Shakespeare Drama Terms

Act I (exposition)

establishing the setting, introduces some characters, explains background, and introduces the characters' main conflict.

Act II (rising action/complication)

a series of problems that occur as the characters take action to resolve their problems.

Act III (turning point)

the moment when a choice made by the main characters determines the direction of the action (comedy or tragedy); the dramatic and tense moment when the forces or conflict come together.

Act IV (falling action)

the events that result from the action at the turning point; usually lock the characters into deeper and deeper disaster.

Act V (climax and resolution)

the final climax occurs; the loose parts of the plot are tied.


a brief reference, within a work, to something outside the work that the reader or audience is expected to know.


a character's remark, either to the audience or to another character that others on the stage are not supposed to hear to reveal the character's private thoughts.

Blank Verse

a form of poetry that uses unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter.

Comic Relief

a humorous scene, incident, or speech that relieves the overall emotional intensity.

Dramatic Conventions

devices that theater audiences accept as realistic even though they do not necessarily reflect the way real-life people behave.

Foil Character

a character whose personality or attitudes are in sharp contrast to those of another character in the same work.

Iambic Pentameter

lines that ideally have 5 unstressed syllables, each followed by a stressed syllable.


a speech that a character gives when he/she is alone on stage to let the audience know what he/she is thinking.


a drama that ends in a catastrophe (usually death) for the main character and often for several other important characters.

Tragic Hero

character (usually the main one) who is usually someone that is nobly born and who may have great influence in his or her society (usually has one fatal flaw or makes a fatal decision.)