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English Literature

Dramatic effect

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When we talk about dramatic effect, we are basically talking about how we experience the play in a theatre.

Reality in the theatre

The first thing to bear in mind is that the play is not meant to be real, or even look real. Shakespeare makes it clear in The Prologue (at the start) that it is not a true story, rather a group of actors. He even gives away the entire plot, so we all know a couple will fall in love, then kill themselves. It does not really matter what GCSE title you are given, you could easily include something from The Prologue as relevant to the entire play - this is theatre, not real life.

Secondly, it is important to remember how people watch a play in the theatre. We cannot stop the actors to make a cup of tea, and there is no book to put down or DVD to pause. This seems obvious, but is easy to forget.

For instance, as Act 3 Scene 1 closes, the bodies of Tybalt and Mercutio are still warm and Romeo is literally running for his life. Yet Shakespeare instantly switches to Juliet, sitting on her own waiting impatiently for the man she has just married. She knows nothing of what has happened, and her head is full of dreams of love. A theatre audience cannot help but feel sympathy for her. This is exactly what dramatic effect is all about - how feelings are created.

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