An Analysis of the Structure of Anansi by Alistair Campbell- CSEC English B


Structure of a play

Plays are often structured by the playwright (writer of the play) into acts and scenes. An Act is a major division in a play; whereas, a scene occurs within an Act. The scene allows the action of the play to be broken into different segments. In so doing, each scene is often comprised of different characters and locations, which allows the plot of the play to progress. 

The Structure of Anansi by Alistair Campbell

In the play, Anansi by Allistair Campbell, the playwright does not divide the play into the traditional Acts or scenes. Instead, the playwright presents different aspects of the story (what might have traditionally been scenes) in the form of events happening in different sections of the boat (The Hold, The Cabin, etc.) along with different Anansi stories. 

The first question is: “Why?”.  Why did the playwright choose to present the action of the play in this way? What is the significance of this? 

I can posit that Campbell structured the play in this way to allow the events of the play to mirror the journey and feelings of the characters. At first glance, there is a sense of disorientation as one reads the play. However, the structure of the play allows the playwright to weave all the events of the plot together like a web. 

Yet, if you look closely, you will realize that the playwright has retained the traditional play structure ( Acts and scenes). 

The Acts are indicated by large bold lettering, starting first with The Good Hope Ship, West African Coast, 1781, then moving on to The Forest of Stories, then back to the ship in On Board. This is the general pattern of the play. The playwrights, in relating the events of the play, often move us (the audience)  from the ship to stories, then back to the ship and back to the stories. It is almost as if we are taken from the real world to fantasy and back to the real world again. 

whereas “the scenes’ are physically separated by dotted lines and held in different locations. The playwright juxtaposes the action in the cabin to that of the deck and the hold to show perspective on the slave trade along with its impact. 

In a number of Shakespeare’s plays; he presents the subplot in different scenes. This allows the subplot to run in parallel (alongside) with the main plot. This allows the subplot to be a secondary storyline in the play.

  • Are the stories of Anansi a subplot?
  • Do they have moral lessons that can be learnt from the plot?

In closing, it must be noted that this is just one perspective on the structure of the play. I would love to hear your analysis and thoughts on the structure of the play. 

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