Response to Zola

September 30, 2007 at 9:39 pm (Uncategorized)

                    As he delves into the realm of theatre, Zola argues under the headings of sets and props and costumes. There is one term which comes to mind while engaged in his writing- this term is “versimilitude”. I believe Zola is a true advocate of this process. When a work is very true to life, this is versimilitude. This neo-classical concept is best described by the Online Encyclopedia Britannica: “The concept implies that either the action represented must be acceptable or convincing according to the audience’s own experience or knowledge or, as in the presentation of science fiction or tales of the supernatural, the audience must be enticed into willingly suspending disbelief,” (http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9075104/verisimilitude). Following the historical and melodramas of the early to mid 1800s, the background was now minimal and the emphasis was placed upon the characters and their banal existence then the scene created was thus truer to reality- the masses related and connected with these “individual people [who were] presented living contemporary lives,” (359).                

             The evolution of naturalism since the fifteenth century has lead to our current practice of enforcing historical accuracy in costuming. When studying theatre history last year, we discussed how historical accuracy in costuming is suprisingly, fairly new to theatre and even film. One example comes to mind from my own personal observations- not from theatre but from film and valid none the less. During my Shakespeare class last year, we would watch clips of plays such as Hamlet, King Lear and The Tempest- all from productions done in the 60’s. Perhaps unintentionally, the actors display make-up heavily influenced by this decade and also the cut of the dresses and the hairstyles mirror those of the swinging era. I believe we have moved into an era where historical accuracy is imperative or the audience is turned off because the characters are unbelievable and therefore not worth watching. I agree with Zola with the same degree of passion he exhibits in his writing.

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