Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Theatre Arts


Life continually ceases to exist, making death a mysterious frontier that even learned people have been unable to grasp. Death has been the subject of all genres of literature where answers to this phenomena have been infinitely scrutinized. Within the last few decades, a curiosity over the unknown dinensions of death has risen. Literature has also shared this curiosity. In the late seventies, Michael Cristofer's The Shadow Box adopted the theories of contemporary research and depicted three social units adjusting to the dying process. My purpose in this study has been three-fold: to compare other twentieth century plays on death and dying to The Shadow Box, to explore the influence of modern philosophy on death and dying in The Shadow Box and to evaluate the pedagogic effectiveness this play had through its production.

Three plays, Exit the King by Eugene Ionesco, All Over by Edward Albee and I Never Sang For My Father by Robert Anderson, served as comparison material to The Shadow Box. I was interested in contrasting contemporary play- wrighting philosophies on death and dying. Primarily through the writings of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, I then followed methodology applicable to the characters in the play. I attempted to find patterns of thought and reaction with social background as a major factor in their rationale. My production of The Shadow Box served as evidence of the production's philosophies and effectiveness.

The predominant emotion surrounding the dying patients proved ultimately to be hope, In all three environments the terminal patient caused another person the pain of false hope. It was also interesting to note the role social background played in dealing with death. The rational, intellectual minds of cabin two fought the irrationality of death. The working class characters of cabin one and three insisted on blind hope. Using Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages, I have concluded that the dying person’s companions also experience these emotions. Most everyone eventually reaches acceptance and most are reluctant to give up hope.