'Silence is pouring into this play like water into a sinking ship' (Samuel Beckett on Waiting for Godot). Discuss 'silence' and sub-texts in modern drama

Essay by sophkingUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, December 2008

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Constantin Stanivslaski defined subtext as,"The manifest, the inwardly felt expression of a human being in part, which flows uninterruptedly beneath the words of a text, giving them life and a basis for existing."The Russian practitioner was a major pioneer in modern theatre and here describes perfectly how the real humanity is found beneath the language. The technique began with naturalist sub-text, as found in Chekhov, but is evident even in the unnaturalistic plays of Beckett, and is later developed by Pinter. The depth of language permeates both generations of theatre. Their use of sub-text infiltrates the dialogue whilst silences add to the dramatic tension and underlying meaning of the plays. Each dramatist uses both techniques to serve their individual purposes, which I will explore in this essay.

The feelings of inertia and waiting for life, infiltrates much of Beckett's drama and is also evident in Chekhov's Three Sisters.

The family dream of moving to Moscow but are waiting for something that will never happen. They are left to pass the time, like in Beckett's plays, Waiting for Godot and Endgame. There are invisible barriers trapping them with, "speech without consequence [and] reflecting action without conclusion." Beneath the meaningless chattering of Chekhov's characters here, lies the dreadful realization of their fate:"Olga:The only thing that grows…is one singleDream…Irina:To go to Moscow. To sell up the house, to finish with everything here, and off to Moscow…Olga:Yes! To Moscow, as soon as ever we can."A forced gaiety in most of Chekhov's characters mask an awareness of abandonment. These empty expressions of hopes and ambitions can be compared to Beckett as he too communicates the absence of communication and truth within language. A problem that even he anticipates:"More and more my own language appears to me like a veil that must be torn...