Problem Play Meaning and Features


The problem play is a genre of drama that emerged amid the nineteenth century as a major aspect of the more extensive development of realism in human expressions, particularly taking after the advancements of Henrik Ibsen.

It manages burning social issues through civil arguments between the characters in front of an audience, who regularly speaks to clashing perspectives inside a practical social setting.

According to Chris Baldick, this genre rose “from the ferment of the 1890s… for the most part inspired by the example of Ibsen’s realistic stage representations of serious familial and social conflicts”. He explained it as follows:

Rejecting the frivolity of intricately plotted romantic intrigues in the nineteenth-century French tradition of the ‘well-made play’, it favoured instead the form of the ‘problem play’, which would bring to life some contemporary controversy of public importance—women’s rights, unemployment, penal reform, class privilege—in a vivid but responsibly accurate presentation. (Wikipedia)

F. S. Boas, a critic, used the term to describe certain plays by William Shakespeare that he considered having attributes like Ibsen’s nineteenth-century problem plays.

Accordingly, the term is likewise utilized all the more comprehensively and reflectively to depict any tragicomic shows that don’t fit effortlessly into the traditional nonspecific refinement amongst parody and catastrophe.

Later commentators have utilized the term for different plays, like Timon of Athens and The Merchant of Venice.

19th Century Problem Play

While social open deliberations in plays were just the same old thing new, the problem play of the nineteenth century was recognized by its expectation to stand up to the observer with the difficulties experienced by the characters.

The most punctual types of the issue play are to be found in the work of French essayists, for example, Alexandre Dumas, fils, who managed the subject of prostitution in The Lady of the Camellias.

Other French dramatists took action accordingly with dramatizations about scope of social issues, now and then moving toward the subject in a moralistic, once in a while in a nostalgic way.

Pundit Thomas H. Dickinson, in 1927, said that these early problem plays were hampered by the emotional traditions of the day, “No play written in the problem form was significant beyond the value of the idea that was its underlying motive for existence. No problem play had achieved absolute beauty or a living contribution to truth.”

The most vital type of the problem play, be that as it may, was the Norwegian essayist Henrik Ibsen, whose work joined entering characterization with an accentuation on topical social issues, typically focused on the ethical situations of a focal character.

In a progression of plays, Ibsen tended to a scope of issues, most remarkably the limitation of ladies’ lives in A Doll’s House, sexually-transmitted illness in Ghosts and common voracity in An Enemy of the People.

Ibsen’s plays demonstrated monstrously persuasive, producing variations of the problem play in works by George Bernard Shaw and other later writers.

20th Century Problem Play

Problem Play was particularly persuasive in the mid-twentieth century. In Britain plays, for example, Houghton’s Hindle Wakes, built up the genre to move the way of the ‘problem’.

This “unfalteringly reasonable issue play set in residential insides of the plant town Hindle” begins with the “problem” of an evidently enticed lady, yet closes with the lady herself dismisses her status as a casualty of temptation “the ‘problem’ is not, all things considered, the reclamation of a sold-out lady’s discoloured respect, yet the availability of her respectable older folks to decide a young lady’s future for her without respect to her rights—including here her entitlement to sensual occasion satisfaction.”

It was an apparatus of the communist theatre in the 30s, and covered with types of narrative theatre it works, for example, Carl Crede’s Paragraph 218, which concerns the issue of abortion, and which was coordinated by Erwin Piscator.