Any play has as much visual content as the aural content. This being said, the setting is essential for any audience to pay heed to all the happenings of a play. The unity of place is one that is intrinsic in any play. A play should not compress geography; the stage throughout the play must represent only one location. Setting reflects the time period, and the nature of society. It reveals the nature of the primary characters, as the environment they are in can alter their actual responses. For example, in an environment which is isolated protagonists often soliloquize, expressing their emotions. Setting can also be intermittent into the plot, as the usage of props on stage causes the plot twists, such as escape, suicide and, murder.
The opening scene of a play is the initial introduction of the setting to the audience. It is usually done with grandeur as the audience is impertinent. “A Doll’s House” by Ibsen commences with “A room furnished tastefully but not extravagantly”, this line itself reflects the financial status of the family. In Sophocles’ “Antigone” however begins his play in “open place” This somehow reflects the freedom of thought that is felt by Antigone as she expresses her opinions which reek of controversy. The time at which the play is introduced is also mentionable as an axis of the play could be the season, or the unsettling situations which envelope the period portrayed. “A porter who is carrying a Christmas tree” is one of the initial actions of the play, the Christmas tree, obviously symbolizes the season of giving and ironically happiness which is also hinted at when Nora shortly after generously lets the Porter keep the change there is also a mention of “winter”. “At dawn” when the sun is at its peak could elevate the friction that is noticed between two primary characters.
The introduction of a primary character is essential to the first scene of a play. Sophocles’ “Antigone” witnesses the introduction of two characters to the setting of the gates of the palace of Thebes. This palace is the setting of the play. There is presentation of a dialogue amongst two sharply differentiated characters and there is information that is gained through their exchange. In “A Doll’s House” Ibsen introduces the protagonist of the play in a seemingly average setting, which also symbolizes her ‘normal’ life. As the plot twists however the setting is also altered, after the initial exchange with Krogstad, the setting now becomes more unnerved, “The Christmas tree with burned down candle on its disheveled branches.”
The burned down candles does depict passage of time. The first scent of Nora’s escape is sensed as “she is alone in the room” and even goes to the extent of “stops by the sofa and takes up her cloak.” This might be an ominous note to her departure by the end of the play. Whereas, in ‘Antigone’ the play moves along with the exact same setting and that is the palace of Thebes. Any offstage action is brought to the knowledge of the audience by a messenger or secondary character. Like the death of Antigone, even though that is perhaps the most important twist in the plot, the audience fails to see it. It is because the enormity of the tragedy is felt so greatly that there is no need to bring her on stage. This would also be related to the unity of place.
Most plays have conflict, some to a much larger extent than others but conflict is essential to maintain the suspense in the play. The setting also at times represents conflict. “The table has been placed in the middle of the stage with chairs around it.” The table could represent the decision changing conversation that was going to occur shortly after with Mrs. Linde and Krogstad. “Every now and then she listens intently for a sound at the outer door.” This would be important as the audience can then expect the arrival of Krogstad once again to the house, perhaps this time his temperament would vary greatly. The story of “Antigone” has conflict that arises much before the actual acting of the play; the audience accustomed to drama would ideally know that the state of Thebes in all tragedies is in a very worrying situation.