Plot: The series of events in a novel/play, linked by cause and effect, upon which a story is built. Usually it leads up to a climax followed by a resolution at the end when the problems are solved and/or explained. In many novels there is a main plot to which one or more sub-plots are linked.
Dramatic irony: the public knows more than the actors
Round characters are complex individuals and cannot possibly be described in a few words.
The Taming Of The Shrew
1. The play is built on elements of the Induction. Which elements? Explain:
- Why did the Lord practice on Sly?
- How did he do it?
Sly fell asleep on the ground because he was very drunk. The lord changes Sly’s identity by changing his senses; this new reality is very flattering so Sly accepts it. The main story is offered as a play within a play; the frame story consists of an initial two-scene ‘induction’: the Lord offers the love-story as an entertainment for Sly.
2.Is there a second plot? Which one?
Plot 1: Katharina & Petruchio
Following the induction, the play opens in Padua, where several eligible bachelors have gathered to claim the hand of Bianca, the youngest daughter of the wealthy Baptista. But Baptista has stated that Bianca will not be wed before her older sister, Katharina. The main plot of the play then begins when Petruchio arrives in Padua in search of a rich wife. His friend Hortensio sets Petruchio's sights on the shrew. Although Katharina repeatedly insults Petruchio, he woos, wins, and tames her by insisting that she is actually the soul of gentleness and patience. After their marriage, he makes her forget food, sleep, and fancy clothing, and he outdoes her mean tongue by abusing the servants, most notably Grumio. In the final scene, Petruchio wins a bet that his wife is the most obedient after Katharina gives a speech extolling the virtues of wifely subservience
The play's secondary plot follows the courtship of Bianca by Hortensio, Gremio, and Lucentio. Hortensio and Lucentio both pose as tutors to gain access to Bianca. However, Lucentio, aided by his wily servant Tranio, gains the upper hand and wins Bianca's admiration. Tranio, posing as Lucentio, persuades a pedant to pose as Lucentio's father, and they together then meet with Baptista and make the formal arrangements for marriage. While Tranio's tricks are later revealed, enough distraction has been caused to allow Lucentio and Bianca to elope. Hortensio, in the meantime, has forsaken his pursuit of Bianca and married a wealthy widow. In the play's final scene, both Bianca and Hortensio's new wife ironically prove to be shrewish.
3. Why is Katharina so wild?
Katharina does not behave the way she is supposed to behave. Normally people show the best sides of their characters but Katharina does the opposite. Katharina wants equal attention and she dislikes it that her marriage was arranged by her father. Everything is about money and she wants someone to look further than that. For example: she screams at her sister because she dislikes it that they do not get equal attention.
4. How does Petruchio tame Katharina? Does he achieve his aim?
When they first meet, Petruchio acts very nice. He turns everything upside down; when she behaves terribly he reacts as if she is saying very nice things. At their marriage, Katharina is the one who is conventional, and once again Petruchio does the opposite! Petruchio constantly holds the mirror before her face. The father is glad that he gets rid of Katharina. Petruchio tells Katharina that clothes are not important, that it is the character behind that counts, not the behaviour that can be seen. Now Katharina does everything Petruchio wants, as long as they go to her father! There are 2 public tests for Katharina’s character: 1. When they meet Vincentio on the way to Baptista, and 2. At the end, when Petruchio wants her to come, which she does.
5. Does the change of clothes automatically mean the change of identity? Explain.
No, but the audience knows more than the people in the play. This is called dramatic irony and as a result of this situation the change of clothes cannot be considered as a change of identity; the actors don’t know about it. In the Induction, Sly gets new clothes and they change all his senses. He gets a new reality and accepts this change of identity.
6. Who manipulates who? Who teaches who?
Petruchio manipulates Katharina. Tranio manipulates all the people, especially Baptista. Bianca is not the nice girl she seems to be. Lucentio and Hortensio teach Bianca. Petruchio has a ‘Taming School’and teaches Katharina. Katharina teaches the women at the end.
7. Who is the biter bit? Explain.
Lucentio married the real ‘shrew’, and Hortensio married the bad widow; so they are the biters bit. Their women are not obedient to the men.
