Skip to main content
main-content

Über dieses Buch

This book explores how classical and Shakespearean tragedy has shaped the temporality of crisis on the stage and in time-travel films and videogames. In turn, it uncovers how performance and new media can challenge common assumptions about tragic causality and fate. Traditional tragedies may present us with a present when a calamity is staged, a decisive moment in which everything changes. However, modern performance, adaptation and new media can question the premises of that kind of present crisis and its fatality. By offering replays or alternative endings, experimental theatre, adaptation, time travel films and videogames reinvent the tragic experience of irreversible present time. This book offers the reader a fresh understanding of tragic character and agency through these new media’s exposure of the genre’s deep structure.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

1. Time, Choice, and Consequences in Greek and Shakespearean Tragedy

Abstract
This chapter focuses on how classical and Shakespearean tragedy engages us in a present “thick” with past and future when it stages a crisis, a moment of present decision in which everything changes. It argues that understanding tragic temporality as multidirectional than merely linear opens up new ways of thinking about how choice operates in present time. The chapter analyzes the relationship of choice in time to character and consequences in a small set of plays: Aeschylus’s Oresteia, Sophocles’s Theban plays, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hamlet, which have served as powerful paradigms for the construction of tragic temporality and crisis. The chapter’s first part concerns the relationship between choice and dramatic character, considering how tragic character can be defined through choice, anticipating the deconstruction of character formation that takes place in videogames. The second part also questions the assumption that the tragic protagonist’s decision is constrained by the power that human beings have called the gods, fate, or destiny. Positing that the present moment of decision may still be radically contingent, this chapter asserts that in Greek and Shakespearean tragedy choice in an enacted crisis can undermine as well as reinforce the kind of determinism that we conventionally associate with those plays.
Rebecca Bushnell

2. Tragic Adaptation and Performance: Undoing the Play

Abstract
This chapter investigates how through dramatizing choice in “real” time, both adaptation and performance can release alternative stories or endings in a tragic play. Audiences and directors certainly debate how far may one go in “correcting” or making changes in a tragic plot, since tragedy seems to be all about fatal consequences and especially an ending from which there is no return. Radical remakings of tragic plots through either adaptation or performance are admittedly rare, precisely because audiences, actors, and critics alike often crave the repetition of those familiar stories, no matter how horrific they might be. However, this chapter offers two case studies of performative disruption that help us see the alternative possibilities latent in tragic theater. The first example is Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, an adaptation of both Hamlet and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern stages the dynamics of choice in an unfixed present time and space to exploit the opening for invention, gaming, and rewriting that Hamlet itself invites. In the end Stoppard does not let Rosencrantz and Guildenstern escape from Hamlet; that is, he does not release the kind of potential that was exploded in this chapter’s second example, Richard Schechner’s legendary adaptation and performance of Euripides’s Bacchae in Dionysus in 69. In that case, game-like performance generated a sense of present possibilities that could empower the audience and actors to intervene in the tragic plot and break it open—or to just walk away.
Rebecca Bushnell

3. Time-Travel Films: Replaying Time, Choice, and Action

Abstract
This chapter follows resistance to the tragic narrative in the medium of film, exemplified in those films that involve travel through time, when the protagonist pursues a desire to see a story undone by revisiting a past tragic choice or event. These films play on or with that impulse to resist the script’s authority inherent in acts of adaptation, and they translate it into a character’s defiance of social or political authority in a quest to right a wrong, to prevent a future disaster, or recover what has been lost. The script’s authority is identified with a sense of the inexorable nature of time, which film itself has the power to undermine it. The first part considers films (including La Jétee, 12 Monkeys, Déjà Vu, and Looper) that set time travel in an socio-political framework, in which a male time traveler must disobey the authorities that send him back in time. These models are then contrasted with Run Lola Run and Céline and Julie Go Boating, films that feature female protagonists who use a time-loop or game-like structure to transform a tragic outcome into a comic ending. Time travel thus lends itself to the conversion of narrative into a game, when the linearity of time is twisted through recursion and repetition.
Rebecca Bushnell

4. Tragic Time and Choice in Videogames

Abstract
This chapter argues that while engaging the player as spectator, actor, and author, videogames both draw on and revert back to the essential tensions inherent in the tragic experience of time. Through a discussion of serious narrative games such as The Wolf Among Us, Heavy Rain, Mass Effect, and The Stanley Parable, the chapter describes how games thrive through creating an environment of choice in which the player is constantly offered options of speech and action, and in this, a form of authorship to create both plot and character. While they may evoke the harrowing sensation familiar from tragedy of having to act in a crisis, yet they can also offer the player the chance to undo that decision by reversing time, revisiting the past in a new present, and then moving forward having learned what the future will bring. This replay may feel like asserting freedom from the “tyranny” of the story because one can repeat and remain in a present time when all things seem possible and under the player’s control. However, one cannot forget that the player is operating within the context of the program, limited by the choices offered and the game’s intent. The chapter ends by considering the role of cheating and modding in the disruption of game plotting.
Rebecca Bushnell

Backmatter

Weitere Informationen