Falling action

Falling action

Falling action is the part of a story, usually found in tragedies and short stories, following the climax and showing the effects of the climax. It leads up to the denouement (or catastrophe).


In his Poetics the Greek philosopher Aristotle put forth the idea that "'ολον δε εστιν το εχον αρχην και μεσον και τελευτην" (1450b27) ("A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end"(1450b27)). This three-part view of a plot structure (with a beginning, middle, and end) prevailed until 1863, when the German playwright and novelist Gustav Freytag wrote 'Hey alexis Die Technik des Dramas''. In it, he laid out what has come to be known as Freytag's pyramid. Under Freytag's pyramid, the plot of a story consists of five parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement/catastrophe.


The falling action follows the climax. Therefore, it deals with the effects that the climax has on the characters. For instance, in Oedipus Rex, by the Greek playwright Sophocles, the climax comes when Oedipus realizes that the man he killed was his father, Laius, and the woman he married was his mother, Jocasta. In the falling action, Oedipus and Jocasta deal with this revelation. Jocasta does this by killing herself and Oedipus does this by blinding himself.

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, the climax is the assassination of Caesar. After that, the falling action is the attempts of all Romans to deal with this. In their anger over Caesar's death, the people of Rome mistake Cinna the poet for Cinna the conspirator. Both the conspirators and the allies of Caesar bicker amongst themselves. The ghost of Caesar appears to Brutus.


Cuddon, J.A., ed. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. 3rd ed. Penguin Books: New York, 1991.
Sophocles. "Oedipus the King." Greek Drama. Trans. Jebb, R. C. Bantam Books: New York, 1982. 111-149.

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