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Theatre and Evolution from Ibsen to Beckett$
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Kirsten Shepherd-Barr

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164702

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164702.001.0001

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Confronting the Serious Side

Confronting the Serious Side

Chapter:
(p.38) 2 Confronting the Serious Side
Source:
Theatre and Evolution from Ibsen to Beckett
Author(s):

Kirsten Shepherd-Barr

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231164702.003.0002

This chapter examines serious attempts to incorporate evolution thematically into plays during the nineteenth century, many of which hinge on the relationship between people and their environments. Downing Cless has argued that by the mid-Victorian period, with the development of domestic drama, settings move indoors: “Nature does not disappear...but it is distanced—what's outside the window or what's down the stream.” However, there are significant exceptions to this claim. Henrik Ibsen's plays do feature people talking intensely in rooms, but they also emphasize and indeed rely on their natural settings. These environments directly shape the action; they are not just “down the stream.” One of the playwrights who exemplifies this emphasis on environment is James A. Herne, who, influenced by Ibsen, brought nature even more directly on stage. This chapter also considers the ways in which extinction plays out on stage in the nineteenth century and how Charles Darwin's ideas inspired the newly physical emphasis in acting.

Keywords:   evolution, plays, environment, Charles Darwin, drama, Henrik Ibsen, James A. Herne, nature, extinction, acting

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