July 1, 2011

Freytag’s Pyramid? It’s one of the Dramatic Wonders.


Image by BrokenSegue (Own work) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
An old tool to understand dramatic structure still has its use.

The Freytag Pyramid was created by German playwright and novelist Gustav Freytag in the 1800’s and introduced in his Technique of the Drama. What exactly is it and what does it do?

Freytag painstakingly deconstructed plays by Aristotle, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Goethe, Schiller, and others in order to define what makes 5-act and classical dramatic structure work. The result is the Freytag triangle. It describes the building and resolution of dramatic tension through 5 stages which roughly map to the 5-act structure: Exposition; Rising Action; Climax; Falling Action; and Denouement.

As of this writing, for many similar reasons to the John Quincy Adams Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory, there are no fully readable versions of Freytag’s work available online (meaning that those versions available are rife with typographical errors as of this writing). Since it is in the public domain, I am starting the task of editing Technique of the Drama and will make new chapters available online as they are completed. The ultimate goal of this project is to produce and make available an e-book of the work at no charge.

So, without further delay, here is the first installment of Freytag’s Technique of the Drama, the Biographical Note.

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