What dramatic conventions do I need to know in order to understand and interpret a play?


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What dramatic conventions do I need to know in order to understand and interpret a play?

  • What dramatic conventions do I need to know in order to understand and interpret a play?



Dramatic conventions are rules in which the actors and audience engage during a play.

  • Dramatic conventions are rules in which the actors and audience engage during a play.

  • For example, the audience knows to become quiet when the lights dim.



The imaginary wall that is supposedly removed to allow the audience to peer into a room to see the drama unfold.

  • The imaginary wall that is supposedly removed to allow the audience to peer into a room to see the drama unfold.





Shakespeare’s plays have been popular worldwide for four hundred years because they

  • Shakespeare’s plays have been popular worldwide for four hundred years because they

    • appeal to powerful and universal human emotions
    • contain striking images, memorable expressions, and compelling passages






Story written to be acted for an audience.

  • Story written to be acted for an audience.

    • Made up of scenes and acts
  • Scenes: settings for the events, the environment of the characters

  • Acts: a major formal division of a play which marks a clear, unified portion of the total action



A lighthearted play intended to amuse the audience.

  • A lighthearted play intended to amuse the audience.

  • Comedies usually end happily.



A serious play that ends in disaster and sorrow.

  • A serious play that ends in disaster and sorrow.



Stage directions are the instructions that the playwright gives the actors to tell them how and where to move or act onstage.

  • Stage directions are the instructions that the playwright gives the actors to tell them how and where to move or act onstage.

  • Stage directions can describe the

    • setting
    • characters’ appearances, personalities, thoughts, and movements
  • Stage directions are usually in italics and enclosed in parentheses or brackets



    • understand what the characters are feeling
      • Julie (wearily). Here we go again.
      • Julie (cheerfully). Here we go again!
    • see what actions are taking place onstage
      • [Grabbing his keys, he turns and jumps back when he sees Ed lurking in the doorway.]
    • know when the mood changes onstage


Know where to go onstage

  • Know where to go onstage

    • C, Center Stage
    • L, Stage Left
    • R, Stage Right
    • U, Upstage or Rear
    • D, Downstage or Front
    • [The father enters stage left.]


Shakespeare uses both poetry and prose in his plays.

  • Shakespeare uses both poetry and prose in his plays.

    • Elizabethan playwrights generally considered poetry to be elevated language.
      • Poetry is usually spoken by the main or high-ranking characters.
    • Elizabethan playwrights generally considered prose to be common language.
      • Prose is usually spoken by the supporting or low-ranking characters.


Blank verse sounds similar to human speech but is still considered elevated language.

    • Blank verse sounds similar to human speech but is still considered elevated language.
    • The rhythm of blank verse emphasizes imagery and heightens the emotional impact of language.












Story written to be acted for an audience

  • Story written to be acted for an audience



Scenes- settings for the events, the environment of the characters

  • Scenes- settings for the events, the environment of the characters

  • Acts- a major formal division of a play which marks a clear, unified portion of the total action

  • Plot- series of related events that make up a drama/story



series of related events that make up a drama/story

  • series of related events that make up a drama/story

    • Exposition
    • Rising Action
    • Turning Point/Crisis
    • Falling Action (Climax)
    • Dénouement




1. Exposition: establishes the setting, introduces some of the main characters, explains background, and introduces the characters’ main conflict.

  • 1. Exposition: establishes the setting, introduces some of the main characters, explains background, and introduces the characters’ main conflict.



2. The rising action consists of a series of complications. These occur as the main characters take action to resolve their problems.

  • 2. The rising action consists of a series of complications. These occur as the main characters take action to resolve their problems.





Act IV

  • Act IV

  • 4. The falling action presents events that result from the action taken at the turning point. These events usually lock the characters deeper and deeper into disaster; with each event we see the characters falling straight into tragedy.



Act V

  • Act V

  • 5. The final and greatest climax occurs at the end of the play—usually, in tragedy, with the deaths of the main characters. In the resolution (or denoument) all the loose parts of the plot are tied up. The play is over.





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