Sarah Ruhl Analysis

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James All-Shamma’s Sarah Ruhl: A Critical Study of the Plays is the first in-depth study performed on all of Sarah Ruhl’s published and unpublished plays. Through script analysis, outside research, production reviews, interviews with practitioners who worked directly with Ruhl, and discussions with the playwright herself, Al-Shamma investigates the unique qualities of Ruhl’s writing voice and the impact it has and currently is making on the 21st century world of theatre. He begins the introduction with a brief overview of Ruhl’s upbringing and educational background, highlighting the major events that influenced the way she composed her works. Al-Shamma devotes a chapter to each of Ruhl’s published, full-length plays, identifying her…show more content…
Ruhl wrote Eurydice as a means to “have one more conversation with her father”(19), whom she lost to cancer when she was only 20 years old. Al-Shamma identifies John Bowlby’s model of bereavement in his Attachment and Loss, Volume III, and how the characters within the play fail to pass through the final phase of reorganization and recovery. Al-Shamma links this lack of completion in the characters’ healing journeys to Ruhl’s own incapacity to reach this final stage of bereavement towards her father’s death when she wrote the play. However in Chapter 2, “Joke as Incantation in The Clean House,” Al-Shamma discusses the ways in which Ruhl shows she has moved into this final stage through her play, going “from despair into adjustment and even acceptance”(38). Inspired by her father’s sense of humor and both of her grandmothers’ battles against breast cancer, Ruhl uses magic realism to create a world where metaphors are literalized, spaces overlap, and jokes can be deadly. Through the Shamanistic qualities of the character Matilde, Ruhl presents the reader with a “vision of death flowing back into life”(67), unlike that of Eurydice where the characters end up dead (67). Chapter 3, “Melancholy Plague,” transitions to study Ruhl’s implementation of Jacobean literature into her interpretation of melancholy. Through her incorporation of several different definitions of “melancholy” and the varying emotional states the characters go through, Ruhl emphasizes the importance of having a balanced emotional
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