DRAMATIC TECHNIQUE: SETTING, PLANTING, FORESHADOWING AND OTHERS

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MORNING

A clearing on the edge of the market, dominated by an immense ‘odan’ tree. It is the village centre. The wall of the bush school flanks the stage on the right, and a rude window opens on to the stage from the wall. There is a chant of the ‘Arithmetic Times’ issuing from this window. It begins a short while before the action begins. Sidi enters from the left carrying a pail of water on her head. She is a slim girl with plaited hair.

A true village belle. She balances the pail on her head with an accustomed ease. Around her is wrapped the familiar broad cloth which is folded just above her breasts, leaving her shoulders bare. Almost as soon as she appears on the stage, the schoolmaster’s face also appears at the window.(The chanting continues- ‘Three times two are six’, Three times three times three are nine’ etc.) The teacher, Lakunle now disappears. He is replaced by two of his pupils aged roughly eleven, who make a buzzing sound at Sidi, repeatedly capping their hands across their mouths. Lakunle now re-appears below the window and makes for Sidi, only stopping only to give the boys admonitory whacks on the head before they can duck. They vanish with a howl and he shuts the window on them. The chanting dies away. The schoolmaster is nearly twenty-three. He is dressed in an old-style English suit, threadbare but not ragged, clean but not ironed, obviously a size or two too small. His tie is done in a very small knot, disappearing beneath a shiny black waist-coat. He wears twenty-threeinch-bottom trousers, and blanco-white tennis shoes.

LAKUNLE: Let me take it.

SIDI: No.

LAKUNLE: Let me: [Seizes the pail. Some water spill on him.]

SIDI: [delighted.] There. Wet for your pains. Have you no shame?

LAKUNLE: That is what the stewpot said to the fire. Licking my bottom? But she was tickled Just the same.

SIDI: The school teacher is full of stories This morning. And now, if the lesson Is over, may I have the pail?(1-2).

Apart from the information you get from the stage direction on the setting, you can deduce from the short dialogue above that the play is set in a village. In most cases, it is in the village that young girls go to the stream to fetch water especially in the morning.

(b) Temporal/Historical Setting: This is the period in which a story takes place. This includes the date, the season, the general atmosphere in the locale like war, fuel scarcity, democratic or military rule. This, like the physical setting, could be deduced from the dialogue or from the stage direction. It could be stated in some commentaries, especially the ones on the background of the play. Sometimes, some publishers include the commentaries in the play. In Arms and the Man for instance, the opening part of Act 1, a date is given in the stage direction. This gives the reader a clue to the historical setting of the play. It says:

ACT 1

Night: A lady’ bedchamber in Bulgaria, in a small town near the Dragoman Pass, late November in the year 1885.Through an open window with a little balcony a peak of the Balkans, wonderfully white and beautiful in the starlit snow, seems quit close at hand, though it is really miles away. The interior of the room is not like anything to be seen in the west Europe. …(15)

 

(c) General Environmental Setting: The social, moral, emotional, mental and religious backgrounds of the story. This is highlighted through dialogue, stage direction and the characters interpersonal relationships. In Arms and the Man for instance, George Bernard Shaw presents a graphic picture of the Bulgarian way of life. (The playwright “was able to pin the action down to actual geographical locations and to a real life war. He took care to incorporate descriptions of Bulgarian life” The playwright admits that many aspects of the play were based on actual facts. (Introduction to Arms and the Man)

The dramatic techniques discussed in this unit will help you to understand and appreciate dramatic texts. You need to learn them very well especially those of you who may be involved in literary criticisms in future.

From the discussion in this article, you will be able to identify the different types of dramatic technique. I hope that you would be able to relate them to texts. You are not expected to see all the techniques in one play. In literary appreciation, your ability to identify them, relate them to the texts and decide how effective their uses have been makes you a good critic.

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