Aristotle's Poetics

Aristotelian Spectacle Shown Through Beds in the Plays of Tennessee Williams College

An extremely specific author, Tennessee Williams is known for his elaborate and in-depth descriptions of sets, costumes, sound, and general staging, often appearing to have the last detail written out in his seemingly endless supply of stage directions. This descriptive style would, at first, make one assume that Williams’s plays do not conform to what Aristotle believed was the proper use of spectacle. According to the latter, spectacle includes all sets, costumes, and things to do with the staging of the show, and is by far the least important element of a proper tragedy, never to drive the plot or provide crucial details that could not be gleaned elsewhere. However, despite the contradiction that might appear to arise as a result of Williams’s copious stage directions, he not only acts within the bounds of Aristotle’s definition of spectacle; he appears to epitomize it. One of the most salient examples of this dynamic is Williams’s use of beds in several of his most famous plays, specifically in The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. In examining this interaction, it is important to note both what the beds do and do not do in their respective roles in the plays. In this way, Williams’s use of beds in The Glass...

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