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"The Visit",by Dürrenmatt,1956 and "Blood Wedding",by Lorca,1932 use divergent theatrical techniques to highlight their concern with social conventions. Both plays articulate the motive of personal vengeance to depict the social condition on stage. Dürrenmatt uses metatheatre in his play for the creation of an unreal world. He creates characters and situations that are realistic but adopts the Brecht-ian form of theatre to alienate the audience. The alienation effect is the Russian formalist concept of "defamiliarization" [i] . Dürrenmatt uses a variety of techniques to achieve this effect. One of them is through his dialogues. The dialogues of the characters have a didactic purpose. To further the plot and shift the attention of the audience to itself, minimizing empathy of the spectators for the characters. Lorca on the other hand uses extensive allegory as symbolism in poems, and visual representations to convey meanings. He uses this to involve the audience yet creating an unreal world. He fused the liberal thought of realism and the psychological depth of symbolism in this play that was awkward but essentially modernist. His avant-garde style amalgamated symbolism with melodrama, modernity and verse making this play surreal.
In 'The Visit', the dialogues convey ideas that are so peculiar in nature that their truth is immediately questioned. For instance,
"Ill. Clara, are you all artificial?
Clara. Practically. My plane crashed in Afghanistan. I was the only one who crawled out of the wreckage. Even the crew died. I'm unkillable."
In this dialogue, Dürrenmatt makes the audience feel that she is unreal through "artificial" He further alienates the audience through "unkillable." He has given Claire a morbid sense which carries on throughout the play making it impossible for the audience to empathize with with her. Every time she speaks, she reminds the audience of her surrealism.
"Voice of Claire: Boby, pass me my left leg.
Voice of Claire: On the chest of drawers behind the wedding flowers."
This exchange is between the homely scenes in Ill's house when he is conversing with his daughter. This makes it abrupt and unsettling. Her morbid sense is also shown when she says "I've grown into hell itself." This sinister, spine-chilling statement is in the midst of Ill reviving tender memories. "I've been living in hell since you left me" seems almost romantic and just after that Claire bluntly states that she had grown into hell itself. The romantic rhythm and nostalgia breaks with this cold dialogue. This immediately diverts the attention of the audience and focuses it back on the concern of the dramatist- the display of hypocrisy by people (in this case Ill) to their advantage (Ill had a lot to gain if he got Claire "in the bag".)
Dürrenmatt also uses comic relief to a dual purpose. It alleviates the tension as well as makes a character seem hypnagogic. He uses chants in the dialogues to further detach the audience. In the dialogue in Ill's shop,
"Two women: Come what may Mr. Ill, come what may" and "Dead certain, Mr. Ill, dead certain" shows the 'mob mentality' prevalent in society. This was one of Dürrenmatt's concerns. Through out the play he has used chants for the people of Guellen to show that they were incapable of thinking for themselves even if they felt an act was ethically wrong. When Claire demanded the death of Ill in exchange for 1 million, the Mayor protested and his dialogue was followed by a huge applause. This showed that they supported him in his decision of turning down the monetary aid. Later, at the train station, the citizens continue to speak in chants and repeat what the Mayor says,
"Mayor: Hallo, Ill.
All: Hallo! Hallo!
Mayor: We'll take you there.
All: We'll take you there! We'll take you there!"
This is a quintessential example that portrays the need of the Guelleners to imitate a person in authority. On listening it seems amusing but actually shows the mob mentality.
We also see the comic relief in chants during the exchange between the Pair and the Policeman,
"The Pair: We belong to the old lady, we belong to the old lady. She calls us Koby and Loby.
Policeman: Madam Zachanassian is staying at the Golden Apostle.
The Pair (gay): We're blind, we're blind.
Policeman: Blind? OK., I'll take you there, in duplicate.
Policeman (with suspicion): You fat little men seem to have had a bit of contact with the police.
The Pair (incredulous): Men, he thinks we're men!
The Pair: We get steak and ham everyday, every day, every day.
Policeman: Yeah. I'd get up and dance for that too."
