As level English literature streetcar named desireWatch
drama is very simple - it always revolves around a hero wanting something - Richard 3 wants power. Hamlet wants to revenge his father's death. Th first act (or part) of the play will set up who the characters are, their relationship to one another and we will be shown what it is the hero (or heroine) wants.
Act two we see them going after what they want. They pursue it. They make plans. At first they may have some success. But then they encounter problems. Their efforts fail. In act 2 (or mid way through the play) there will be a reversal of fortunes. A turning point. The turning point may be new information that is revealed which makes their struggle harder. Or it may be a dilemma they have to face - for example - they may suddenly be presented with a choice - you can get what you want, but it will cost your family dearly. What should they do?
Then we have act three. Act three is where everything is resolved. That does not mean that it happily ends. For Hamlet, he has tried everything, and by the end of the play having tried everything and failed in his quest to revenge his father's death, he too dies. In "All my Sons" Joe Keller realising at last how his actions in the past were wrong, and how they disappointed his son (Joe has lived for his family) he kills himself. His quest to clear his name has failed, and he realises he is guilty.
So, with this structure in mind, have a think about Streetcar - can you see what the main character wants? Can you see the turning point in the play? What happens at the end?
Next point to consider - again, you can apply this to any play at all - the "drama" (or excitement) that comes from watching a play, comes from characters being in opposition. Conflict is key. Without conflict, we'd just be listening to people talking on a stage. Conflict comes from 3 sources:
(1) conflict with another character - superman v's Lex Luthor / Othello v's Iago
(2) conflict comes from outwith the character - it can be societal - e.g. we have John Proctor against the entire community; or it may be a character fighting against a political system, or against the laws of the land, or against God.
(3) the conflict comes from within. A man battles his own conscience.
In Hamlet, we see many of these conflicts. Hamlet battles against Claudius, and the crown. But we see him, in his famous "to be or not to be" speech also battling his conscience. "Dare I do this," he asks himself.
These conflicts are what make a play interesting and keep us invested in the characters, willing them on to achieve their goal. Think of a play like a football match - if your team walk onto the pitch and score 10 goals in succession, without opposition, you'd lose interest. But if they walk on and they are battling a team just as good as them, or even better than them (more exciting) we watch them try, then fail, try harder, fail, try something else, and just as they look likely to succeed something happens. they are down to ten men. We never saw this coming. How can they come back from that? They do though, they struggle, they overcome, They win. (or, they struggle, tray as they might to overcome, they fail. All is lost). Tragedy always ends with "all is lost".
Back later. Think about these points for now and try and apply them to your text!
act 1 set up and what the hero wants. Act two - complications. Act 3 - resolution.
Let's look at "Streetcar":
here we have Blanche, our protagonist (chief character) who we see is in trouble. She has lost her job, her marriage is over after her young husband committed suicide. She is destitute and the future is not bright. We learn that she once had a respectable position in society, and we see her desperate to show off her gentility and manners to others, in an attempt to deny she is in any kind of trouble. She is aware that she is at an age where she won't be able to attract the sort of man she would like, but there is still hope for stability, if she can marry Mitch. So - what does Blanche want? She wants to secure a respectable husband, yes, but this is in order to restore her position of respectability and refinement.
So - what threatens her getting what she wants? two things: our antagonist (the character who stands in opposition to her) Stanley. And REALITY. Stanley challenges Blanche's version of events. While she is trying to paper over the cracks and pretend she is still a great lady, Stanley keeps reminding her she is not. Look at how he goes through her suitcase. All the clothes (which are cheap and tatty) which she dresses up in, to show to the world she is a lady, he hauls out and shows they are not fine at all. Think of it like this - she is trying to wear a mask of respectability, and he keeps ripping that mask off, and showing reality.
So - we have what the heroine wants. And we have conflict.
If you go through the play, you will see how this conflict builds. How the playwright pushes the characters together, and shows us they are polar opposites. Blanche is all refinement and manners and gentility and Stanley is rough, and vulgar and animalistic. Look at how the characters are introduced for example: Stanley throws up a parcel of meat to his wife. Note: meat. Very animalistic imagery. He doesn't bring her flowers, he throws meat. He is a very physical character, and this, quite against her will, is attractive to Blanche. She responds on a primal level to him. And she dislikes this, because she is someone who sees herself as above such behaviour. So, she is conflicted in her response to him. Go through the text and look for good quotes which sum up Stanley and sum up Blanche. Then go through and see if you can find examples of them coming into conflict with one another. A question you might be asked could be about how the playwright develops his characters.
OK, so now we come to the play's themes: we have already uncovered two of them in talking about characters:
(1) the theme of reality versus fantasy - this is a recurring theme in Williams' work. He explores this again and again in his plays, where we see the characters wanting to invent a fantasy world for themselves, but this cannot sustain for long, and the intrusion of reality shatters this. Blanche wants to believe she can still be the young, Southern Belle she once was, but the reality is, she is an old drunken woman who is clinging onto the past. Look at the fiction that she writes to Shep. Look at how the playwright keeps on contrasting the grim reality of the world against her refined expectations. At the start of the play she sees her sister's apartment and her reaction is disappointment. So, she arrives with high hopes, that are immediately dashed when reality sets in. And this continues throughout the play.
(2) the theme of desire and death. This comes up throughout the play - we have Blanche's desire for her young husband - who kills himself. We have Stanley's sex appeal tied up with his very violent behaviour (he breaks all the lightbulbs on his wedding night). Blanche's inability to properly manage her desire leads to her eventual madness and destruction.
You need to be familiar with the text. Even if you find it boring. There are no short cuts, I'm afraid. Read it again, and select the quotes that illustrate theme, character, character development, and critical points of conflict/turning points in the story. Once you know the material, all you have to do is organise it well.
The trick to organising the material well is writing a good essay plan before you start writing the essay. So always take some time to plan before you start to write. The essay plan will be you jotting down the key points you want to make, the quotes you want to use that back up these points. (Every point should have a supporting quote.) You will thus, be able to make connections between your ideas, avoid repeating yourself, and see right away which point you should make first, and then next, and then next.
essay structure - always: introduction; main body (where you set out and argue your ideas) and conclusion where you summarise your argument and draw ideas together.
each paragraph should have a central idea, and it should begin by clearly signposting the reader as to what that idea is. For example:
"The playwright shows that Blanche is a woman of very refined sensibilities." This sentence tells me right away that the paragraph will explore Blanche's characterisation and I'd expect you to go onto give examples of her trying to show how well mannered she is.
argue the pros and the cons in your essay, and make sure you are able to share the detail of what you know. Here's an example of detail, from what we've just learned together:
"Stanley is characterised as a man of great physical power whose strength, at times is almost animalistic. From the first moment we see him on stage he exerts his presence, (give quote). Significantly, he throws a package of meat to his wife, Stella (give quote). This is reminiscent of an animal sharing its kill, and the symbol works well in terms of presenting Stanley as a dangerous character."
So - we didn't just say "Stanley's a big, physical man" we have broken this down a bit. We've shown how he is presented, and we've unpacked one of the symbolic details in the play - his throwing around meat.
I hope all this helps. Learn the text and learn your quotes. Being confident of the material will help you a lot. Then start practising answering questions, which again, will help your thinking. There's no short cut - but it will be worthwhile in the end. You can do it!