Henrik Ibsen, Shirley Pollock, and Bertolt Brecht are three of the literary world’s famous playwrights. Ibsen, a Norwegian, is often called the father of modern drama because his works explored subjects that were not normally touched by writers during his time (Barranger 134; Siddall 7). Pollock known as Canada’s female writer is multi-awarded, but not very well-known internationally because only a few of her works had seen publication.
This paper discusses some of the best plays written by these playwrights, such as “Ghosts” by Ibsen, “The good person of Szechwan” by Brecht and “Blood Relations” by Pollock. In these three works, the themes of self-identity and survival play important roles in their development and meaning.
The use of self-identity as a theme offers various approaches in the three plays. In “Ghosts,” Oswald and Regina have both found a piece of information at the end of the play that resolves questions as to their identity and origin: Oswald finally understands that the fate he suffers is not due to his recklessness, but due to the debauchery of his father, and; the ambitious Regina finally finds out that she is a daughter of a “gentleman” (Ibsen 11).
In “Blood Relations,” asserting one’s self-identity is only hinted at as the basis for the crime. The play advances the speculation that Lizzie killed her parents to save herself from being forced into a life and an identity that she does not want. Lizzie is presented in the play as a homosexual, and that before their deaths, her parents wanted her to marry a widower with three children (Pollock 7).
Considering Brecht’s “The good person of Szechwan,” it should be stated that the main idea of the play is to show that the good is possible only in case the evil exists (59). Moreover, the play shows the principles of modern morality and altruism in society. There are characters, however, where the realization of self-identity results in more complication.
In “Ghosts,” Alving’s self-identity as a mother is further challenged as she is faced with the prospect of deciding whether her love for her son includes the courage of helping him end his life as Oswald experiences seizures that would ultimately make him invalid (Ibsen 11). Survival is another theme that is present and central in the three plays, although it is approached differently by each play.
In “Blood Relations,” it is hinted that the character of Lizzie was forced to kill her parents to survive as a person with her own identity. In “Ghosts,” Mrs. Alving was forced to live with the debauchery of her husband to survive in a society that does not look kindly on women abandoning their husbands.
Other characters in the play display their own method of coping with the issue of survival: Regina takes up residence with Mrs. Alving and learns French anticipating that Oswald would bring her to France with him; Jacob Engstrand married Regina’s mother for money although she was already pregnant with another man’s child.
Finally, Oswald keeps a stash of morphine in his person in preparation for the eventuality when he needs to end his life to prevent living a life of an invalid. In the last case, killing himself is still a form of survival for Oswald from a life that will become useless and without meaning.
Reading “The good person of Szechwan” by Brecht, one understands that personal identity is not exactly what people see. At the same time, what people see is always not who a person is. Applying to the example of the self-identity and survival in the play under consideration, it is possible to say that people got used to believing that prostitutes are referred to the lower layer of the population and with lower social status.
However, Shen The is a good-hearted prostitute who is always ready to help. The themes of self-identity and survival are central and are very important in the development of the plays “Ghosts” by Ibsen, “The good person of Szechwan” by Brecht and “Blood Relations” by Pollock.
These themes are necessary for their respective plot development and to create the conflicts necessary to give the coherence and logic of the play. Self-identity is crucial to resolve the issues that cause the conflict in some of the characters such as that of Oswald, Regina, and Lizzie, while survival is a theme that underlies almost every major character in the three plays, especially that of Lizzie in “Blood Relations.”
Therefore, it may be concluded that the idea of illusion and reality is interesting to the authors, as presenting their characters, they wanted top to create them naturally, but at the same time the authors referred to the society or particular members of the society who using their prejudiced attitude turned the situation in the way how they saw the situation, even though in some cases the reality was confused (Coldeway and Streitberger 129).
Thus, the idea of illusion and the real estate will always matter for playwrights as this is the food for the imagination.
Barranger, Milly. Theatre: A Way of Seeing. 6th Edn. California: Cengage Learning, 2005. Print.
Brecht, Bertolt. The good person of Szechwan. John Willet (trans). London: Methuen, 1995.
Coldeway, John and W. R. Streitberger (eds). Drama: Classical to Contemporary. New Jersey: Prince Hall, 2001. Print.
Ibsen, Henrik. Ghosts. Stephen Mulrine (trans). London: Nick Hern Books, 2001. Print.
Pollock, Sharon. Blood Relations and Other Plays. Alberta: NeWest Press, 2002. Print.
Siddall, Stephen. Henrik Ibsen: ‘A Doll’s House.‘ Humanities-Ebooks, 2008. Print.