|dc.description.abstract||Centring on Peer Gynt's onion as a symbol of modern
man's "dissolved" self, this thesis is a study of the
changing concept of "self" and its effect on the development
of dramatic technique from Ibsen's Brand and Peer
Gynt, through Strindberg's "dream plays, " to the plays of
the three most influential post-war British playwrights,
Beckett, Osborne, and Pinter.
The aim of this comparative study is not to "prove"
direct influence, but to demonstrate affinities and to
trace the continuing process of the "dissolving self"
from Brand's monumental concept of man as a being essentially
divine, to Beckett's tramps picturing themselves
as worms in a God-forsaken universe, and from Peer Gynt's
uncentred onion self, which still adds up to a tremendous
personality, to Pinter's "classic female figure" who is
divested of personality as well as of self.
The philosophical dissolution of man's essential Godgiven
self and the redefinition of the human personality
in existentialist terms as simply the sum of one's actions,
habits, or roles, has its corollary in dramatic technique,
of which the most radical example is Strindberg's A Dream
Play, where the Dreamer's self is projected on stage, not
as one indelible personality, which is still the case in
Peer Gynt, but as a motley gallery of "dream characters, "
each representing one aspect of the Dreamer's (the poet's)
Beckett's Krapp, spooling back the tapes of his
former selves in search of his quintessential "I" and
discovering that the "self" is merely a string of discarded
habits; Osborne's Archie Rice playing for time
against the inevitable annihilation of his inauthentic
comedian's mask by "the man with the hook"; and Pinter's
stupefied Stanley Webber being "crowned" by his persecutors
with a bowler hat, the symbol of conformity, and
hence of non-identity, are all modern counterparts of
Peer Gynt, the "Emperor of Self. "||en_US