Hamlet Dramatic Conventions

drama a literary form that recreates human life and emotions. The medium is dialogue and action within a frame of sequential events. Drama has both a written form (a script) and a living form (the stage presentation).
Groundling a poor person who paid only a pence to view a play and stood on the ground in front of the stage
Elizabethan : that part of English history when Elizabeth I was queen
Farce A comedy that contains an extravagant and nonsensical disregard of seriousness, although it may have a serious, scornful purpose.
Tragedy : a drama that gives the audience an experience of CATHARSIS, a cleansing or purifying of emotion. The protagonist, a person of nobility, must make a moral decision which in turn influences the outcome of the drama. The protagonist usually has a serious fault – the tragic flaw (see below) that leads to downfall and death. The terror and pity felt by the audience produces catharsis.
Catharsis a cleansing or purifying of emotion
Tragic hero central character in a tragedy. A person who holds high rank and has many admirable qualities but…
Tragic flaw that part of a character’s personality which causes his/her downfall. As we read Hamlet, try to discern what Hamlet’s tragic flaw is. What is there in his personality that will eventually bring about his downfall?
Deus ex machina Term that refers to a character or force that appears at the end of a story or play to help resolve conflict. Word means “god from a machine.” In ancient Greek drama, gods were lowered onto the stage by a mechanism to extricate characters from a seemingly hopeless situation. The phrase has come to mean any turn of events that solve the characters’ problems through an unexpected and unlikely intervention.
Characterization the creation of believable fictitious personalities. The basic methods of characterization include:a. An explicit statement by the authorb. The character’s appearancec. The aspects of setting which reflect influence of the characterd. The character’s actions, including mannerismse. The reactions of and to the characterf. The character’s thoughtsg. What the character saysh. What others say about the character
Chorus : an actor or group of actors who comment on the action of the play and explain the themes. The chorus in Hamlet is not as clearly defined as it was in Romeo and Juliet. Look for the sections marked “Prologue”; the chorus would traditionally deliver these lines.
Prologue an introductory part of the play in which the major characters are introduced and the entire plot is explained.
Pun jokes based on words with several meanings or on words that sound alike but have different meanings
Repartee a quick, witty reply; a series of such replies
Blank verse poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter
Iambic pentameter a line of poetry containing 10 syllables with an accent on every other syllable
Rhymed couplet two consecutive lines that rhyme. As the Globe Theatre contained no scenery and no curtains, the couplet signaled to the audience that a change in scene was about to take place.
Prose the general term for most literary works that are not poetry. Shakespeare used prose for the dialogue of servants and common people
Theme observations about life which serve as the controlling idea in a literary work. A theme is seldom presented word-for-word but is more often found as an abstract idea, surfacing through the actions and dialogues of the characters, the use of symbols and recurring images, or the manipulation of other literary devices. In Hamlet, watch for the recurring themes of revenge, acting/disguise, appearance vs. reality, the complications of parent/child relationships, and thought vs. action
Verbal irony : when a person says one thing and means another (sarcasm); when what a person says means one thing to that person, and another thing to the person who hears it
Dramatic irony when the audience or reader of a play has important information about the plot that most of the characters in the play do not have – “the NOOOOO!!! Moment”
Dramatic convention a device or technique an author or playwright uses to present a story onstage. The audience accepts it as a natural part of a presentation, but it is something that would not be likely nor logical in real life. Examples of dramatic convention would include:
Concealment a convention that allows a character to be seen by the audience while remaining hidden from fellow actors. This convention provides a spark for plot developments and lends an opportunity for the differing perceptions of characters to be displayed.
Blocking The planning and working out of the movements of actors on stage
Soliloquy a long speech by a character who is alone (or thinks he is alone) on stage. It usually reveals personal thoughts and emotions and can be accepted as sincere. A soliloquy allows a character to “converse” with himself or herself by expressing thoughts aloud. This introspection reveals thoughts and feelings of the characters that would otherwise remain unvoiced. The character of Hamlet has more soliloquies than any of Shakespeare’s other characters.
Monologue a long speech by a character in a play. It is overheard by others who are aware of the presence of the speaker
Aside that part of a character’s dialogue intended for the audience only and not for the play’s other characters. An aside lets a character speak directly to the audience without being overheard by other characters on stage. This device allows opportunities for witty wordplay, foreshadowing, and character contrasts. The convention also tends to promote greater audience involvement.
Pathetic fallacy the literary convention by which the behavior of nature “sympathetically” reflects the tone of events in history or in a fictional plot
Image a picture made with words
Imagery a collection of similar images within a literary work. It is the language in the work that appeals to the senses. Most often these are visual images. Shakespeare particularly used the images of light and darkness.
Motif an event, an idea, or another element that occurs again and again in a particular type of literature. One motif of fairy tales, for example, is the metamorphosis in which someone or something is magically transformed into something entirely different (the frog into the prince, for example). In Hamlet, watch for the motifs of caution, distrust, suspicion of treachery or disloyalty, corruption.
Foil a character created to contrast with another character. Often this foil is either the direct or indirect catalyst in the downfall and/or death of the tragic hero. Don’t confuse the “foil” with the “antagonist”; they are not one in the same. By the time we complete Hamlet, you will be able to identify both the foil and the antagonist.
Setting the time, place, and atmosphere of a narrative. The physical aspects of setting include time of day or other particulars of the environment, such as location, topography, and the placement of objects. The intangibles of setting include lifestyle and the predominant spiritual or moral atmosphere.
Dramatic structure : the dramatic structure of conventional tragedy consists of these components:
Dramatis personae Latin for the characters or persons in a play.
Introduction provides exposition. It creates tone, defines setting, and introduces some characters. The introduction gives the background information essential to understanding the play. In Hamlet, the exposition occurs in Act I.
Complication the rising action – the building of tension caused by the conflict of opposing interests. The complication peaks at a moment of crisis. Act II contains the complication/rising action.
Climax the peak of action and emotional intensity. From this high point, action and intensity must necessarily decline, so the climax is referred to as the turning point. The turning point in Hamlet occurs in Act III.
Falling Action stresses action from the forces opposing the protagonist. Suspense must be maintained while the action moves swiftly and logically toward the disaster – the tragedy. Falling action predominates in Act IV.
Catastrophe the moment marking the protagonist’s tragic failure, often culminating in that character’s death. This moment of tragedy satisfies the audience by presenting an artistic culmination of events and a noble picture of the protagonist. Act V contains the catastrophe in Hamlet
Hubris Excessive pride or arrogance that results in the downfall of the protagonist of a tragedy
Hamartia A flaw in character that brings about his downfall

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