Drama Unit

Drama Unit

Lecture: Literary Terminology - Drama

The literary terms used to discuss short fiction (and fiction in general) apply, as well, to drama. However, two literary conventions are unique to dramatic productions: the aside and the soliloquy.

Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnson provide thorough definitions of each term: 

aside - a brief speech in which a character turns from the person being addressed to speak directly to the audience; a dramatic device for letting the audience know what a character is really thinking or feeling as opposed to what the character pretends to think or feel.

soliloquy - a speech in which a character, alone on the stage, addresses himself or herself; a soliloquy is a "thinking out loud," a dramatic means of letting an audience know a character's thoughts and feelings.

While works of fiction typically rely on a narrator to reveal what the characters are thinking and how the characters are feeling, dramatic productions do not have narrators. Playwrights have devised these two conventions - the aside and the soliloquy - to bring the audience into the production and keep them apprised of the internal workings of characters. 

As you read plays, pay close attention to the stage directions. Often, the author will indicate that a speech is an aside, typically by putting the word "aside" in parentheses or in italics. A soliloquy is usually indicated by the exiting of all but one character from the stage. 

Fun fact: if you watch modern soap operas, you will see frequent use of the aside!

Works Cited

Perrine's Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. Edited by Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnson, Harcourt, 2002.

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