The Mirror as Stage Prop in Modern Drama


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The use of the mirror as an important stage prop is by no means peculiar to modern drama. A perhaps almost archetypal instance occurs near the end of Act IV of Richard II, when Shakespeare's narcissistic protagonist ( essentially an actor who only plays at being a king) calls for a looking glass and then dashes it to the ground in disappointment when it fails to reflect his internal agony. But it is not until the Modernist movement that playwrights regularly employ the mirror as the dominant symbolic element of their stage setting. By examining in chronological order four dramas and three musicals which extensively use the mirror, we can chart the emergence and growing preponderance of a metatheatre-not only in the sense in which Lionel Abel applies the term to those works that capitalize on the life as dream/world as stage metaphors and on the audience's awareness of the play as play,1 but also in the sense that the audience is consciously forced into a recognition of themselves as audience.

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