How Do I Define Dramatic Function?

A dramatic function is the reason for various elements of literature and drama to exist within a story, according to Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). Every element in a story serves as a way to move the plot along. These facets can be characters, conflict, scenery, locations, acts of a higher power, coincidences or events.

The main elements of a story that serve dramatic functions are the characters themselves. The BBC states that minor characters in “MacBeth” serve a dramatic function of motivating the major characters throughout the story. Banquo serves as a foil for Macbeth who shows the would-be king that he doesn’t have to give in to the witches’ temptations. Malcolm motivates Macbeth’s evil actions to kill everyone who stands in his way.

Sometimes, inanimate objects can serve dramatic functions. Shakespeare Online states that the storm of “The Tempest” allows Prospero a chance to tell Miranda how the two came to be marooned on the island. His stories cause the characters to act further in the play. Without the storm, Prospero never tells Miranda a thing.

Even the Bible has elements that offer dramatic functions, according to Cambridge Journals. The slave girl Rhoda’s dramatic function in the Book of Acts is to heighten the realism in Luke’s storytelling. Without details of real people or real events of the day, Christians may not believe in the story of Jesus and the resurrection. The slave girl’s inclusion is a way to make believers out of those who hear the tale.