What Is Dramatic Exposition?

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Dramatic exposition is a literary device used to introduce important information about a story’s setting, the characters and the initial conflict of the plot. In plays, dramatic exposition is usually found in the opening scenes and can be expressed through character dialogue, flashbacks, thoughts or the narrator giving background.

Dramatic exposition makes up one part of the five-part structure of the dramatic arc of a play. The German play writer Gustav Freytag defined these five parts, in order of appearance, as exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Freytag’s plot structure, or dramatic arc, is designed to describe the components of a five-act play. An example of dramatic exposition can be found in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s “Othello” when the audience overhears the villain of the play, Iago, trying to recruit the character Roderigo to join his plot to destroy Othello.