Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Audience Awareness

We've seen it time and again - book/film/theatre - one character (and the reader/audience) are away of some fact/information/knowledge/truth and the character is attempting to explain it to another character, only, that other character doesn't believe it, quite often takes offence at (their perception) being made a fool of, or come to make the realisation far too late.

So, I'm sitting here reading Aristotle's Poetics - pretension aside, it's a nice short translation that's just a bit of fun... nothing ground breaking seeing as we all know it all already, but it's very interesting to consider that in this day and age we're not really doing anything different. Little has changed in over 2000 years. How's that for formula?

Anyhoo, Aristotle was just talking about the choices a writer makes during the writing of a tragedy and led into:

Slightly better is the situation where someone does the deed without knowing the full circumstances until afterwards [as when Agave in Bacchae kills Pentheus]: there is nothing meretricious in this, and the discovery is effective. Best of all, however, is the third alternative: as for example in Kresphontes [by Euripides; now lost] when Merope recognises her son at the very moment she is about to kill him, or the similar situation in [Euripided'] Iphigeneia in Tauris [where Iphigeneia discovers the true identity of her brother Orestes as she is about to kill him], or when the son in Helle [a play about which nothing is known] recognises his mother just as he is about to hand her to her enemy.

It got me thinking about the purpose of this thread and back to last night where, before watching The Princess Bride, I watched Night At The Museum - yes, quite a funny film. Ben Stiller's character Larry is telling Carla Gugino's Rebecca about what "really" happens at night. We, the audience, know the truth, and although we've witnessed the scene over and over in all forms of fiction, we never tire when we see it again - different characters and a different situation sure - why is that?

In fact, I grinned all the way through the scene, because I could see how Rebecca's character was going to take it, was taking it, had taken it. Haw haw haw! The audience has a vested interest in wanting the info to be known, for the protagonist to be understood.

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