Film & Theater

Film & Theater

Introduction to Theater

Note: Vatican II was completed by 1965—one year after this play is to take place

At the end of Shanley’s play, Sister Aloysius is “bent with emotion” and proclaims that
she has “ . . . doubts!  I have such doubts!”

According the Catholic Encyclopedia, t he word “doubt” is referenced in the following

Doubt is opposed to certitude , or the adhesion of the mind to a proposition without
misgiving as to the truth; and again to opinion, or a mental adhesion to a
proposition together with such a misgiving.

That is to say that Sister Aloysius is not certain of Father Flynn’s crime as she does
indeed claim that she has doubts at the end (Father Flynn even tells her: “Even if you feel
certainty, it is an emotion not a fact.”).  Sister Aloysius has an opinion—her misgivings
are clear and stated at the end of the play.

The Catholic Encyclopedia further states:

Doubt is either positive or negative.  In the former case, the evidence for and against
is so equally balanced as to render decision impossible; in the latter, the doubt arises
from the absence of sufficient evidence on either side.

1.  How would describe Sister Aloysius’ doubt —positive or negative?  And why?
For example, if you believe that her doubt is negative, discuss how there isn’t
to  support that Father Flynn did the crime as well as a lack of evidence to support
he did  not.  Use examples from the text to support your response.

2.   Either way, Sister Aloysius believes Father Flynn to be guilty, regardless of her
doubts.  Based on h er character (think about: what she says about herself; what
others say about her) why do you think she has this belief that Flynn is guilty (or
this faith or this hunch)?

3.   The stakes are high: Father Flynn is a Priest, she is a nun; Father Flynn is popular,
she is not; Father Flynn has no direct physical evidence against him, Sister
Aloysius has no support (Donald is scared as is his mother); Father Flynn is a man
in 1960’s America, Sister Aloysius is a woman.  Despite all of these barriers, why
do you think she is still so convinced?  Why does she take it so far?  Sister
Aloysius says: “In the pursuit of wrongdoing, one steps away from God.  Of
course, there’s a price.”  Do you believe that she stepped “away from God” in her
pursuit of Father Flynn?  If  so, what is the “price”?

4. Finally, Father Flynn does the following: calls the Bishop and asks to be
transferred.  Is this an admission of guilt or has he been victimized by Sister
Aloysius’ refusal to give him a chance.  Once a reputation is shattered, does guilt
innocence even matter anymore?

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