8. Characterize: Katharina, Bianca, Petruchio, Baptista.
Katharina is the shrew of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. The play centers on the transformation of Katharina from quick-tempered, acid-tongued harpy into the ideal wife. Intelligent and independent, Katharina reveals her combative manner and quick (sometimes bawdy) wit early in the play, most notably in her initial encounter with Petruchio. In Petruchio, however, she meets her match, and after his "taming," she appears as an obedient and loving mate, giving a notable speech in the final scene. Round character. What we can see of Katharina is that she becomes better during the story.
Bianca is the younger sister of Katharina in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. A clearcut contrast to her sister, Bianca is sweet, docile, and clearly the favourite of the bachelors of Padua. When Katharina is "tamed" and marries Petruchio, the true nature of Bianca, who manipulates her suitors and willingly deceives her father, is revealed. In the final act, Bianca herself proves to be the unwillful wife. Round character.
Petruchio is a gentleman of Verona who comes to Padua in search of a wife and becomes the aggressive suitor of obstinate Katharina in The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare. Their unconventional courtship is actually a stubborn battle of wills as Petruchio attempts to break Katharina's vicious temper with his own outrageous behaviour. At the end of the play Petruchio proves to have "tamed" Katharina, transforming her into an obedient wife.
Baptista: father to Katharina and Bianca. He does not seem to care very much about his daughters; he wants them to be rich, not to be happy.
9. What is reality and what appearance?
We see appearance because the reality is the story of Sly. The Taming Of The Shrew is only a play shown to Sly, who now has a new reality.
10. Which is the play within the play?
The Taming of the Shrew is the play within the story about Sly who gets a nice new reality.
1. What is the first plot about? What is the second plot about?
Plot 1 is about King Lear and his 3 daughters; Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. King Lear is 82 years old and wants to divide the Kingdom into 3 equal parts. Then he changes that plan and wants to test his daughters; he asks them to tell how much they love him and he will split up his Kingdom in inequal parts that are equal to their love for him.
Goneril and Regan answer that they love him very much, but Cordelia answers that she loves her father as she is supposed to! King Lear is not pleased with this answer, and he banishes Cordelia, his former favourite daughter. Kent is against that decision, and when he comes up with that King Lear banishes him as well. King Lear does not like people telling him the truth! Now he divides his kingdom into 2 parts; for Goneril and Regan. He has too much confidence in these girls; they want him to diappear. He is not welcome at their places and is being sent into the stormy night. In the army he sees Cordelia again, but he is now so crazy that he does not easily recognise her. At the end he dies.
Plot 2 is about the Duke of Gloucester; he has a bastard son, Edmund, and a legitimate son, Edgar. Edmund makes him believe that Edgar has a complot against his father to seize his estates. Gloucester tells Lear that his daughters are plotting his death and he is being punished therefor by Cornwall, who takes away his eyes. Edgar/Poor Tom brings him to Dover where he wants to jump off the rocks. Due to a trick of Edgar/Poor Tom he survives that. At the end Gloucester dies of a broken heart, when he learns to know Poor Tom’s true identity.
2. Who are the main characters?
Goneril is the eldest daughter. She is a girl who pretends to be nice but she is a monster. She does not become better during the story. She is a flat character. She is the evil genius who dominates her sister Regan.
Regan has a bad character too, but weaker than Goneril. She is being influenced by both Goneril and her husband, Cornwall.
Cordelia is the good girl. She is sweet and honest from the beginning till the end. She is a flat character too. She is a woman of action rather than words. She is a simple girl and a lover of truth, so much that is causes her downfall. She dies.
Edmund is the bastard. He has a bad character and the only reason why he gets Lear for Cordelia at the end is to reserve a place in heaven for himself. He uses everybody to achieve his goal. He dies.
Edgar is the good son. He is very naive; he falls too easily in the trap that Edmund lays for him. He loves and respects his father.
Duke of Albany: husband to Goneril. He is also a flat character but he finds out that his wife is not what she seems to be; he tries to make that right again.
Cornwall: husbanc to Regan. He is not as evil as his wife but still a bad person. He dies at the end.
3. What does Lear lose?
- his kingdom
- his mind
- his power
- his house
- his daughters
- his ‘helper’Kent
- The Fool
- his hope
4. Why can we say the play is an universal one?
If a play is universal it is made for everyone in the audience, not only for a certain (religious) groupe. This play is universal because everyone can recognize something in it; the relationship parents-children, the relationship King Lear-varified things, people that are not grateful, flattering, justice, honesty, foolishness; those are all universal themes! Even kings can act stupid and lose all they have.
