Date of Graduation

Spring 2013


Master of Arts in Theatre


Theatre and Dance

Committee Chair

Christopher Herr


theatre, obscenity, language, David Mamet, Shakespeare

Subject Categories

Theatre and Performance Studies


In American culture, obscenity is becoming ever more present in daily speech. Theatre, as a reflection of society, often utilizes this language in performance. Through research into biology, social constructs, and personal motivations this thesis explores what makes profane language powerful and emotional as well as offensive. Obscenity was directly linked to emotional and visceral reactions in audiences, making it an effective tool for the playwright. Also considered is the cultural and historical evolution of profanity and the attempts to control its usage in performance. The use of obscene or offensive language by playwrights and other theatre artists to create characters and scenes was examined with a close investigation into the work of William Shakespeare and David Mamet. Shakespeare's use of offensive language was a means to skirt the censors at work in his day. Both authors use profanity and offensive language to declare the social and economic status, as well as the education level of characters. Additionally, changes in characters and differences between characters are developed by their use of obscenity.


© Samantha Allayne Kennedy

Campus Only