Dramatic Techniques Glossary


Glossary of Dramatic Terms Note: The Glossary is in alphabetical order. Act: A major division in a play. An act can be sub-divided into scenes. (See scene). Greek plays were not divided into acts. The five act structure was originally introduced in Roman times and became the convention in Shakespeare’s period. In the 19th century this was reduced to four acts and 20th century drama tends to favour three acts. Antagonist: A character or force against which another character struggles.

Apron: The part of a proscenium stage that sticks out into the audience in front of the proscenium arch. Aside: Words spoken by an actor directly to the audience, but not "heard" by the other characters on stage during a play. Blocking: Movement patterns of actors on the stage. Usually planned by the director to create meaningful stage pictures. Box set: A set built behind a proscenium arch to represent three walls of a room. The absent fourth wall on the proscenium line allows spectators to witness the domestic scene. First used in the early nineteenth century. Catharsis: The purging of the feelings of pity and fear. According to Aristotle the audience should experiences catharsis at the end of a tragedy. Character: An imaginary person that inhabits a literary work. Dramatic characters may be major or minor, static (unchanging) or dynamic (capable of change). Chorus: A traditional chorus in Greek tragedy is a group of characters who comment on the action of a play without participating in it. A modern chorus (any time after the Greek period) serves a similar function but has taken a different form; it consists of a character/narrator coming on stage and giving a prologue or explicit background information or themes. Climax: The turning point of the action in the plot of a play and the point of greatest tension in the work. Comedy: A dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion. (Taken from: http://dictionary.reference.com). Comedy can be divided into visual comedy or verbal comedy. Within these 2 divisions there are further sub- divisions. For example visual comedy includes farce and slapstick. Verbal Comedy includes satire, black comedy and comedy of manners.

Comic Relief: Comic relief does not relate to the genre of comedy. Comic relief serves a specific purpose: it gives the spectator a moment of “relief ” with a light-hearted scene, after a succession of intensely tragic dramatic moments. Typically these scenes parallel the tragic action that they interrupt. Comic relief is lacking in Greek tragedy, but occurs regularly in Shakespeare's tragedies. Conflict: There is no drama without conflict. The conflict between opposing forces in a play can be external (between characters) or internal (within a character) and is usually resolved by the end of the play.

Complication: An intensification of the conflict in a play

Convention: Literary conventions are defining features or common agreement upon strategies and/or attributes of a particular literary genres.