Article Title

Nonverbal Theatrical Elements in Ntozake Shange's for colored girls . . . and Intissar Abdel-Fatah's Makhadet El-Kohl (The Kohl Pillow)


Dalia El-Shayal


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

There is language in her eyes, her cheek, her lip Nay her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out At every joint and motive of her body …
—Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida

Your face … is a book where men May read strange matters.
—Shakespeare, Macbeth

Thou shalt not sigh, nor hold thy stumps to heaven / Nor wink, nor nod, nor kneel, nor make a sign But I, of these, will wrest an alphabet, And by still practice learn to know thy meaning.
—Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus

In Twilight of the Idols, Friedrich Nietzsche expresses his views about the act of speaking and confirms, “that for which we find words, is something already dead in the hearts; there is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking.”1 Despite Nietzsche’s views, “the act of speaking” remains the fundamental communicative element among humans. Although all species communicate, the human version is notable for its precision, flexibility, and versatility, consequences of the uniquely human ability to use language. Still, language is neither a monolithic construct—nor an obvious mechanism of communication. Viewed from a scientific perspective, language is not even reality but merely a representation of reality—an abstraction. Theorists such as John Condon emphasize that the “word is not the thing” in the same way that “a map is not the territory.”2 Words, then, represent reality in the same sense that maps are representations of territory but not the territory itself. And since words cannot encompass the entire meaning of what is meant to be represented, the understanding of nonverbal communication is essential.


1 Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 65.

2 J.C. Condon, Jr., Semantics and Communication, 2nd Edition (New York: Macmillan, 1975), 129.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.