Author Archives: bporter

Woyzeck Part ll: Modernization

Considering the relatively abstract nature of the “Woyzeck Part 2′ course topic, I spent more time than usual pondering which direction I wanted to take this in. I suppose it’s like they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Anyway, with my newfound power and freedom with the outside-the-box nature of this week’s post, I decided to discuss a shift into the modern era in multiple senses.

This shift relates to both the play itself and technology, given the Kovarik topic concerning the advent of the computer. While Woyzeck is many things, it is certainly not modern, as it was published almost 150 years ago and written decades before that. Because of this fact, there is plenty of room for interpretation as to how to stage a modern version of the play. We looked at ways this has been attempted, including the entire play being in a cage or on a net, or even in some sort of sewer-type setting with a downward slope into lower ground, where the majority of the play took place. If I was tasked with staging the play, I would try to set it outdoors, which would make staging the scene at the fair as well as the murder scene easier. The doctor might use more modern techniques in his study of Woyzeck, such as shock therapy, or any number of experimental (and possibly painful) things that one might see an antagonist do in a modern movie. To make a connection with the advent of computers, the communication in the play could certainly be updated. For example, Woyzeck could see an email between Marie and the drum major that gives him information about their affair.

The Kovarik reading discusses how the computer changed communications. Computers and subsequently the internet essentially made the world smaller. Without computers, there is no social media on which to reach the entire world. Plays like Woyzeck would be significantly less likely to influence and spread across the oceans without the outreach of computers and the internet. When people think modernization, they often think of the technological revolution, which is clearly headlined by computers. I think an interesting way to modernize Woyzeck would be to use the modern technology and capabilities of computers to make a film adaptation, compete with CGI and all the effects of Hollywood. The fair could be elaborate as ever, the Grandmother’s story could be complete with strange or spooky music and lighting, followed by the murder scene. The murder scene could go in any  number of directions with the capabilities of modern technology. The advent of the computer not only increased the efficiency of things that humans could already do, but gave birth to a world of new possibilities for adaptations and updates on media like Woyzeck that are limitless.

A final thought relates to the aforementioned saying because computer technology is powerful, and with great power comes great responsibility. This made me think that for every interesting adaptation of plays that works, there could be horrible, over-CGI’ed adaptations that do not work. It’s tough to update/modernize something that was never quite finished by the creator in the first place. After all, some things are better in their original form without updated adaptations (just ask anyone who has seen the Hangover films, or Caddyshack 2). Perhaps Woyzeck falls into this category and is best left in its original form.



Topic 4: Death and Mortality

In Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Beckett seeks to explore the topic of death and mortality. Death is something that is not taken very seriously in the play as Vladimir and Estragon constantly undermine the severity and gravity of it. This is evidenced when they are trying to figure out what to do and Estragon suggests that they hang themselves, to which Vladimir replies “Hmm. It’d give us an erection,” and Estragon excitedly responds “An erection!…Let’s hang ourselves immediately!” (1.231-236). The characters lack an understanding of the consequences of death and do not seem to be able to fathom the seriousness that comes with it. Estragon talks about death further in the play when he says “the best thing to do would be to kill me, like the other,” and then when Vladimir asks “what other?” Estragon replies “billions of others,” causing Vladimir to say “to every man his little cross. Till he dies. And is forgotten” (2.136-140). While most people fear death, Estragon seems to find comfort in it, calling it the ‘best thing.’ Meanwhile, Vladimir seems to have a greater comprehension of the sadness associated with death as he sadly speaks of passing away and being forgotten. While Estragon appears to value life very little and is indifferent towards death, Vladimir seeks to find meaning in his own life.  This is apparent after Pozzo asks him for help, causing Vladimir to go into a short speech about action, saying

“let us not waste our time in idle discourse! Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better. To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it…” (2.638-644).

Vladimir becomes excited and assigns meaning to his life after being relied upon. He feels that Pozzo needs him, and that is suddenly enough to break the cyclical inaction that Beckett is known for. This suggests that while Estragon is largely unfazed by the prospect of death, Vladimir finds a meaning for his life when he feels needed by others.

In Zarrilli chapter 8, one of the topics is the 1900s move away from naturalism/realism and towards symbolism. Waiting for Godot is an excellent example of this as a mid-1900s play that is flooded with symbolism. One could speculate for hours or even days about the true meaning of the play and what Samuel Beckett’s message or intentions were. Theatre Histories describes symbolism as urging audiences to look past the surface and literal appearance of a play in order to “discover more significant realities within” (page 358). The exploration of death and mortality is a great example of this because Beckett orchestrates lines that can seem silly on the surface, but actually can be a message about more significant realities. An example of this is the erection line from earlier that is absurd but actually is a reflection of a carefree and potentially naive attitude regarding mortality.

Is there any evolution of character in Godot like we saw with Nora in A Doll’s House?

The obvious question the play brings up: What is the meaning of Godot and what can we make of its portrayal in the play?

Is there anything comparable to Waiting for Godot in modern media?

How could the play function differently or similarly with the addition of female characters?