject of the conversation

  • talking more than their partner (notice the big discrepancy here)

  • who is sitting and who is standing

  • how and what the character is saying

Lenny uses very rude language, but Ruth does not seem to be shocked. They get close to each other quickly. They understand each other, they speak the same language – where is the explanation? Lenny wants to impress her, talks a lot, manipulates her step by step: eg

Lenny: “shall I take this ashtray out of your way?”

Ruth: “it’s not in my way.”

Lenny wants to decide for her.
He will soon recognize that Ruth is the same kind of a person as he is, from the underworld of prostitutes and pimps (a pimp is a man who controls prostitutes and lives on the money they earn).

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