5. What does Lear learn and in what way does he do it?
He learns that his youngest daughter cares most for him. He learns that he should have done things different; the paradox is wisdom in madness.
6. What does Gloucester learn and in what way does he do it?
He learns to see reality in blindness (paradox). He may not have Lear staying because if he would, he would lose his house, his power etc. He learns that his son Edgar loves him most and that he should first gain more information about any circumstance before judging.
7. How does Kent help Lear?
He loves his master unconditionally. He disguises himself and offers his services to Lear, in order to protect him.
8. What is the role of The Fool?
The Fool is a mirror to Lear. His face changes when it rains and then Lear loses his mind. The foolish remarks he makes have a deeper meaning. He reminds Lear of his mistakes; he is in a position to make these remarks without being punished for it, for Fools were considered mad in those days and mad people did not know what they were doing.
9. Who do some people say that Lear is more sinned against than sinning?
Lear didn’t do much wrong, but was punished though. He does not mean to be cruel. He is just old and fed up with being a king, he does not want so much responsibility anymore but that is not a crime for which he should be punished!
10. This play was considered to be the most tragic of all Shakespearean tragedies. Why?
Because some of the good persons die at the end. Here is no ‘poetical justice’, which means that the good ones are being rewarded and the bad ones die. It is the opposite; the good ones die!
- black – white clothes
- masks to hide people: hide the truth
- the storm: the sadness of people, emotions
- Tom has holes in his hands, like Jesus
- lack of justice and honesty
- crown: power, king
- Gloucester blinded: see in blindness
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
1. What is the play about? How long does it take?
Big Daddy celebrates his birthday. His two sons and their families are with him. The doctor has told Big Daddy not to have cancer – but that is not true. Gooper, his wife Mae and their children do everything to inherit Big Daddy’s land and money, but Big Daddy loves his other son, the alcoholic Brick, more. Brick has problems in his marriage. Big Daddy hears the truth about his health and talks with Brick, which makes Brick see at last that he should dare to live! At the end the marriage problems between Maggie and Brick have been solved. Now everyone knows his/her place in the family.
The play takes only one day.
2. Describe the main characters; which of them change during the action?
3. What is the relationship between Big Daddy – Big Mama, Brick – Maggie and Mae – Gooper.
Mae acts nice when she wants something. She uses the childres to get the inheritage. Her children are not polite.
Gooper is the eldest son. He has always done everything his father wanted, but apparently only to get the inheritag! Big Mama was pregnant of Gooper when she married Big Daddy, who said this is my child so I think we should marry. Gooper is very frustrated. He tries to show the negative sides of Brick.
Big Mama is a weak woman. First at the end she gets a name; Ida. She truly loves Big Daddy, but they were never happy in their family life. Though she loves everything about him, even his hate. She buys things instead being loved, which can be seen as a sign of frustration. Her life is very empty.
Maggie has a very poor past. She never had anything except her family. She loves Brick but they do not have a life together.
Brick is very honest. He does not care about the inheritage. He drinks too much. Brick is very cool; he does not show his feelings, he seems to be frozen. He lives with a feeling of guilt for the suicide of Skipper. In the beginning he runs away from his responsibilities and the reality, but he changes during the story and he decides to live!
Big Daddy is very materialistic. He is a frustrated man who does not care about Gooper. The only thing he wants is more money. When he talks about his father he feels hunger and shame, so first at the end of the film he is able to show his emotions.
Skipper is the one we do not see in the film. Maggie and Big Daddy hated him, because he was an obstacle in their relationship with Brick. Nor Brick or Maggie are guilty for his death.
4. Are there symbolic actions or events in the play?
Yes, the symbols are:
- bottle – refuge
- crutches – something to lean on
- hurdles – obstacles
- storm – emotions
- old rubbish – lies/old life
- pregnancy – new life, new beginning
- deeper in the house – more truth
- higher in the house – more lies
- Brick in pyjama – after the storm he changed, and so did his clothes
5. What do you think about the doctor’s attitude?
He is not acting correctly, not ethical.
6. Who makes most mistakes?
Big Momma, because she has been too weak. She never held her husbanb back from telling his son how to live his life. She has not been able to bring up her children with an own view on life. As a mother, she should have been the leader of the family life. She has no family life now, but that is her own mistake because she just let things come, never tried to make it better.
