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 • Structure • Juxtaposition/contrast • Humour • Language • Soliloquies • Imagery • Metatheatrical Conventions • Word play • Setting • Characterisation/Costuming • Lighting • Sound • Line Delivery • Special Effects • Conflict • Symbols/Motifs
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.
Structure 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.
Juxtaposition/Contrasts 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 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 • 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.
Soliloquies • 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 soliloquy.
Imagery • Shakespeare makes use of many motifs in Hamlet. • 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. • Metatheatrical elements include the use of soliloquy and the play-within-a-play(and the subsequent discussion about the role of drama).
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.