Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Twin characters have consistently appeared in dramatic literature throughout history. Playwrights from Shakespeare to Goldoni have employed twins in works which usually rely upon the device of mistaken identity. However, twin characters who have appeared in plays of the last thirty years have been employed with more weighty intentions. This dissertation analyzes recent playwrights' portrayals of twins and the playwrights' detailed explorations of the anxieties which drive the twins' relationships with each other and society. Recent playwrights have also employed twins to symbolize fears peripheral to the phenomenon of twins: anxieties which plagued these three decades play heavily into these works, including tensions in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movements, concerns over the stewardship of our country's prosperity, as well as the deterioration of the family unit. Conpersonas (1974) by Paul Stephen Lim and Corpse! (1985) by Gerald Moon each toy with twins' entangled identities, thereby preying upon postmodern fears concerning fragmented selfhood. Marina Carr's Portia Coughlan (1996) and Mark Handley's Idioglossia (1987) each explore the intimacy of the twin bond and use this bond to highlight the society member's fear of being abandoned and falling prey to loneliness. The Wedding of the Siamese Twins (1984) by Burton Cohen and Side Show (1996) by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger capitalize upon America's guilt concerning its prosperity, which society may view as being gained by the exploitation of other countries and her countrymen. These plays each feature as protagonists conjoined twins who are victims of society's exploitation while Philip Ridley exploits his twin protagonists' fears to create his horrific play, The Pitchfork Disney (1991). The audiences' and critics' reception of these plays confirms Rene Girard's theory of scapegoating: twin characters today have replaced groups such as African-Americans and women as the "other" and are being used as society's scapegoats. These playwrights suggest that twins are somehow responsible for the tensions presented in these works, and the audience members viewing these productions ritually slay twins on stage to vicariously experience violence and transport evil away from the community via these twin scapegoats.
O'neal, Shellie Kaye, "The Anxious *Double: Twins in Plays of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s." (2001). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 358.