Introduction to Theatre Online Course
Last revision date: January 4, 2008
Objectives for this lesson:
Students will examine:
Aristotle's Six Parts of a Tragedy and how they relate to the drama today
The elements of plot
Types of plots
Some devices of plot
Aristotle's Six Parts of a Tragedy (click here for a slide presentation about the six parts of a play -- with sound -- requires a relatively fast connection and an internet sound plug-in installed -- give it a try...)
1. Plot2. Character3. Thought (theme, idea)4. Diction (Language)5. Music (sound)6. Spectacle
1. Plot -- the arrangement of
"the arrangement of events or the selection and order of scenes in a play. (155)"
Plot is different from the story -- the story is WHAT happens; the plot is HOW it happens.
"A story is a full account of an event or series of events, usually in chronological order; a plot is a selection and arrangement of scenes.. "
Aristotle, in The Poetics, said that plot is the soul of tragedy: it holds story together contains the incidents in the play, produces tragic effects, has the most tragic element (reversals, discoveries).
Everything the audience needs to know to understand the play. [Can occur throughout the play...]
What is the "antecedent action" (everything that has happened before the play begins)? and how is it revealed?
What is the "point of attack" -- (where does the play begin in relation to the story?) Is it an early or late point of attack? (W/G discuss the late point of attack in climactic dramatic structure...)
Go to the Oedipus plot sheet to see an example of a brilliantly-constructed plot (which is the play Aristotle based his ideas on).
"Inciting incident" (or "initiating incident"): the event that occurs in the play to begin the conflict. The inciting/initiating incident of the play must occur within the play itself. The inciting/initiating incident of Oedipus Rex cannot, therefore, be Oedipus's killing of Laius or the plague, because both of those have already happened -- they are part of the antecedent action -- before the play actually begins.
"Complications and obstacles" --
Discoveries, reversals (peripety)
Sub-plots / parallel plots -- major and minor conflicts
Not always resolved satisfactorily: the "deus ex machina":: -- "god of the machine" -- a contrived or unrealistic or unbelievable ending / resolution.
Three Types of Plots Climactic, Episodic, Non-sequitur
(From Edwin Wilson, The Theater Experience, 7th
edition, 292) General characteristics:
[W/G discuss these distinctions in some detail and they include their own chart ...]
|Late point of attack (background info comes primarily from exposition Short span of time (Oedipus -- only the time of the play -- Ghosts, Phaedra)||Early point of attack (in Shakespeare's plays, we need to know very little that has happened before the play begins--most of what is important happens during the play itself)||
Theatre of the Absurd -- not a unified school or theory
Limited number of long segments (Greek -- 5 episodes separated by choral odes)
Neoclassical -- 5 acts Now -- 2 acts
Longer period of time sometimes years (Lear, Caucasian Chalk Circle, R&J, Hamlet)
Many short, fragmented scenes-- tries to grasp various facets of man
Inconsistency, meaninglessness (absurdity)
form and content both express absurdity
|Restricted locale -- usually one room or place||May range over entire city or many countries (Othello--from Cyprus to Venice)||verbal nonsense|
Limited number of characters --
6 - 8
|Many characters -- dozens in Shakespeare's plays||Existential characters -- have little background, no clear causes for actions|
|Causal structure -- linear -- few subplots or counter plots||
Many threads of action
parallel plots, comic relief, subplots, etc.
|Action is causal||
Not necessarily causal
complicated web of causes
These two (climactic and episodic) can be combined: (Restoration, Chekhov, Death of a Salesman).
Other Dramatic Structures:
Avante-Garde and Experimental
Segments and Tableaux
exposition, conflict, climax, resolution / denouement
rising action, falling action
antecedent action, point-of-attack
inciting (or initiating) incident
peripetia, deus ex machina
To take a short study quiz, click here...
This page and all linked pages in this directory are copyrighted © Eric W. Trumbull, 1998-2008
Last revision date: January 4, 2008