Dramatic Techniques

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Things to look out for in plays. Context You will need to write about techniques used in plays during your KS4 course. You will be expected to be able to look closely at how the playwright creates tension and characters through different techniques You can use this homework to help you develop your skills when writing about any play but not all plays will use the same techniques. Objective To identify dramatic techniques in plays. What you need to do. 1. Read the help sheet ‘Dramatic Techniques’. You must read this first. 2. Either choose Task A (easier) or Task B (more challenging) or Task C (difficult). Task A Print off a copy of Play A. You need to identify the different dramatic techniques used in this. They have been highlighted for you. You just need to say what they are by labelling this sheet. Task B Print off a copy of Task B. You need to identify the different dramatic techniques by labelling the play. You need to say why you think the playwright has used the technique. In other words what does it tell us or how does it help to build the atmosphere. Task C Read Task C. You need to read the play extract and write a commentary/essay on how the playwright has used different techniques and why. In other words you are writing an analysis: how have the techniques been used to add drama or to help us understand character?

Speech directions Words in brackets that tell the actor how to say the lines. This helps us to understand the feelings of the character easily. Asides When a character temporarily turns away from another character and speaks directly to the audience. This helps us to understand a character’s real feelings at a particular moment in a play. It is often used for humour or to help us empathise with a character. Entrance and exits It is important to notice when characters exit and enter a scene. Pay particular attention to what is being said as they enter or what they say as they leave. Shakespeare often had characters leaving after a dramatic rhyming couplet (two lines that rhyme). Scenes and Acts It is important to pay attention to when a playwright chooses to end a scene and an Act (a number of scenes). It is usually significant in building audience expectations of what is to come. This is sometimes a cliff hanger. Symbolism When an object is used to represent something else, e.g. a broken vase may symbolise a broken relationship. Stage Directions Read these carefully. They tell us what should be happening on stage and will often include clues, e.g. the darkening of the stage may suggest something bad approaching. Off-stage Noises off-stage may indicate the coming of conflict, of something bad likely to happen. Recurring imagery Look out for repeated words, phrases and images. Together, these create a sense of mood or a key theme, e.g. references to chains may suggest the feeling of imprisonment. Prose or verse In older plays, it is possible to tell the status of a character or the mood of the scene by whether it is written as poetry or in everyday speech, e.g. characters of low status do not speak in verse and comic scenes are often written in prose. Soliloquy When a character is alone on stage and speaks out his or her thoughts aloud. Language that invites action A character can say something that requires others to act or react. Look out for what this tells us about the character, e.g. a sudden order might suggest frustration. Language and length Look out for how much or little is said by characters. Playwrights will often change the pace (slowing down or speeding up) by how the characters speak.

This extract is at the point in a play when David is about to be dragged away to Hell by a character called Videl. David earlier has agreed to give his soul to the Videl in return for living a life of pleasure and money. David is now old and regrets what he has done.

David is alone on stage, surrounded by pictures of himself on the walls. David: This...
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