7. What is the relationship between the two brothers?
There is no real contact between them.
8. What is the relationship between the boys and the parents and between Big Daddy and his father?
Gooper gets married and does everything Big Daddy wants, Brick does completely nothing to get his parents’ attention. Big Daddy’s father was very poor, he felt ashamed for him. But his father loved him very much and somehow Big Daddy begins to realize that he loved his father too.
9. What is the relationship between the two sisters-in-law?
They are very different. Mae wants the inheritage. They hate eachother. At the end of the film Maggie can live without the inheritage; she gots Brick back.
10. What is the value of children in their life?
Mae uses her children to get the inheritage. Maggie wants a child because that would mean that she has a better relationship with her husband.
11. What is appearance and what reality?
Appearance: the behaving of Gooper and his wife. They just pretend to love Big Daddy, they only want his money and his land. Brick seems to live in a world that does not exist. In reality he has a nice wife who wants to get him ‘back on earth’.
12. Is there any social criticism in the play?
Yes, the rich are being critisized.
13. Explain the title
Maggie is the cat, the hot tin roof is her marriage. She wants to keep it going as long as possible; the cat wants to stay on the roof.
Compare with King Lear
In both plays there are old fathers who have to think about what to do with their land. Bot fathers have one child who loves them, and problems with family life.
Death Of A Salesman
1. What is the play about?
The troubles that Willy Loman has in his life and that drive him to death. Willy wants to be like Dave, an 84-years-old man who sold by telephone till he died.
2. Describe the main characters. Which of them change during the action? Explain!
Willly Loman is an elderly (60) salesman lost in false hopes and illusions. He is tired and confused. His dream is to be like Dave. He is projecting his dreams on his sons; he wants them to succeed where he has failed. This is a major source of conflict throughout the play. The sales firm he works for no longer pays him salary. As Willy has grown older, he has trouble distinguishing between the past and present - between illusion and reality - and is often lost in flashbacks where much of the story is told. These flashbacks are generally during the summer after Biff's senior year of high school when all of the family problems began. Willy has had an affair with a woman he meets on sales trips and once caught by Biff. Now, Biff does not respect Willy and they do not get along. Willy eventually commits suicide so that Biff can have the insurance money to become successful with. His mistress tells Willy what he is; his wife never does.
Linda is Willy's wife and is the arbiter of peace in the family. She is always trying to stand between Willy and her sons to ease the tension. She is protective of Willy. She knows that Willy is tired and is a man at the end of his rope - the end of his life and, as he put it, "ringing up a zero." She wants him to be happy even when the reality of the situation is bad. Linda knows that Willy has been trying to commit suicide, but does not intervene because she does not want to embarrass him. She lets it continue because she is not one to cause trouble. She is a caring person who is full of love, she is always covering Willy. She is a devoted wife and mother but never tells her children what they do wrong
Biff Loman is Willy's 34-years old son and it is the conflict between the two that the story of the play revolves around. Biff was a star football player in high school, with scholarships to two major universities. He always got all the attention at home. He flunked maths his senior year and was not allowed to graduate. He was going to make the credit up during the summer but caught Willy being unfaithful to Linda. This shock changed Biff's view of his father and everything that Biff believed in. Biff then became a drifter and was lost for fifteen years. He was even jail for stealing a suit once. But now, he has come home and the problems begin. Willy wants dearly for Biff to become a business success, although Biff has an internal struggle between pleasing his father and doing what he feels is right. Biff wants to be outside on a cattle ranch, and Willy wants him behind a corporate desk. Through the illusions that Willy believes, he cannot see that Biff is a nobody and not bound to be successful as defined by Willy. This conflict is the main material of the play. Eventually, Biff finally sees the truth and realizes that he is a "dime a dozen" and "no great leader of men”, so he is is nothing. He tells this to Willy who is outraged. Willy shouts, "I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman and you are Biff Loman!" At the end of the play, Biff realizes the illusions that Willy lived on. Biff is destined to no greatness, but he no longer has to struggle to understand what he wants to do with his life. Biff is a round character, he is the only one who learns from his mistakes.
