Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin interpret Blanche and Stanley in a very different way from Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando in the original film. How and why are their interpretations different? How are the other characters different in this version?
Learning Objectives: to develop your reading skills by learning how to work out the underlying meanings of the play — its symbolism, its themes, its use of subtext. To reflect upon the key themes and topics of the play; domestic violence and sexual desire. To learn about patriarchal discourses of control and power. To develop your own powers of reader-response.
Some useful terminology:
Patriarchal discourses: these are groups of words, phrases which are used by men to assert control and power over women. You can look for them in any text (every day speech, plays, poems etc) The whole point of these words is they carry the message that men are better than women.
Feminist discourses: these are discourses (groups of words) that assert women’s EQUALITY with men. They are NOT the opposite of patriarchal discourses which assert that men are better than women. The opposite of “patriarchal discourses” is “matriarchal” discourses, where women assert that they are better than men (very rare!)
Respond down below by writing your own “reader response” diary about the scene, describing your own feelings at different points in the scene. What do you think of Stanley, Stella, Blanche and Mitch at different points in the scene? When are the times that you are irritated/intrigued/annoyed/scared etc of certain characters?
Some points to think about in your diary
Stanley explodes in Scene 3. Why do you think Williams has characterised him in this way? How is masculinity represented here? What patriarchal discourses are used by him and why? Do you think Williams is trying to say anything about the ways in which men seek to control women?
Here some excerpts from the 1951 film of this scene:
The Rhumba dance:
Stanley crying for Stella:
A rather entertaining school production:
Learning Objectives: to develop your independent reading skills, to learn how to work out what is going on if you are confused, to learn how to discuss literary texts in groups; to learn how Williams uses conflicts between characters to create suspense, mystery and explore certain ideas and themes.
You are going to read until the end of Scene 2 in groups and discuss each scene in turn. Double-up roles if necessary.
This scene focuses primarily on Blanche, Stanley and Stella. What conflict between the characters is revealed here? What really interests you about this scene?
When you’ve finished each scene, have a discussion about what you think of the play so far…Each member in the group has a role:
An explainer: you try your best to explain what you think is going on…
A questioner: you come up with questions to ask the group. Ask open-ended questions such as “What do you think of Blanche?”
A “quoter”: you pick and read out interesting quotes and say why you think they are interesting, asking the group what they think.
A theatre director: you discuss how might stage the play and what actors you would get to play the roles etc.
Homework: Now write your own reflections on what YOU THINK of this scene by replying down below. What do you think of the plot, the characters, the themes and the dramatic techniques? What interests you about the play? What are things you are confused by?
EXTENSION: Watch Suddenly Last Summer, another great Tennessee Williams’ play.
Please reply to this post for homework!
The opening of the play is crucial for many reasons; firstly, it has to engage the audience’s interest in the situation, the characters, the themes. How does this play do this?
Look at this version to assist you and you may refer to it in your reply.