'Sugared Placebos'? The effects of satire and farce in the plays of David Williamson

Sammut, Elvira (2008) 'Sugared Placebos'? The effects of satire and farce in the plays of David Williamson. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This thesis focuses on the fact that although David Williamson’s popular appeal is attested to by his continuing commercial success in a career of over thirty-five years, a consistent stream of adverse criticism has nevertheless been levelled at his work on the basis of perceived superficiality and glibness. The term 'sugared placebos' was employed to describe the truncation of characterisation and treatment of ideas in Williamson’s work (Fitzpatrick 'Styles of Love: New Directions in David Williamson' 416). In examining and explaining the presence of satire and farce in his plays, this thesis interrogated the nature of both satire and farce to establish the accuracy of the term ‘sugared placebos’ when applied to Williamson’s work, and suggests that instead what is produced is a valuable curative. The thesis involved examining the concept of superficiality as a basis of criticism in a postmodern world and sought to connect this perceived superficiality with the presence of satire and farce in Williamson’s work. The naturalist text of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts was evaluated to establish the validity of stereotypes and genre-blending in a foundational naturalistic text. Using Ghosts as a paradigm against which to compare Williamson’s work, it was established that through a confluence of satire, farce, and irony Williamson creates his unique interpretation of “naturalism” by reflecting the patterns of behaviour of certain individuals in social situations. The study found that like Ibsen before him, Williamson also contends that individuals are strongly conditioned by their society and the enduring and universal emotions they carry from their deep past are endemic of all cultures at all times. A further outcome from the study revealed that far from being 'superficial' Williamson’s use of satire and farce renders his naturalism ironic, while at the same time providing a deep and profound social commentary. In addition, it was found that Williamson’s characters, although robustly Australian and located in the history of their times have, become iconic representations of universal verities that present audiences with deeper truths about their humanity.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/1417
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Education
Historical > RFCD Classification > 420000 Language and Culture
Keywords David Williamson, plays, characterization, Australian literature
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