Date of Award

1983

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

A contemporary English dramatist, Edward Bond writes plays that have often been controversial because of their use of cruelty, violence, and other forms of bizarre behavior which can be considered grotesque. The grotesque is a concept originating in the fifteenth century as a term referring to primitive artwork combining various forms to create a fanciful design. The term broadened in the eighteenth century to include literature and drama. Possessing a negative connotation, it referred to elements which were ridiculous, incongruous, absurd, or deformed. The Romanticists of the nineteenth century favored the grotesque as a valid aesthetic element which acted as a foil to the sublime and which created variety and contrast. In the twentieth century the grotesque becomes a prevalent force in drama. Theorists recognize that it elicits a dual response of fear and humor by juxtaposing incongruous and incompatible components. Its major purpose is to challenge existent norms and standards by shocking an audience into an awareness of the arbitrary nature of reality. Bond uses the grotesque to make the audience recognize weaknesses in the social structure. People turn into grotesques when victimized by a harsh and unjust political and legal system. Objects associated with the grotesque include white coverings such as a sheet or bandage that become connected with violent and unnatural suffering and death. Execution or punishment devices such as the crucifix, the jail, and the gibbet are also associated with the grotesque. Most significantly, Bond uses the grotesque to depict the moral growth of some of his protagonists, who must confront the grotesque and/or become grotesque in order to experience self-realization. As a didactic element, the grotesque threatens to overwhelm its context, thus failing to orient the audience to the thematic statement. Bond had tended to decrease his use of the grotesque, although it still emerges in his plays to give emotional focus to his dialectic.

Pages

274

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