The shoemakers Holiday

Script Analysis Paper

Formalist Analysis: “[Is] the search for playable dramatic values that reveal a central unifying pattern that informs or shapes a play from the inside and coordinates all of its parts. [It] uses a traditional system of classifications to break up a play into its parts in order to understand their nature and relationship.”

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A “close reading of the text” is the idea of New Criticism, which relies on this type of writing. Our writing in this class is influenced by what we have learned about the period, the culture, the production styles, the social structures, etc. However, I ask for you to approach this assignment WITHOUT research, so that your ideas come from what you find, in your informed perspective, in the script.

Script analysis often considers, lists, and/or discusses the following script elements, based on Aristotle’s elements of drama as defined in The Poetics.

Description of the Text:
Author’s Name, Title, date of publication, translator’s name (if applicable), First production information (date and venue)
Basic structure (acts and scenes), setting, Form (Comedy, Tragedy, Tragi-comedy, Melodrama, etc.) and Style (Realism, Absurdism, Expressionism, Symbolism, Postmodernism, Romanticism, Neo-Classicism, etc.)
Foundations of the Plot: Given circumstances
Time, Place, Society, Economics, Politics and Law, Intellect and Culture, Spirituality; What is the world of the play?

Foundations of the Plot: Background story or exposition
What is it and how is it revealed?

Plot: physical and psychological action
External Plot vs. Internal Plot; What is done? What is wanted? What is planned? Where is the conflict?

Plot: progression and structure
Structure: Climactic or Episodic or other? Where are the major points of rising action/conflict? What are climactic moments? What is the beginning, middle, and end? Does it fit an Aristotelian model? How do structural divisions interrelate? Is there a cause and effect relationship of the rising action? IS there an absence of an expected formal element (exposition, conflict, reversal, discovery, etc.)?

Are the characters realistic or representative, stereotypical, allegorical, symbolic? How fully realized are they? Who are main characters? Who is the antagonist/protagonist? Are there “group characters?” What are their objectives? How do they function to serve the plot? How does behavior and dialogue develop character? What are the important relationships? How do the characters change through the course of the script?

Idea addresses the author’s intent and the overall effect of the script. What are the important ideas of the script? Are the playwright’s ideas expressed through a certain character? How are they expressed (directly or indirectly)? Is there a symbolic or other motif? What is the significance of the title? What is the relationship of idea to plot and character? What effect is the playwright hoping to have on the audience?

Is there a defining characteristic to the language of the play? Is language elevated? Familiar? Is repetition used? Are there ideas debated directly in the text? Do characters express themselves differently? How is language used to relate ideas? Is the sentence structure complex or simple? Are there lengthy speeches? Are there pauses or periods of silence that convey meaning? Is there a “physical language” to the action of the play?

Tempo, Rhythm, Mood
Is there an internal “music” to the play? At what pace does the story move? What is the atmosphere and how does the writing create it? How often is information introduced? Is there a pattern to the dialogue?

What is most memorable about the play? What scenes are dynamic? What elements are used for heightened emotional or intellectual effect? What is the importance of the setting? Is the physical environment of particular importance to the script? Are there aspects of action, character, idea, or language/music that are overtly “spectacular?” How is story/idea conveyed in ways that can only happen in the theatre?

This is your chance to expose yourself to another of the masterworks of drama, and an excellent opportunity for you to learn to write an objective, scholarly paper about drama. This is NOT a review or a critique. Do not include your opinion about whether this is a “good” play.


Your script analysis is for the purpose of finding a deep understanding of the play, its story, how it was created to function, and how its component parts work together.
Read the play several times. Make sure you understand and can simply and clearly articulate the story. Make extensive notes about your first reactions and feelings.
Your script analysis should have its own internal structure: Introduction, systemized analysis, and conclusions. On your second and third readings of the play, take detailed notes about the elements of the play that you can use when writing.
Your paper and ideas should be specific and not general.
Your paper should be concise and well-organized. It should not read as a “reaction” to the play.
It will probably take at least 8-10 pages (double-spaced, typed, MLA format) to complete this assignment. 25 pages lacking interpretation or structure is NOT better. 10 pages lacking a complete analysis is an incomplete assignment.
You MUST write a first draft, and then RE-WRITE to organize your ideas, remove repetitive passages, and finally make your conclusions.

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