Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Quote - Bentley on Dialogue

"Actually, though some of the great modern playwrights have been classed as Naturalists, they have one and all been hostile to Naturalism. They have all rejected banality, and have demanded a larger dramatic world. What confuses us it that they were often quasi-Naturalistic. A person may open a volume of Ibsen and conclude: 'Well this is just ordinary conversation.' There is nothing in the individual sentence, or sometimes on the individual page, to give him the lie. The dialogue of Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov and Pirandello does start from both ordinary conversation and from the kind of dialogue most closely related to it. The unit remains the uttered remark, but the units are then related to each other with extreme sophistication. Actors who till then had noticed only the banality of each sentence in a Chekhov scene are suddenly amazed to find that the scene as a whole is a poem. Ibsen should be credited with the invention of an anti-poetry. He made a fine art of the understatement, the evasion, the unfinished sentence. In a sense, his writing undercuts poetry and reduces it triviality. This happens with Hedda Gabler's poetic phrase 'vine leaves in his hair,' and with Hilda Wangel's 'harps in the air.'"

-Eric Bentley, The Life of the Drama

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