Sarah Kane: Complete Plays Summary & Study Guide

Sarah Kane
This Study Guide consists of approximately 37 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Sarah Kane.
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Sarah Kane: Complete Plays Summary & Study Guide Description

Sarah Kane: Complete Plays Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Sarah Kane: Complete Plays by Sarah Kane.

This collection contains the five plays and one screenplay that constitute Sarah Kane's total canon. These works have a common set of themes and motifs, though their settings vary from modern England to a sort of metaphysical concentration camp to the nether-space of the disturbed mind. They are characterized by degradation, violence, suicide, and gallows humor.

Sarah Kane's first play, "Blasted", concerned Ian and Cate, a middle-aged racist journalist and a child-like woman, who enter a Leeds hotel room together years after the end of an affair. As an insurgent siege rails outside, Ian tries to convince Cate to have sex with him. He is dying of lung cancer and liver disease, and he implies that he may have carried out killings for the government. He rapes Cate, and the next morning, a rebel soldier breaks into their room. Cate escapes, and a bomb destroys the hotel room. The soldier rapes Ian and sucks out his eyes, then commits suicide. Cate return to the blind Ian with a dying baby. Ian tries to commit suicide but cannot. Cate buries the dead baby and leaves to trade her body for food. Ian devours the dead baby and deteriorates to the point of death. Still, he cannot die, and the play ends with Cate feeding him bread and gin in the rain.

In "Phaedra's Love", Kane updates Seneca's tale of Phaedra and Hippolytus. Hippolytus the prince is in a rut, sitting in his room, occasionally receiving sex partners and wasting away. Still the people love him, as does his stepmother Phaedra. Against her daughter Strophe's advice, Phaedra professes her love to Hippolytus and has sex with him. He is nonplussed and abuses her. Phaedra accuses him of rape and kills herself. Hippolytus is excited by the notion of self-destruction and public revilement. Despite Strophe's attempts to defend him, Hippolytus turns himself in. His father, Theseus, resolves to kill him in revenge for Phaedra's death. Disguised as a commoner, Theseus incenses a mob to kill Hippolytus, but Theseus accidentally kills Stophe too. In despair, he take his own life.

"Cleansed" takes place in a concentration camp where the psychopathic Tinker tests the bonds of love and fidelity. At the beginning of the play, Tinker helps the addict Graham commit suicide. Over the course of the play, he betters Graham's twin sister Grace into despair before giving her an impromptu sex change. He also tests the love that the suicidal boy Robin has for Grace and the love two inmates, Carl and Rod, have for each other. Tinker, meanwhile, is personally depressed because of his inability to make a loving connection.

"Crave" is a sort of tone poem, spoken by four voices, two male and two female. All the voices reflect individuals desperate and tormented because of their inability to make human connections. The characters involved in this play are as tenuous as the events. The central figure is definitely a young woman who, following years of sexual and emotional abuse, cannot accept love. She progresses from refusing affection to desiring it without relief. She appears to commit suicide at the end of Crave.

"4.48 Psychosis" involves a young writer suffering from crippling depression. Drugs fail to quell her suicidal thoughts, and she develops an infatuation with one of her doctors. When the doctor rejects her out of turn, the protagonist commits suicide.

Sarah Kane's screenplay Skin concerns Billy, a young skinhead living in south London. After beating a black man near to death, Billy begins a sexual tryst with a young black woman, Marcia. Marcia begins to abuse Billy, feminizing him, carving her name into his flesh, and scraping away his skinhead tattoos. After she has defeated Billy utterly, Marcia throws him away. Billy attempts to kill himself, but he is saved by an older black man who lives near him.

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