Drama Literary Terms

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Glossary of Literary terms – Drama

Act-: A lengthy segment of a play, comprising several scenes. A major division in a play. Each act may have one or more scenes. Greek plays were performed as continuous wholes, with interpolated comment from the Chorus. Horace appears to have been the first to insist on a five-act structure. At some stage during the Renaissance the use of five acts become standard practice among French dramatists.     Plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries have natural breaks which can be taken as act divisions. Shakespeare's plays are usually divided into five acts, and these acts are themselves divided into individual numbered scenes. Much of this division is the work of individual editors, rather than being explicit in the original editions of the plays. The playwright Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718) was the first editor to divide Shakespeare’s plays systematically into acts and scenes, and to indicate locations for each scene; his six-volume edition of Shakespeare's works was published in 1709. Various attempts have been made to work out a consistent pattern for the five act play, such as by saying that the first act sets the scene and provides background information, the second and third acts move the action forward at ever-increasing speed, the fourth act provides the turning point in the action, and the fifth act concludes the story with a fierce climax and provides the dénouement.     In shaping their plays Elizabethan dramatists were influenced by Roman models (e.g. Seneca). The act divisions were marked as such by later editors. Ben Jonson was largely responsible for introducing the five-act structure in England. From the second half of the 17th century the vast majority of plays were in five acts. the introduction of the proscenium (arch shaped stage) and the curtain (unknown in the Elizabethan theatre) during the Restoration period had some influence on structure. In the Restoration period the curtain rose at the end of the prologue (which was spoken on the forestage) and stayed out of sight until the end of the play. By c. 1750 the curtain was dropped regularly, marking the end of an act. action (1) the main story (in cinematic jargon 'story-line') of a play, novel, short story, narrative poem, etc.: (2) the main series of events that together constitute the plot or what a character does to overcome an obstacle to achieving his objective; actor A person who performs a role in a play or film.

Aesthetic distance : degree of emotional detachment from or non-identification with the characters or circumstances of a work of art, permitting the formation of judgments based on aesthetic rather than extra-aesthetic criteria.; the proper “aesthetic distance” gives the audience the most rewarding experience of a performance.

Apron The portion of the stage that protrudes closer to the audience than the proscenium arch. Apron is the part of the stage visible once curtains are drawn.

Arbor A cage that stage weights are placed into as part of the counterweight system for lowering scenery from the fly loft to the stage.

Arena theatre A theatre with seats completely surrounding a stage that is circular, oval, square, or rectangular; sometimes referred to as theatre-in- the-round. anachronism (GK. 'back-timing): A historically inaccurate episode or event in a film or play. In literature anachronisms may be used deliberately to distance events and to underline a universal verisimilitude and timelessness - to prevent something being 'dated'. Shakespeare adopted this device several times. Two classic examples are the references to the clock in Julius Caesar and to billiards in Antony and Cleopatra - (when a clock chimes in Julius Caesar, clocks had not been invented in Roman times, in which the play is supposedly set). Anagnorisis: (GK 'recognition') A term used by Aristotle in Poetics to describe the moment of recognition (of truth) when ignorance gives way to knowledge. According to...
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