Irony and theatre share intimate kinships, not only regarding dramatic conflict, dialectic or wittiness, but also scenic structure and the verbal or situational ironies that typically mark theatrical speech and action. Yet irony today, in aesthetic, literary and philosophical contexts especially, is often regarded with skepticism - as ungraspable, or elusive to the point of confounding. Countering this tendency, William Storm advocates a wide-angle view of this master trope, exploring the ironic in major works by playwrights including Chekhov, Pirandello and Brecht, and in notable relation to well-known representative characters in drama from Ibsen's Halvard Solness to Stoppard's Septimus Hodge and Wasserstein's Heidi Holland. To the degree that irony is existential, its presence in the theatre relates directly to the circumstances and the expressiveness of the characters on stage. This study investigates how these key figures enact, embody, represent and personify the ironic in myriad situations in the modern and contemporary theatre.
William Storm teaches dramatic literature, theory and theatre history at New Mexico State University. He is the author of After Dionysus: A Theory of the Tragic as well as numerous essays, articles and plays. His scholarly specializations include dramatic theory and dramaturgy, the history and theory of the tragic form and sensibility, art in relation to literature and performance, and connections of science with theatre and narrative studies.
Introduction; 1. Irony personified: Ibsen and The Master Builder; 2. The character of irony in Chekhov; 3. Irony and dialectic: Shaw's Candida; 4. Pirandello's 'father' - and Brecht's 'mother'; 5. Absurdist irony: Ionesco's 'anti-play'; 6. 'Ironist first-class': Stoppard's Arcadia; 7. American ironies: Wasserstein and Kushner; 8. Irony's theatre; Works cited.