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Do you agree that Yeats creates a scene of tragic intensity in Purgatory, or is the play too short and the characters too thinly evinced for this to be the case?

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Introduction

"I have a one act scene in my head, a scene of tragic intensity." :- Yeats Do you agree that Yeats creates a scene of tragic intensity in Purgatory, or is the play too short and the characters too thinly evinced for this to be the case? The play Purgatory was written in 1938 by Yeats as a single-scene play revolving around the idea of tragic intensity. Yeats was a philosophical writer, choosing meaningful subject matters to discuss in his work. In this case, he chose to symbolise the destruction of Ireland created by the controversy of religion after being inspired by other plays such as Shakespeare's Hamlet and using the definitions set out by Aristotle after he studied the elements that made up a great tragedy. In order to create a successful tragedy, Yeats used the Aristotelian unities: time, action and place. The timing of the play ensures a strong plausibility as the action is all dealt with in real-time, therefore reducing the imagination needed on behalf of the audience increasing the plausibility. The setting throughout the play is in a confined place upon the stage with very few changes made, allowing little release of tension. ...read more.

Middle

Death is a foreboding unknown in everyone's life that most are afraid of, and in Purgatory Yeats uses this to foreshadow the Boy's death as the he mentions "Now I am young and you are old." This creates confusion and tension as it is unclear who will die. Although the ghosts' role in the play is limited, their presence is a constant reminder of past events, present actions and the future to come that all relates to death. This tension and the compactness of the play help to increase the intensity as well as invoke fear in the audience, which contributes to the final catharsis Yeats uses cyclical chronology within the play to illustrate the idea of time being a continual concept that cannot be stopped. It highlights the eternal nature of purgatory and expands the idea of the inevitability of the drama. Yeats' use of the hoof beats signals the reoccurring cycle, allowing the events to begin and for the audience, who cannot hear the noise, to question the sanity of the Old Man. The simple lighting in the window, the props, stage effects and setting all help form the audience's perception of a void place, therefore a tragic location filled with intensity, as anything more flamboyant would detract from the tragedy and therefore reduce its strength by distracting the attention onto details that do not contribute. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is intensified as the tragedy is not reduced but shown on a small scale. Harold Bloom1 criticized Purgatory by attacking Yeats, believing there is "confusion... in the play." Bloom found the ending of the play a mass of confusion rather than causing the surge of emotions that are evoked at the end of a tragedy. This brings up the debate as to whether Yeats created an intense piece of drama or just a bewildering fifteen minute sketch. However, even if Purgatory is confusing due to the brevity, the mysterious plot can add to the overall tragedy, leaving the audience unsure of what they have witnessed, and fearful due to the rash actions of the Old Man and the presence of the paranormal. In conclusion, Yeats creates a scene with brimming with tragic intensity by using the minimal props, time, characters and plot. The brevity of Purgatory ensures a 'scene of tragic intensity' due to the resulting starkness, claustrophobia and desolate tone. The horrifying drama concludes with an dark, empty set, which is how it had started, therefore presenting the cyclicality of purgatory on the stage for the audience to see. Yeats successfully moulded every aspect of tragedy at his disposal and created an intensely dramatic production. 1 Harold Bloom, 1939 "On The Boiler" ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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