The naturalistic theatre movement emerged in the mid 19th century and was first introduced by French novelist, critic and playwright Emile Zola in the preface to his novel Thérèse Raquin (1867). Naturalism demanded a slice of life authenticity in every aspect of production and is not to be confused with realism. Naturalistic dramas explored the concept of scientific determinism where characters were shaped by their given circumstance and controlled by external forces such as hereditary and social environment. Characters in naturalistic plays were often lower class portraying sordid events and the more mundane aspects of everyday life. It is perhaps no surprise that naturalism in the theatre was short-lived. – Justin Cash

Article from the Drama Teacher website detailing various naturalistic theatre conventions and the distinct differences between these and the conventions belonging to realism.

San Diego Opera Excellent article (archived) clearly explaining Zola’s naturalism with the aid of extracts from two of his works.


Useful multi-part article for students covering naturalism and Stanislavski.

Brief Wikipedia entry summarising the naturalism movement in the theatre.

Excellent resource on the origins of naturalism and realism in the theatre and the similarities and differences between these two movements and forms.

Enycylopaedia Brtiannica article on the naturalism movement outlining contributors such as Emile Zola, Andre Antoine and Constantin Stanislavski.

Article from The Irish Times examining French novelist, theatre critic and playwright Emile Zola’s experiments in naturalism.

Australian Catholic University Useful infomration on realism and naturalism in the theatre (archived), the differences between the two and the position of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.