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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Essay length: 2400 words

Describe, Examine and Analyse how Willy Russell uses dramatic devices to illustrate issues in "Shirley Valentine".

Extracts from this essay...


Describe, Examine and Analyse how Willy Russell uses dramatic devices to illustrate issues in "Shirley Valentine" The 1980's was a time of great change in Britain, but it was the changes to who worked, where they worked, and how society changed. In this play "Shirley Valentine", by Willy Russell, many different aspects of the change are shown on an average forty something housewife. The changes included the privatisation of public companies and economic growth, but the factors that would have impacted on Shirley the most would have been the rise of women out of the home and into work, feminism and the package holiday. The play also highlights stereotypes, which it then (in most cases collapses). Audiences would have been able to relate to these issues and so would be able to understand and enjoy the play more than if it had been about everyday life in somewhere like the Amazon rainforest. Russell himself was born in Liverpool in the 1940's to working class parents. His parents wanted him to get on in life, and rise from his "low beginnings". In the play, Russell may have meant to make a reference to his home life, when Shirley's father is mentioned as buying the whole encyclopaedia Britannica for his children and then wondering why they weren't clever.


An example of this is when Joe and Shirley have the argument about egg and chips. It highlights the way that most men expected things done by their wives, and if they weren't, there was going to be trouble. The way it affects the way the play is directed is that it can grab the audience's attention- after the series of long monologues and flashbacks, the writer uses an argument to get back the attention of the audience. Stereotypes and their collapsed versions are a view that someone has of a group of people: an example of a stereotype is "all Jamaicans are chilled out". They are used to provide another facility for humour, to highlight issues and to maintain audience attention. Issues highlighted include the unfair way people treat others. This is done in one case (Marjorie's) by letting the audience assume that someone is very 'posh' by showing her in a nice hotel with a maid to pour their tea, and then telling the audience that she is 'a hooker'. The collapsed stereotype would not really work without the reinforcing of the stereotype in the first place. This is because the audience need to have their preconceptions built up- it wouldn't be much use to just show Marjorie talking to Shirley in a normal Liverpudlian accent confessing that she is a prostitute, for example.


In the middle of the argument, Costas knocks at the door. Jane greets him with a question. "Hello? Room service, are you?" (more racism). Costas asks Shirley if she is coming out on the boat, and she says yes. She leaves Jane in a muddle in the hotel room and leaves her questions, and swimming costume as it turns out, behind. Costas and Shirley do, as it turns out, end up 'making fok' on the boat, and Shirley thinks she has fallen in love with Costas. It turns out that she hasn't, but has fallen in love with Greece. She doesn't go back on the plane with Jane, and Joe is left standing at the airport with a bunch of flowers and an expectant look on his face, looking forlorn and lost. It highlights how much some men need their wives, without ever noticing it. We last see Shirley on the beach again except happy this time, imagining Joe coming to collect her. She has found Shirley Valentine; for her Greece has been a voyage of self discovery. In conclusion, Willy Russell makes excellent use of dramatic devices in the play "Shirley Valentine". He knows exactly how to push the audience's buttons on the humourous, emotional and subconscious levels. He used dramatic devices very effectively to send out a message- that one day, no matter what the odds, most people find who they really are, and how badly people can treat others whether accidentally or on purpose.

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