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6.2: A One-Act Play

  • Page ID
    15890
  • Although the following script is only that, a script, it does give us a place to start as we investigate drama as a genre. Trifles is a one-act play, which is a drama that can usually be performed in an hour or less and in which the entire story is performed in one act as opposed to several. Although a one act play can contain scene changes, this one only employs one scene.

    In Trifles, Glaspell employs some round characters and some flat, or stock, characters. Round, complex characters, like Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Hale, and Mrs. Peters, reflect the complicated personalities and experiences that most of us can identify with. When Mrs. Peters seems torn between following the wishes of her husband, who represents the law, and showing sympathy with Mrs. Wright, we understand her conflict. Most of us have encountered similar conflicts in our daily lives. However, we tend to dislike Mr. Henderson, partly because he insults Mrs. Wright, but also, notably, because he is a flat character. He does not reveal the capacity or the habit of complex thought, but rather reacts to his surroundings based on his stereotype-based assumptions. Since the male characters represent dominant male society, including familiar patriarchs (Mr. Wright is the authority in his house), a society in which women have not yet been granted the right to vote, and a legal system that does not recognize women as full citizens, they are sustained as flat. While it may seem that the use of flat characters would yield a weak play, it is important to consider why writers use flat characters at all. Since these characters carry with them a ready-made impression, less dialogue has to be devoted to developing them, thereby creating more dialogue-space for other important characters or ideas. In this short play, most of the script focuses on the dialogue and actions of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, allowing Glaspell to develop the theme successfully.

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