My response to audience identification was part of my University of Oxford Drama course.
WHO SHOULD WE IDENTIFY WITH AS THE AUDIENCE IN A PLAY? Here is my take in the famous early 20th century play THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD.
In “The Playboy of the Western World” the audience is meant to identify with the country people who frequent the public house. At first I was APPALLED. The country people are shallow, feckless, vacuous, and fickle! Then I realized we are just like them! At first the country people are friendly to the stranger Christopher. By the time he boldly states he has killed his father, they are not shocked at their new friend but call him “a daring fellow.” They banter about what weapon he used and where his father was buried. The public house becomes his home. The owner offers him a job, and Christopher is pleased he will be safe there. The owner’s daughter and a widow flirt with him.
After the truth is known that Christopher has not killed his father, the country people call Christopher “a liar” and “a good-for-nothing.” The crowd wants to hang him!
I see myself in the mirror as these people from a far away land and a hundred years ago. I also see these people as those that greeted Jesus Christ on Palm Sunday cheering him as he came into Jerusalem and then yelling “crucify him” by Friday. Is it any wonder that the stranger’s name is Christopher?
Synge has done a masterful job in depicting people in a specific place and specific time, but with universal characteristics that are sad but true.