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Dramatic Techniques
What are Dramatic Techniques?
Dramatic techniques are all the devices a
playwright uses to represent their ideas.
You might also see them referred to as
dramatic devices or theatrical techniques.
Dramatic techniques include:
Staging and Stage Time
Metatheatrical Conventions
Word play
Line Delivery
Special Effects
Staging and Stage Time
Shakespeare used very few stage directions.
There were no curtains and minimal costumes and props.
Characters produced a representation of characters and
events on stage. The actor must demonstrate the meaning
and action of the play through words.
Stage time is not real time. This reminds the audience that
they are watching a play, not real life.
As with all of Shakespeare’s plays Hamlet is
divided into 5 acts.
Act 1 – Character exposition
Act 2 – Conflict
Act 3 – Crisis
Act 4 – Counterstroke
Act 5 - Catastrophe
They are presented in a linear fashion and are
constructed by means of contrast. Contrast helps
to maintain suspense and audience interest.
Contrast is particularly offered via characterisation, for example the
parallelism of Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras.
Contrast between characters is structuring
device used by Shakespeare.
Shakespeare establishes foils to Hamlet,
that is he sets up characters who further
illuminate Hamlet’s character via contrast.
Humour is offered via such characters as
the gravediggers and Osric.
Hamlet ridicules characters such as
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and we laugh
at the ironic statements of Polonius.
• Language is largely poetry or blank verse.
• Rhyming couplets may be offered at the
end of speeches to give a culmination to
the speech.
• Characters of lower status, such as the
gravediggers, speak in prose. Prose is also
the language of madness and is used by
Ophelia to signal her loss of reason.
• Character is revealed through the use of
soliloquy. It heightens the intimacy between the
protagonist and the audience.
• Soliloquies are used in Hamlet to offer
philosophical musings.
• The complex imagery that also characterises the
soliloquy further adds to the layers of the play.
• Hamlet’s soliloquies signal his path from darkness
to light. All are in verse. We are able to empathise
with Hamlet more strongly through his use of
• Shakespeare makes use of many motifs in
• The prolific imagery brings out the
contrasting themes of goodness and
corruption, of reason and instinct.
• Dominant motifs include disease, war,
clothes, time, appearances and acting.
• Sexual imagery is used to berate women.
Metatheatrical Conventions
• Shakespeare frequently draws our attention
to the fact that we are watching a play. In
this way Hamlet can be described as
• Metatheatrical elements include the use of
soliloquy and the play-within-a-play(and the
subsequent discussion about the role of
Word Play
• Word play is used extensively in Hamlet
since words are Hamlet’s natural weapon.
• Hamlet’s use of language shows him to be
intelligent and witty. He is a scholar and
something of a philosopher.
• Much of the word play is dark and springs
from frustration and angst.
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