The fictionality of time in modern tragedy
Ho, Jia Xuan
Date of Issue2014
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This paper seeks to explore the role of time in the plays of three major playwrights – Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and David Ives’ All in the Timing. By examining the treatment of time in these respective works, I will attempt to trace the associations between modern theatre and classical tragedy, specifically on how the definition of tragedy has evolved – from the Greek playwrights’ structured unity of form, to epistemological anxieties present in Modernist theatre, and finally tipping over to ontological concerns characteristic of the Postmodern. The metatheatrical qualities of each play will provide the platform for this discussion, with the form of the play-within-the-play paying emphasis to the artificiality of reality and the multiplicity of perspective, both which have their roots in time. Through this discussion, I hope to establish that these plays are, by Arthur Miller’s definition, “modern tragedies” in the contemporary sense of the term. By scrutinising the difference between the heroes of classical tragedy and these characters in Miller’s mould of the “Common Man,” each section in this paper will discuss the tragic implications of this comparison, asserting in the process that each play’s heightened awareness of the many temporalities—in different worlds—observes the isolation of man, reflecting his abject futility in the face of mortality and time.