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Cosi Novel

In: English and Literature

Submitted By ddog
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“The Australian drama Cosi, and its themes, is a reflection of the characters’ immediate world, as well as the world at large. Explain this statement with reference to the text.”

The Play Cosi, written by playwright Louis Nowra, is about members from a mental institution, who with the help of the protagonist Lewis are presenting an opera called ‘Cosi Fan Tutte.’ The opera tells the story of two officers, who pretend to leave for war to test the fidelity of their lovers. The themes of madness, attitude towards the mentally ill, transformations and growth and fidelity and love are portrayed through the conventions and techniques of symbolism, play within a play, setting and characters. Readers are positioned to respond to the immediate world and the world at large with complete madness, as it seems the world at large is a world apart from society.

The play explores the theme of madness through the convention of setting. The idea of an inside world and outside world is shown through the symbolism and paranoia of society. The dark, derelict burnt out theatre is a metaphor for the world at large, and the drama that is enacted on its charred surface is a reflection of the larger dramas taking place outside. The outside world is noticed to have fear about the spread of communism, the mass casualties and the war crimes, for example the massacre of civilians, the torture of people and the rape. Readers respond to the absolute madness at times with confusion, as it’s hard to understand what it means exactly to be ‘normal.’ This I often shown through the troubled vision of the ‘abnormal’ characters being perhaps saner than those outside of the institution.

Another theme explored within the performance is madness of a play within a play. The insanity of putting on a sexist play in the 1970’s about love and fidelity during the period of the Vietnam War, with mental patients who cant speak Italian or sing is mad. Lewis’ character in the beginning is discouraged by the task at hand, “It’s madness, they’re all mad” His character develops as the play goes on and discovers what is important and what’s less important in his life. Readers respond to the intense atmosphere of living in the 1960’s and 70’s with respect that Lewis’s character as he can overcome the peer pressure of Lucy, Nick and society to have his own voice and opinion on life.

Cosi by Louis Nowra explores the theme of society’s attitude towards the mentally ill, this is achieved through the convention of setting. Its set is in a burnt out theatre with holes in the roof and problems with wiring. The abandoned theatre depicts the careless attitude society has towards the mentally ill, and the invisible feeling the mentally ill has towards society. Nick and Lucy represent the normal world and when “a chink of daylight enters the room” it’s symbolic of the coming within, of some sanity entering the mental asylum. Readers are manipulated to respond with concern as they question whether if ‘Nick and Lucy represent the normal world, then we wouldn’t be better off in the mental institution?’

In the play Cosi, Nowra also conveys the theme of transformation and growth through the convention of characters. The protagonist Lewis in the beginning lacks confidence, is uncomfortable and conforms to everything the mental patients and his girlfriend Lucy say. This is all symbolised by the flickering lights of the burnt out theatre. As his character develops he speaks firmer and becomes more empathetic to the mental patients. “Working with these people has changed you” Lucy says this to Lewis when they have an argument about what’s important. Readers respond to Lewis’ professional transformation with admiration for the changes he made to himself during the production of Cosi.

Within the play, the theme of fidelity, commitment and love are portrayed through the technique of symbolism. Lewis in the beginning of the play believes that ‘love is not so important nowadays.’ As his character grows he discovers that love is important and so is commitment and fidelity. The symbolism from the scene when Lewis and Julie kiss is when Lewis finally transforms from the character in the beginning, into a character that finally finds his identity and genuine values. To make his final transition, he needs to embrace the new reality, and the kiss helps him achieve this. Readers are manipulated to respond to Lewis’ personal transformation with appreciation as love helped Lewis find his true individuality.

Cosi, by playwright Louis Nowra has displayed the effects of mental patients within society, and their views and values in life. The themes of madness of the inside world and the outside world, the madness of Cosi Fan Tutte, the attitude towards mentally ill, transformation and growth and fidelity and love are explored through the conventions and techniques of symbolism, play within a play, setting and characters. While throughout the opera it seemed the mental institution is a world apart from society, it appears in the 70’s the world at large was just as mad.

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