Showing 51 - 60 of 77 annotations in the genre "Play"

Uncle Vanya

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Aug-20-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

A retired professor has returned to his estate to live with his beautiful young wife, Yelena. The estate originally belonged to his first wife, now deceased; her mother and brother still live there and manage the farm. For many years the brother (Uncle Vanya) has sent the farm’s proceeds to the professor, while receiving only a small salary himself. Sonya, the professor’s daughter, who is about the same age as his new wife, also lives on the estate. The professor is pompous, vain, and irritable. He calls the doctor (Astrov) to treat his gout, only to send him away without seeing him. Astrov is an experienced physician who performs his job conscientiously, but has lost all idealism and spends much of his time drinking.

The presence of Yelena introduces a bit of sexual tension into the household. Astrov and Uncle Vanya both fall in love with Yelena; she spurns them both. Meanwhile, Sonya is in love with Astrov, who fails even to notice her. Finally, when the professor announces he wants to sell the estate, Vanya, whose admiration for the man died with his sister, tries to kill him. But the professor survives and he and Yelena leave the estate.

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The Iceman Cometh

O'Neill, Eugene

Last Updated: Aug-17-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This study of the anatomy of alcoholism, its spectrum and individual manifestations, is set in a skid row bar/hotel in 1912. The bar is peopled by a collection of society's failures: drifters, pimps, police informers, former anarchists, failed con-artists, ex-soldiers, and prostitutes. The patrons, in various stages of inebriation, await the annual arrival of the big-spending, happy-go-lucky salesman binge drinker, Hickey, whom the pipe-dreaming losers anticipate will treat them to hours of merriment and free-flowing liquor on the occasion of his birthday.

Hickey does, in fact, arrive, a bit late and very sober. He claims to have seen the light and to desire to help his old drinking buddies dump their pipe-dreams and return to productive lives. The reaction of the folks, the results of their attempts to buy into Hickey's sales-pitch, and an unanticipated homicide and surprise suicide, round out the drama.

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King Lear

Shakespeare, William

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The King begins to make bad judgments: he "retires" from the worries of kingship, but expects to retain the privileges; he divides the kingdom, something every king knows better than to do; he banishes his only honest daughter and his most loyal advisor. Lest the reader not get the significance of these actions, they are mirrored in the actions of one of his royal party, Gloucester.

Nature announces impending trouble and the aging king reveals the magnitude of his dementia in a scene of violent delirium. The complex conspiracies among the sons and daughters of the king and Gloucester eventually lead to the violent deaths of most of the principles, clearing the way for an establishment of a new stewardship for the kingdom.

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Hamlet

Shakespeare, William

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Hamlet's father, the King of Denmark, is dead and has been succeeded by his brother Claudius, who has married the old king's wife, Gertrude. The King's ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered him, and makes Hamlet promise to avenge his death. The play traces the process by which Hamlet negotiates the conflict between his need to take violent action and his uncertainty about the rightness of doing so.

He pretends to be mad and contemplates suicide. He unintentionally murders Polonius, the new King's counselor, and violently confronts his mother for what he sees as an unfaithful and incestuous marriage to her brother-in-law. He also verbally abuses Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius, whom Hamlet had loved before, contributing to her mental illness and eventual death.

Hamlet finally decides that he must submit to his fate--or his dramatically determined role as the hero of a revenge tragedy--and agrees to a fencing match with Ophelia's brother, Laertes. Arranged by Claudius, the match is rigged. Laertes's rapier is poisoned, and both Laertes and Hamlet are killed with it. Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine intended for Hamlet and dies. Hamlet's last action is to kill Claudius, but whether this counts as the successful culmination of a revenge plot is dubious. As a new order takes over in Denmark, and as the dying Hamlet asks that his story be remembered, we realize that his existential quandaries remain largely unresolved.

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Macbeth

Shakespeare, William

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, is told by a trio of witches that he will soon be promoted to Thane of Cawdor, and later will be King of Scotland. When the first of their prophesies comes true, he tells his wife, who is filled with ambition and determines to ensure that the second is realized as well. She persuades her husband to murder King Duncan, and so Macbeth becomes King.

The rest of the play traces the couple's downfall as a result not only of the murder and hence the political injustice of Macbeth's reign, which leads to war in Scotland, but also because of the terrible psychological effects of guilt. Neither of them sleeps soundly again; Macbeth sees ghosts and appears to go mad; Lady Macbeth sleepwalks, endlessly washing her hands of the metaphysical blood that stains her, and eventually commits suicide. Macbeth dies when Macduff, rightful heir to the throne, besieges his castle and beheads him in battle.

