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Aristotle is regarded as one of the most important philosophers who has ever existed in history. He lived between 384-322 BC, and history records him as a student of Plato and also a teacher of Alexander the Great. This philosopher had a lot of o influence during the middle age and his works revolved around nature, psychology, politics, art, ethics, and logic. He came up with six elements of drama that has widely been used to understand the nature of various plays. This work will identify these elements of drama by Aristotle and determine how they have been applied in Jesica Swale's Blue Stockings.
The drama, Blue Stockings, is a play written by Jessica Swale. The drama talks about the plight of women in a male-dominated society. Conflict arises when women seek education too and want to earn the right to graduate, just like the men. As a result, the play focuses on four girls, who decides to join Garton college. Events unfold when there arises a battle for sexual and education equality where these girls undergo prejudice, economic hardships, romantic challenges and distractions from the radical politics. These were the major matters that surrounded the life of a student during this period. A controversial vote arises on: should the "bluestockings" be given a chance to graduate or not along with their male counterparts in school?
Aristotle's Elements of Drama
Aristotle identified six elements that he considered every drama to have. These are plot, character, theme, language, music, and spectacle.
The plot is the first element of a drama according to Aristotle. It refers to the story of the play. The plot traces the journey of the protagonist and his/her conflict with the antagonist. It refers to the events of the play and talks about what happens in the play. The plot should not be confused with the meaning of what happens. It, therefore, means that there is a conflict and the characters are involved in it. This conflict develops a pattern of movement. The actions and movement in the play start from initial entanglement. It then arises through action, climax and falling action to resolution.
The plot in Blue Stockings is set in Girton College, Cambridge, in 1898. During this period, the Girton had established their college the males could attend their lectures and do their assignments. Conflict arises in the play when the females want to join their male counterpart, to attend the lectures and also do the assignments. The Protagonist, Tess Moffat and her fellow first years are determined to win the battle to graduate. The rising action of the plot occurs when Tess Moffat and her colleagues are distracted by love, the cruelty of the class division, student politics among other challenges. These happen in an attempt to stop them. The protagonist, Tess publicly questions the visiting Dr. Maudsley's opinion on the widespread fact that hysteria is the product of lack of moral judgment in the female gender.
Tess champions science against arts and refuses to accept the decision that her teachers imposed on her concerning love and getting knowledge. The climax of the plot, also referred to as the turning point, occurs when the time for graduation comes and the system denies the girls to graduate. Tess, therefore, campaigns for the graduation rights of her fellow girls. The falling action of the conflict occurs when Girton's diplomatic principal links the graduation battle to the fight against female suffrage when she advocates for patients. The conflict reaches a resolution stage when the girls finally graduate, and things return to normal.
Characters refer to the individuals that a play presents to unravel the events as they occur in the plot. The play, Blue Stockings has some characters that the director uses to pursue the plot. Each of these characters has their unique character traits regarding personality, appearance, age, beliefs, socio-economic background and language. The Characters in the play are:
The Girton girls-Tess Moffat (the protagonist), Celia Willibald, Carolyn Addison, and Maeve Sullivan.
The Cambridge Boys-Ralph Mayhew, Lloyd, Holmes, Edwards and Will Bennet.
The Staff- Elizabeth Walsh (Mistress of Girton), Dr. Maudsley(a renowned psychologist), Mr. Banks (Lecturer at Girton and Trinity), Mrs. Blake (Lecturer), Prof. Collins (Lecturer), Prof. Anderson (Lecturer), Prof. Radleigh (board member at Trinity), Minnie (housemaid), Mr. Peck (gardener and maintenance) and Miss Bott (a chaperone).
Others- Billy Sullivan (Maeve's brother), Mrs. Lindley (a shopkeeper haberdashery), A librarian, a lady and her husband in the Cafe.
The characters used to develop the plot in the play have unique characters. For instance, Tess Moffat displays herself as an ambitious and curious girl who would let nothing block her mission. Celia Willibond comes out as a fragile hard worker. Maeve, on the other hand, displays herself as a smart working-class girl. Such character traits are what help the writer to develop the entire play. On characters, Aristotle, therefore, illustrates that for the play to develop, there must be someone or something that is either human or non-human. Characters, therefore, play the vital role of moving the action of the play forward. They help in building the plot.
The theme refers to the main reason the playwright wrote the play. In other words, it is the meaning that the drama implies as opposed to the events that take place in the plot. Some dramas usually display the theme in the title, but this is different from the play, Blue Stockings. Characters start themes in plays through a way of dialogue.
In the play, the theme of feminism dominates the plot. The drama centers on the campaign that aimed at allowing the female students to graduate. The ideas that visibly come out in these events are the right to education and self-determination. There is also the plight of women in a male-dominated society when the four girls are denied the right to graduate; and even if they graduate, they will still occupy a low state in the society of looking after their families and their husbands.
The title is also relevant since it's linked to the theme in the play. The play also begins by Dr. Maudsley addressing his audience that educating women is a dangerous idea, by arguing that it is their reproductive and biological functions should determine the lives of women. The idea displayed here is that the females are not allowed to venture into the intellectual world and compete with the men in schools of thought. However, the female principal, Mrs. Elizabeth Welsh warmly welcome the girls but does not stand out strongly to defend them as events unfold.
Language is a medium of communication. It applies the concept of diction that the playwright chooses to use in a play. It is language that is used to vividly describe the characters, their actions, and the events as they unfold. In plays, language can take the dimensions of either being a narrative or dramatic. Language, therefore, looks at the word choices by the playwright. The language moves the plot and actions in a play. In the play, Jesica Swale, therefore, uses language to provide exposition, define the distinct characters in the play such as Dr. Maudsley, The Girton Girls, The Cambridge Boys among other characters. The play is classified under Shakespearean drama and therefore uses Shakespeare's English to develop its plot.
Music in a play refers to each and everything that the audience listens to from the play. These include aspects such as words, music, and effects of sound. This is what makes a play more interesting and keeps the audience to be more attentive while watching a play. The rhythm develops mood for the play. In this aspect, the music combines the rhythm of dialogue and speeches in the play according to Aristotle. However, music is not always included as part of every play. Music, therefore, creates patterns and sets up-tempo in theatre. The play therefore commonly uses music composed by Laura Forest Hay to accompany its performances, but it is not limited to this.
Spectacle involves aspects of scenery, costumes and special effects that help in the production of a play. They are the visual elements that are created for a play to rejuvenate the theatre experience. The prologue in act one of the play paints a picture in the mind of the audience. Aspects such as smoke, steam, train sounds among others are described. This play uses costumes such as skirts, button boots, hat pinned boaters among other costumes. The play requires beautifully constructed costumes that help to establish the female and male characters. These help in injecting life into the play.
In conclusion, this play by Jesica Swale can be said to have applied all the six elements of a play that Aristotle suggested. The play gives an excellent sense of history and the experiences that students at Girton College, the first college to admit females, had in 1898. From the play, the playwright displays her words and lines with vivacity. The play is therefore recommended for viewing by women, students, historians, feminists and many others.
Swale, Jessica. Blue Stockings. Nick Hern Books, 2013.
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