Dramatic Play Structure

Play Structure: What is it and why is it important?

Plot or the play structure is the organization of the action of a play. Aristotle believed that the plot, or how a play was structured was the most important element of all because it organizes all the rest. The plot is not story or action, but rather an organizing principle: the plot is what gives a play its unity.  The plot structure is how the events unfold in time on the stage. In the Western Theatre tradition they are typically linear--events progress forward and sequentially in time; or they are causal plots in which Event A leads to Event B which causes Event C. Most of our plays, even film and TV shows share these same familiar structural patterns.

Explore the website below to discover the various plot points of Five-Act play structure in some well known plays.


The Origins of the Five-Act Play Structure

Although play structure helps us identify important turning points within a written play, the origins of the Five-Act play had a much more utilitarian purpose during a play's performance.

Analyzing the Dramatic Play

Now you are going to apply these two main concepts: Aristotle's Six Elements and Play Structure to analyzing your play. Begin by simply reading the play and experiencing it. Then consider which of the six elements is most important in this play. How does the structure of the plot reflect the emotional rise and fall of the story, or when does the climax affect the interpretation of a play? What is the central idea of the play and how is it conveyed?

Take some notes and reread the play focussing on the elements you have identified as most important. You might also think about how the language--which has been specially chosen to be spoken aloud--how does it differ from prose?  Or how does the language, the dialogue, reveal character and setting? How does language manipulate the emotions of the character and audience?  With regards to the element of music, maybe the play you have chosen to read doesn't include or specify music in the text, but perhaps there are ways that you feel music might be incorporated to enhance the story in a production of it. 

In order to produce an informed Dramatic Play Analysis therefore, you will have to think about which theatrical elements are most important --noticing how those elements work to deliver the story to maximum effect-- and lastly, identifying the play structure and major plot points, for your critical analysis.