unities

Definition

Theater

  • The neoclassical doctrine that a play should havea unity in three aspects: time, place, and action. In practice thismeant that a play should present one basic action occurring in oneplace during the course of a single day. Although Aristotle's Poeticswas cited as the authority for these rules, only the unity of actionwas stressed in this work, the other two unities being derived fromRenaissance misreadings of the text. The unities were introduced toFrench classical tragedy by Jean Mairet (1604 - 86), whose Sophonisbe(1634) was the first modern work to embody them. In the writings ofsuch French critics as Boileau (1636 - 1711) the need to maintainthe unities became a rigid dogma. The unities also influenced theneoclassical drama of Spain and Italy but never replaced the traditionof Shakespearean free structure in England.
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