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Breaking Through the Fourth Wall

            With most Realist and Naturalist plays the audience is "safely" concealed behind the invisible "fourth wall" of the proscenium. A play that utilizes this technique is A Doll's House written by Ibsen. Yet, many later plays do not provide the spectator this same degree of distance and detachment, as seen in Six Characters in Search of an Author written by Pirandello, which his labeled as Metatheater. .
             As a Realist play, A Doll's House utilizes the "slice-of-life" take to theatre where the play is to mirror life. Instead of emphasizing the cast or the script itself, Realism tries to emphasize life and its hardships; a universal truth that all humans can agree with. To accomplish this for the audience the play itself must look and act like the life they know. In the case of Ibsen and many other Realist playwrights, he "adopted a critical posture toward the pieties of the middle-class audience whose attitudes were embodied in the "realistic" vision of the world" (W.B Worthen 583), thus the controversial plot line of A Doll's House was received with much passion and understanding in the 1880's when it was first published and produced. Yet, unlike life itself, Realist plays had a formula to them: "the well-made play". This included five distinct steps that the script should follow from beginning to end as a structure: first a detailed introduction to the characters, as seen in the very detailed opening stage directions (Ibsen 601). Second a rising action, which can be seen as the tension of money even in the first pages of the play. Third is the crisis, which obviously has to do with the rising action: money. Nora is in debt to Mr. Krogstad, which is a hugely unorthodox thing to happen in the late 1800's, as women are not seen as full citizens. Here we see Nora torn between social duty and love: "[Is] it indiscreet to save your husband's life?" (Ibsen 604). Then onto the climax, where Torvald finally finds out about his wife's secret.

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