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Aristotle's six elements of Drama

Action/plot, character, theme, dialogue, staging, and music

Structure of play

Exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement/resolution

Aristotle's unities

Time (the action of the play should take place within one 24 hour period), Place (only one setting), and Action (only one plot line, no subplot, no mix of tragedy and comedy)

Dramatic Genre

Tragedy, comedy, history/war, melodrama, tragicomedy, and performance pieces

Mechanics of play

Cast of characters (dramatic personae), stage direction, prologue/epilogue, and dialogue


Way in which the events of the story are arranged. When there is more than one story but one string of events is clearly the most significant, the other stories are called subplots. Plot in fiction often follows the pattern of action in drama, rising toward a climax, and then falling toward a resolution.


Principal character in a work of fiction.


Character who is in conflict with or opposition to the protagonist. Sometimes the antagonist may be a force of situation (war or poverty) rather than a person.


First stage of a plot, where the author presents the information about characters or setting that a reader will need to understand the subsequent action.


Point of greatest tension or importance, where the decisive action of a play or story takes place.


The final stage in the plot. Here the action comes to an end, and remaining loose ends are tied up.

Deus ex machina

Latin for "god from a machine": any improbably resolution of plot involving the intervention of some force or agent from outside the story.


Brief comment spoken by an actor to the audience (such as, "Here she comes, I'll play a fine trick on her now!") and assumed not to be heard by the other characters.

Stage direction

Words in a play that describe an actor's role apart from the dialogue, dealing with movements, attitudes, and so on.


Extended speech by one character.


Convention of drama in which a character speaks directly to the audience, revealing thoughts and feelings that other characters present on stage are assumed not to hear.


Conversation between two or more characters.

Proscenium arch

Arch that surrounds the opening in a picture-frame stage; through this arch the audience views the performances.

Box set

Stage setting that gives the audience the illusion of looking into a room


Group of actors in classical Greek drama who comment in unison on the action and the hero; they are led by the choragos.

Aristotle's Tragic hero

Noble birth, tragic flaw, reversal of fortune (should experience pain and suffering when divine will has been defied or when inner will is obeyed), downfall, recognition of mistake.


A release of tension.


A play or literary work of a serious or sorrowful nature, with a fatal or disastrous conclusion.


A play (or, rarely, a story) combining the qualities of a tragedy and a comedy, or containing both tragic and comic elements; sometimes spec. a play mainly of tragic character, but with a happy ending.

Tragic flaw

Of, pertaining, or proper to tragedy as a branch of the drama; of the nature of tragedy; composing, or acting in, tragedy:


A stage-play of a light and amusing character, with a happy conclusion to its plot.


A Greek choric hymn, originally in honour of Dionysus or Bacchus, vehement and wild in character; a Bacchanalian song. A speech or writing in vehement or inflated style.


In ancient Greek theatre, a three-dimensional structure or building forming part of the scene, which provided a background to the performance and could be decorated according to the theme of the play; a stage-building.


The preface or introduction to a text; esp. a speech (usually in verse) forming the introduction to a play; a preamble, a preliminary discourse. Also: an introductory piece preceding a musical performance.


The concluding part or peroration of a speech.

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