Modern scholars believe that a person renders a large portion of the information by non-verbal means of communication such as gesticulation, facial expressions, eye contact, or even clothing. They help to express ideas, emotions or emphasize some points during the conversation (Mehrabian, 4). In this paper, we need to show how the functioning of body language can vary depending on the specific situation. To do it we need to compare dramatic and comedic performances. We have chosen such examples as Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King staged by Michael Pennington and the Taming of the Shrew, directed by John Alison. Certainly, the plot of playdays is practical to everyone but in this case, the most important task is to analyze them from visual perspective irrespective of the actors words.
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The first scene depicts the conflict between Oedipus, a powerful ruler, and Tiresias, a blind prophet. The actor, playing Oedipus attempts to emphasize that his character possesses authority. He puts his hands on his hips to assert his control over the situation. But when a person does so, it may mean that he actually feels vulnerable and just tries to hide his fear. His proxemics also indicates that he is quite nervous: Oedipus moves almost chaotically around the place. He goes to the top of the stairs to demonstrate that he remains a king but his facial expression betrays him. Sometimes, it seems that his face is virtually distorted with pain. Another interesting detail is that through body language, the characters also show their attitude toward the interlocutor. For example, Oedipus points his finger at Tiresias as if accusing him of something. In sharp contrast, Teiresias avoids using gestures and his hands are practically motionless. Occasionally, it seems that the actors have exchanged their roles because Oedipus behaves like a fearful subordinate rather than a king.
How a person move uses physical spaces around him or her
As regards comedic performance, we have taken the final scene in the Taming of the Shrew. It depicts reconciliation between Katherina and Petruchio. Katherina supposedly declares her submission and obedience to her husbands will. The actress tries to look very humble. She even falls on her knees but Petruchio raises her. Katherine actively gesticulates as though trying to explain something to other characters and to the audience. Judging from her body language, we can argue that Katherina attempts to prove some point to other women, probably, about the role of a woman in the family and her dependence on the spouse. However, her ironic and half-hidden smile reveals that her submission to her husband is not quite sincere.
If we draw parallels between Oedipus the King and the Taming of the Shrew, we need to say that in both cases, characters use body language in order to display their attitude towards the other person. In addition, in both plays the actors try to render the inner world of their characters or at least their emotional state. However, in dramatic performance, body language is more informative and more vivid, while in the comedy, Katherina carefully conceals her real feelings; she just wants to produce an impression of obedience on her husband.
On the whole, the description and analysis of body language can give deep insights into the inner world of a person, his attitude towards toward others. In some cases, non-verbal communication shows the contradictions between his words and his feelings. The most interesting detail is that body language frequently breaks our stereotypes about literary or cinematographic characters. It helps to look at them from a different angle.
Alison, John. The Taming of the Shrew. BBS Studio, 1990. Web.
Mehrabian Albert. Nonverbal communication. Transaction Publishers, 2007.
Pennington, Michael. Oedipus the King, 1984. Web.