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Schaff, T.J. (1976-77). Audience Awareness and Catharsis in Drama. Psychoanal. Rev., 63(4):529-554.
  

(1976-77). Psychoanalytic Review, 63(4):529-554

Audience Awareness and Catharsis in Drama

Thomas J. Schaff

Aristotle believed that the main effect of drama should be cathartic: the purging of pity and terror in tragedy, and laughter in comedy. This paper will examine the relationship between catharsis and a single dramatic device, the creation of what Bertrand Evans has called “discrepant awareness” between the audience and the characters. The thesis of this paper is that discrepant awareness is a device used to control the amount of identification by the audience with the characters, and that the amount of identification, in turn, helps to determine whether the audience experiences catharsis. The discussion emphasizes the central importance of the concept of “balance of attention” for the discharge of repressed emotion. The paper concludes with some remarks on the significance of catharsis for the individual and for society. The discussion will begin with a description of the features of Evans' analysis that are relevant to this thesis.

In his work, Evans describes the playwright's use of discrepant awareness—the creation of a gap in awareness between the audience and the characters.7 In the early comedies, this device is very simple. In The Comedy of Errors, the audience learns almost immediately of the existence of two sets of identical twins—the brothers Antipholus of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus, and their twin servants, Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus.

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