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The Shadow Box

Cristofer, Michael

Last Updated: Aug-04-2000
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The setting for "The Shadow Box" is three cottages on the grounds of a large hospital. Here, three tales unfold, at first serially, and then towards the end of each of the play’s two acts, simultaneously. Each tale features a person who is dying. Each person is surrounded by loved ones. All are trying to face and make sense of death.

The first family we meet is the most conventional. Joe, a working class husband and father, is joined at the cottage by his wife Maggie, who, in denial of Joe’s impending death is afraid to enter the cottage. Their son, Stephen, age 14, has not yet been told of his father’s terminal condition. The second family consists of Brian, who is brutally forthright about his demise; Mark, his doting lover; and Beverly, Brian’s wild ex-wife who comes to visit them. The third family is a feisty, blind, and wheelchair-bound mother, Felicity, and her dutiful daughter, Agnes. An off-stage character, "the interviewer," pops in and out of the scenes, offering insight into the various characters through questioning.

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Jeffrey

Rudnick, Paul

Last Updated: Feb-29-2000
Annotated by:
Jones, Therese

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Terrified of dying from AIDS but even more afraid of living with it, the title character of this romantic comedy--a gay actor/waiter-- makes the ultimate safe choice: to give up sex entirely. Determined to find both a substitute for sex and the meaning of life in the cruel meaninglessness of an epidemic, Jeffrey embarks on a journey through a picaresque and postmodern landscape. What he discovers is that while his desperate renunication of human connection may remove him from the physical experience of death, it will not protect him from the emotional experience of loss.

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The Doctor's Dilemma

Shaw, George Bernard

Last Updated: Jan-24-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The story opens on the day that Ridgeon, a prominent research doctor, is knighted. His friends gather to congratulate him. The friends include Sir Patrick, a distinguished old physician; Walpole, an aggressive surgeon; Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington, a charismatic society doctor; and Blenkinsop, a threadbare but honest government doctor. Each one has his favorite theory of illness and method of cure. These are incompatible--one man's cure is another man's poison. Nonetheless, they all get along.

A young woman (Mrs. Dubechat) desperately seeks help for her husband from Ridgeon, who has evidently found a way to cure consumption by "stimulating the phagocytes." Ridgeon initially refuses, but changes his mind for two reasons--Dubechat is a fine artist and Ridgeon is smitten with his wife.

When the doctors meet Dubechat, however, they find that he is a dishonest scoundrel. Ridgeon eventually decides to treat Blenkinsop (who also has consumption) and refer the artist to Bloomfield Bonington, this insuring that he will die. In the end Ridgeon justifies his behavior as a plan to let Dubechat die before his wife find out what an amoral cad he actually was. This, in fact, happens and Dubechat's artistic reputation soars.

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Oedipus the King

Sophocles

Last Updated: Sep-23-1999
Annotated by:
Jones, Therese

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Having fled Corinth because of a fearful prophecy that he would murder his father and wed his mother, the young Oedipus angrily attacks and kills a small band of travelers who refuse to make way for him at a crossroads, a "place where three roads meet." He ultimately journeys to Thebes, a kingdom without a leader and without any hope of freeing itself from the tyranny of the Sphinx. Relying on his "wit alone," Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx and ascends the throne, eventually marrying the widowed queen, Jocasta, and fathering two sons and two daughters, Antigone and Ismene.

The prosperous and just reign of Oedipus is halted by a devastating outbreak of plague--a pestilence whose only remedy, according to Apollo, is justice for the murder of the murdered Theban king, Laius. An intelligent man and responsible leader, Oedipus launches an investigation, only to discover that he is not the savior of the city but the cause of its destruction. When his true heritage and his terrible crimes of parricide and incest are revealed, Oedipus blinds himself and invites banishment, nobly accepting his fate as "the greatly miserable, the most accursed . . . above all men on earth."

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The Dogs of Pavlov

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: May-31-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The action takes place in 1968 at the offices and laboratories of a large pharmaceutical company. Dr. Michael Daly is replicating a series of psychological experiments purportedly designed to enhance the efficiency of learning. In these experiments the actual subjects are asked to inflict electric shocks on mock "subjects" who fail to give correct answers to mathematical problems.

The mock "subject" is ostensibly wired to an electric chair. In fact, she is really an actress pretending to be in pain. Even though she cries out in agony every time she makes a mistake, the actual subject--an ordinary person, who is just following instructions--pulls a switch that (he believes) gives her a progressively higher jolt of electricity.

The subjects almost invariably follow the evil instructions. In fact, one of them, Mr. Harley-Hoare, a sniveling and obsequious office worker, is truly outraged at Sally (the mock subject) for not learning faster. Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the corporate world, this play re-explores the issue of personal responsibility for evil actions.

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