This exchange occurs immediately after the initial tension between the first meeting of Claire and Ill. Thus, it serves to alleviate tension and allow the audience to understand the previous exchanges as they are pivotal to the plot. It also focuses the attention of the audience to the style of the play rather than the characters, allowing a critical approach to the situation shown.
Dürrenmatt thus uses dialogues to make familiar aspects of the social reality seem strange provoking the viewers question the state of affairs shown on stage and relate it to their reality rather than accept it. Our focus is, therefore, mainly on the reflection of the society as it was without concerning ourselves with the finer qualities of a character. The greatest advantage of the use of such dialogues as an aspect in metatheatre is that it makes the play evergreen and adaptable to every era. This play, to an extent, yet is a reflection of present day society and is yet effective in conveying the message in its original form despite the age gap.
In the Blood Wedding we see, Lorca, using allegory to create an unreal world which emotionally involves us in the play and with the characters despite their fantastical nature. Poetic allegory is used extensively through out the play to symbolize the emotions of a character or to foreshadow.
In Act 1 Scene 2, in Leonardo's house we see that the mother-in-law and Leonardo's wife sing a lullaby to the baby. The horse, in the play, is symbolic of Leonardo as it is seen as a part of his character. The lyrics of the lullaby are morbid and dark, indicative of the emotions Leonardo's going through. There are a number of comparisons that can be seen like: "the water ran black" in the lullaby resonates the sentence Leonardo tells the Bride, "Then those wedding pins, Those two silver wedding pins, They turned my blood black". The water is the metaphor of the blood. "The pain of the water" shows the agony coursing through Leonardo veins. "Through long green rooms", show the jealousy within him which is evident in all of Leonardo's dialogues. "The horse weeping, It's mane is frozen" again show the hurt and pain within him.
Further, the dagger of silver can be associated with the shooting star. Shooting star is the archetypal symbol of passion, and the eye is the representation of the soul thus, "in his eye a dagger of silver" connotates to the passion and impulsiveness within Leonardo. "Blood is pouring stronger than water" is foreshadowing the deaths. "He can only whinny to the hard mountains" could imply the bride as he tells her later, "I don't want to raise my voice. I am a man of honor. I don't want these hills hearing my complaints". Also, the bride stays in the mountains showing that he is involuntarily being drawn to her. The story is thus narrated through symbolism in the dialogues.
There is also allusion to the weather. The different households use different words for the weather. For instance, in the Bridegroom's house, everything is said to be 'hot' pointing to the intensity of the conversation. In Leonardo's house,everything is said to be cold, suggestive of the detachment in their marital relationship.
The entire Act 3 is visually allegorical. In this act we see Death being personified by the moon, as it eloquently foreshadows the deaths of the Bridegroom and Leonardo. The three woodcutters Beggar Woman are shown as an embodiment of death. Lorca follows the style of a classical tragedy to enhance the effect of the romanticized murder. The Act resonates the significance of 'three' connoting to the three Fates [ii] . The entire Act as it is seen is not in sync with the rest of the story and the abrupt introduction of characters and speaking of the moon alleviates any reality that may be portrayed in the story. This introduction makes the murder more intriguing and passionate. The allegory creates a mysterious, surreal aura which destabilizes reality yet allowing the passion in the play to control our emotions but simultaneously brings out the dramatist's themes of honor killing and his qualms with the social institution of arranged marriages and marriages as a step to economic prosperity.
We thus see Dürrenmatt using a completely Brecht-ian style of theatre which contradicts the style of acting in Blood Wedding. In the Blood Wedding a "trance" was used as a means of self-identification through poems. This enables us to identify with the characters. Lorca used this to show us how the social conventions were leading to conflicts within people. Since the audience connected with the characters, they too were alerted to the flaws in the accepted societal norms. Brecht regarded this style of acting as an "anti-epistemological state of social stasis." [iii] Durrenmatt used a dual presentation of the character where on one hand the character perform a social role and on the other hand creates a sense of critical, rational and empirical epistemology dedicated to social change.
Both dramatists use uniquely divergent styles to the same effect. They are both realistic, socially critical plays of modern life and experimental, symbolical plays about the inner world (emotions). Their styles are juxtaposed but they are still effective in evoking a similar response from the audience.