Examine Robert bolt’s use of stage setting and the character device of the “common man” in his play “A man for all seasons”. What is Bolt’s purpose in using these and how successful do you think he is?
The character, the common man is like the narrator, he is similar to Shakespeare’s character ‘chorus’. They are different in the way the common man acts different characters throughout the play. The common man narrates the story in parts and makes a link with the audience. Shakespeare’s ‘chorus’ simply acted as a commentator throughout the play, he did not act any characters out. Chorus did not take any active part in Shakespeare’s play. The common man appears in the play as different characters and will occasionally comment on the action, which is going on in the play.
Bolt’s stage directions are very specific and they are also long. The scenery is changed in full view of the audience, this uses the idea of the alienation effect. The effect of the stage directions being in full view of the audience breaks the realism. Plays are supposed to create illusion of something else, Bolt’s ideas prevent this illusion, this is similar to play writer Bertolt Brecht.
Drama has changed throughout the years, after world war two there was a feeling among people that drama had gone “stale”. The plays were very realistic with realistic scenery, but they were not challenging and had no real passion. They were purely for entertainment and no real thought. This lead to the revolt of the “Angry Young Men”. They started to write plays that were more radical, they contained more political views and they set the scene in more of a working class life and settings. These were “kitchen sink “ dramas.
Continental dramatists influenced writers, Bolt borrowed ideas off Bertolt Brecht, he did not copy completely but Brecht did influence Bolt. Brecht argued that the theatre should not try and convince and believe in the presence of the characters that are on stage. He wanted the audience to realise that what they see on stage is merely on account of past events, he thought they should watch the plays with critical detachment. Brecht introduced the alienation effect (verfremdungseffekt) he wanted the audience to be constantly reminded that what they were watching was not real. He wanted to draw people to the theory of the play and he did not want them to get emotionally involved because their attention would be drawn away from the theory. He did this by not using realistic costumes or props. Also he had the characters ‘step out of’ character, or comment upon their own situation.