Clio Edition 4 - page 30

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The British male and female stereotypes are present in many
plays and films that are performed in modern theatres all
around the world. This alone proves that stereotypes have
had a great effect on the evolution of theatre, as it had not
always been the case that foreign characters and themes
could appear in a different country. When the concept of a
‘gentleman’ or a ‘lady’ is thought of, the characteristics are
more or less the same each time: well spoken, a love of tea
and impeccable manners. This unfortunately leaves out a
large chunk of the population in Britain.
The English playwright most famous around the
world is William Shakespeare, known best for his comedies
and tragedies. He cannot be named a misogynist, as he lived
in a time when misogyny was not a known concept, but his
views on women and gender differences are not necessarily
the ones expected today. By constantly making men superior
to women, he only displayed the supposed inferiority of the
female gender, and concealed the many aspects in which
they could rival men. It is wrong to say that Shakespeare’s
perspective on gender equality is socially unacceptable, but
his use of the norm on gender roles at the time was what
people found amusing, and part of what made his work so
popular.
This is relevant to later theatre as it has formed
a general stereotype: the view that women were naturally
submissive and could never surpass men. Shakespeare was so
well-known that his plays were the building blocks for later
character models and beliefs. He had, quite literally, given the
world a formed and resolute impression of what gentlemen
should be like, and what Englishmen appeared to be. This
made foreigners envious of the English life and want to use
more of it in their own plays, which in return caused there to
be a more frequent use of the stereotype.
After Shakespeare, another aspect of theatre that
has been made famous by the English is melodrama in the
19th century. Melodrama is a dramatic work in which the
plot is sensationalised, and music is incorporated with the
action. It originated in France, but didn’t have any of the
recognised characteristics that it is known for. It was in
England that melodrama had the stereotyped characters (i.e.
hero, damsel in distress, villain...etc.) and the outrageously
exaggerated actions added in. This was so popular it spread
quickly through Europe, and was soon being performed in a
number of western theatres.
The melodramatic acting techniques were very successful
at the time, but they were soon replaced by naturalism,
which is a completely opposite style of acting as it is much
more realistic. The feature of melodrama that has remained
constant throughout the 20th century is the stereotypes.
Whilst melodrama was still popular, the first
ever silent film was made in 1891. Silent films came from
America, and in a similar manner to melodrama, they
were often epics or romances with typecast characters that
audiences could relate to in order to in an attempt to be as
popular as melodrama had been. It was a step in the right
direction, and in a way silent films had an advantage as they
British Stereotypes:
The Evolution of Theatre
By Yiren Zhong
1...,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29 31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,...46
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