An analysis of tragicomic techniques in selected plays of David Mulwa
Karanja, Esther Wahu
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This study focuses on three plays by Kenyan playwright, David Mulwa, critically analyzing and discussing them as tragicomedies. The aim is to identify and evaluate to what extent the application of tragicomic techniques has affected the aesthetic quality and effective communication in the selected plays. These plays, written and published in English are Redemption (1990), Clean hands (2000) and Glasshouses (2000). Using a modification of Northrop Frye's theory of tragicomedy known as the Ironic mode, we identify the combining element between tragic and comic material in the plays as irony. This theory helps in the analysis of the thematic concerns, artistic techniques, plot and characterization as features of tragicomedy found in each play. The theory also helps in the analysis of what features Mulwa borrows from either tragedy or comedy. The analysis establishes other techniques like flashbacks and Biblical allusions used to reinforce irony. The analysis also brings out how the protagonist of each play pursues a disappointing goal (he is a crossbreed between the tragic hero and the comic fool). Tragicomedy presents an unrealized tragedy using comic devices to reflect reality. The plays have only been analysed as dramatic texts to demonstrate that tragicomedy offers hope to humanity amidst life's problems. Mulwa in his plays articulates issues like parent-youth conflicts, change (in both the individual and society), women liberation and the devastating effects of the AIDS pandemic. The kind of reality reflected in the plays has been analysed by relating the social context inside the plays to the social context outside them. The social context outside the plays is taken to be what is happening in Kenya or in the world as a whole. All this has been achieved through extensive library research, Internet services and critical analysis of the plays.