Fox 1 Lecture 2
Theatre, Cinema & Society 1T03
Thursday May 9, 2013
Dr. Peter Cockett
Linear Narratives & Their Consequences – Lecture 2
Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Tragedy is the “imitation of an action”
Epic (novel) tells and imitates
What is an “action”?
Roughly approximate to a story
Aristotle says every good action has “a beginning, a middle and an end” = must
relate to each other in a causal fashion
The action of tragedy is that a great person falls to destruction (King Lear)
Formal elements of the “action” of a play
Peripeteia: Reversal of fortunes (Lion King: finds out he’s king)
Films and plays often feature several of these
Sometimes they occur together, sometimes separately
Vladimir Propp (1895-1970)
Analyzed fairy tales and found repeated patterns:
A hero goes after the object (King -> Princess in the castle)
There could be obstacles in between such as climbing a mountain range, an
antagonist (wicked wizard), social status (poverty), & internal obstacles (self-
In theatre and film analysis we generally refer to the hero as the protagonist
Identify moments of reversal and recognition
What is discovered?
How is it significant?
In “possible world” of the play or film
In relation to cultural discourses of the creators’ society
In relation to the cultural discourses in our own society Fox 2 Lecture 2
The Lion King
Identify moments of reversal or discovery
What do they mean?
Identification, Empathy & Catharsis:
When watching a film or play people often identify themselves with the protagonists
In tragedy, an empathizing audience will share in the pain and suffering of the
Aristotle called this catharsis and believed it was key to the social function of drama
In comedy, an emphasizing audience will share in the happy resolution and the
restoration of social order at the end
What if you don’t agree with the social order restored?
The Problem with Linear Narratives:
The Perspective of One:
Through whose eyes are we seeing the possible world of the play or film?
What gender is the protagonist?
What class is the protagonist?
Arguing that we see through “human” eyes is not acceptable. There is always a
particular perspective created as a consequence of the choice of protagonist
They have a beginning, middle and an end
Aristotle also says that each part must be causally related to the other creating a
progression of seemingly inescapable logic
The Problem with Empathy:
Brazilian theatrical creator, theorist and politician
“Empathy must be understood as the terrible weapon it really is. Empathy is the most
dangerous weapon in the entire…”
“empathy is the emotional relationship with is established between the character and
spectator and which provokes a delegation of power on the part of the spectator, who Fox 3 Lecture 2
becomes an objects in relation to the character: whatever happened to the latter
happens vicariously to the spectator”
Whatever the protagonist sees, I see
All theatrical performances and films are cultural constructions
Society is also a construction
Theatrical performances and films present possible worlds that establish specific
relationships with the societies of their audiences
Task: Learn how to analyze the way films and plays structure audience response and
thereby communicate their meanings
Our analysis will be broken down into the production choices made