Happy is the Loman's youngest son. He lives in an apartment in New York, and during the play is staying at his parent's house to visit. Happy is of low moral character; constantly with another woman, trying to find his way in life, even though he is confident he's on the right track. He wants a woman like his mother but he plays with women instead. Happy has always been the "second son" to Biff and tries to be noticed by his parents by showing off. When he was young he always told Willly, "I'm losin' weight pop, you notice?" And, now he is always saying, "I'm going to get married, just you wait and see," in an attempt to redeem himself in his mother's eyes. Happy also tries to be on Willy's good side and keep him happy, even if it means perpetuating the lies and illusions that Willy lives in. In the end of the play, Happy cannot see reality. Like his father, he is destined to live a fruitless life trying for something that will not happen. "Willy Loman did not die in vain," he says, "…He had a good dream, the only dream a man can have - to come out number one man. He fought it out here, and this where I'm gonna win it for him."
Charlie is the Loman's next door neighbor, and owns his own sales firm. He and Willy do not get along very well, but they are friends nonetheless. Charlie is always the voice of reality in the play, trying to set Willy straight on the facts of Willy's situation, but Willy refuses to listen. I think Willy is jealous at Charly.
Bernard is Charlie's goody-two-shoes son who was a childhood friends of Biff. Bernard always studied and eventually became a successful lawyer, something that Willy has trouble dealing with, because he wanted such things for his son Biff.
Ben is Willy's dead brother who appears to Willy during his flashbacks and times of trouble. Ben was a rich man who made it big in the diamond mines of Africa. Willy once was given the chance to become partners with Ben, but refused and instead choose the life that he currently lives. Ben got into the jungle when he was 17 and came out when he was 21; being a rich man.
3. What is the relationship between Willy and Linda?
Linda loves her husband. She always has to be the arbiter of peace in the family. She covers Willy’s stupid behaviour and defends him. She cares very much about him.
4. What is the relationship between Willy and the boys?
Willy wants his sons, especially Biff, to succeed where he himself failed. He believes his boys are great and he cannot understand why they are not successful.
5. Are there any symbolic actions/events in the play? Explain and exemplify.
- the jungle is symbolic for life, business and talent
- diamonds are symbolic for success -> the more karats the more value, like people.
- house: in the beginning in the country, later surrounden by big buildings
- mending stockings: mending reality
- seeds: not every seed will become a plant
- darkness: no success
6. Why can we say that Willy is an anti-hero? Explain and exemplify.
He does not do anything properly, he does not achieve anything. A hero fights for something, Willy does not fight.
Explanation anti-hero: the main character of a work of literature who lacks the qualities that would make him a heroic figure. A description of his character tends to result in a series of negatives; not strong, not brave, not intelligent, not impressive and so on. The anti-hero is a reaction against the romantic hero of earlier literature. The creator of the anti-hero does not hold him up for admiration but presents him as a man with all his weakness and shortcomings.
7. Who makes most mistakes? Explain and exemplify.
Linda, because she never told her husband or children what they were doing wrong.
8. What is appearance and what is reality in the play?
Willy lives in the past. That is appearance. Ben is not real. The reality is a family dealing with things that happenend, of never happened but should have happened, in the past. Those things have great influence on the family life.
9. Are there any resemblances and differences between Happy and Biff?
Biff got more attention by his parents, but both boys are filled with hot air and will never be able to have the perfect life their father wanted for them.
10. Is there any social criticism in the play? Explain and exemplify.
Yes, business life is being critisized.
Compare with Cat On a Hot Tin Roof
Bot films have a mother who is very weak. A mother is normally the leader of the in-house family life, but those two mums are not able to do that job. They make the mistake never to talk with their husbands or children about things that they do wrong, I think that in both families there has never been a fight or arguement with mum involved.
Compare all the movies:
What those movies have in common is the difficulties between parents and children. In Death of a Salesman and The Taming of the Shrew the fathers think they know who is their ‘best’ child, but they are wrong. Biff is a nobody, just like his father, and Bianca proves to be a shrew. In King Lear and The Taming of the Shrew the fathers send their best child, the one with the best character, away. (Cordelia and Katharina).
In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof the father does not care about the child who has always done what his father wanted (Gooper), and in The Taming of the Shrew the father loves the child who has always done what she was supposed to (Bianca) most.
The mothers in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Death of a Salesman have about the same role. They are weak and because of that weakness something has gone wrong in family life. Sometimes it is necesarry that people hear the truth, it’s no good only to tell what people want to hear!