Dramatic Techniques

Dramatic techniques refer to the literary devices and staging elements creatively put together the playwright, director or stage manager to enhance the emotional, aural, and visual experience of the audience. They can also be defined as the on-stage craftsmanship, determined by the playwright or the director or the stage manager, that is used to enhance actions on stage.
Literary devices that are often used in dramatic productions include conflict, foreshadowing, imagery, dramatic irony, satire, symbolism, mime, monologues, apostrophes, figurative language, et cetera.
Dramatic techniques are divided into three broad categories: The Verbal Dramatic Techniques, The Non- Verbal Dramatic Technique and Literary Techniques in Drama.

The Verbal Dramatic Techniques
Verbal dramatic techniques are essentially what we learn through the dialogue (what the character's say). Such techniques include speech, dialogue, monologue, aside and direct address. You should consider the delivery of this dialogue through tone, pace, pause et cetera. To get a real sense of what the playwright and/or director are aiming to represent.

An utterance of a single speaker, either within a dialogue, a monologue, or an aside.

A sequence of conversational 'turns' exchanged between two or more speakers. The more specific term duologue is occasionally used to refer to a dialogue between exactly two speakers.

A long speech in which a character talks to themselves. Often, only one character is on stage during a monologue, that's what we theatre lovers call a soliloquy (from the Latin solus meaning 'alone') and what you should avoid doing by yourself in public. It's a way of seeing into the thoughts of a character.

A remark that is not heard by the other characters on stage - like when you try to backchat mum, dad ; it’s a sneaky way of giving the audience information that other characters shouldn't have yet.

Direct Address:
Characters address the audience, like a form of oral diary and, a revealing of inner thoughts or inner monologue. This can move the action forward and/or set a mood for the following action. It differs from an aside because the character is specifically acknowledging a connection with the audience.

Note, beside the above mentioned, Tone, Pace, Volume, Clarity, Pauses, Use of Voice (stuttering/silence/humour) should also be considered when analysing verbal techniques.

The Non- Verbal Dramatic Technique

Humans are constantly reading situations and inferring meaning. Directors deliberately manipulate the audience to evoke a particular response via techniques such as lighting, music, gesture/body language and facial expressions. Make sure you read between the lines and look for things like symbolism, motif and contrast. Non-verbal techniques include a variety of things such as sets, stage directions, costuming, props, music and sound effects.   

Literary Techniques in Drama

A play, like any other engaging narrative, uses the power of language to convey meaning and provoke reaction from the audience. The formality of language, or language register, is carefully considered by the director to represent a particular place, time and social context. Figurative language techniques such as metaphor, simile, personification and allusion (when used skilfully) engage the senses and imagination of the audience, while other language techniques may cause the audience to question and challenge their understanding of the world.

Devices in Henry IV

Motif: celestial motif to denote royalty
Tapping into the celestial motif which Shakespeare uses repeatedly to refer to royalty, King Henry states, “by being seldom seen, I could not stir, But, like a comet, I was wond’red at”. Throughout the play, there is an understated comparison between Henry and Richard II, who unlike King Duncan in Macbeth, is no virtuous king. Henry criticises the former leader for being the “skipping king” for his association with the proletariat, and dismisses the pleasures of such classes as “barren” and “lewd acts”. King Henry believes he outshone the “crowned King” because of a royal image, wherein pride and honour were camouflaged by an appearance of humility: “I stole all courtesy from heaven, And dressed myself in such humility, That I did pluck allegiance from men’s hearts, Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths, Even in the presence of the crowned King.”

While Henry alludes to the lack of “sun-like majesty” of the previous king, Richard II (III.ii.79), who lowers the prestigious nature of royalty, Harry (Henry, Prince of Wales) earlier states that he will “imitate the sun, / . . . / By breaking through the foul and ugly mists” (I.ii.175–180). Intending to cast off his pretence of idleness, Hal will presumably burn through the clouds and shine radiantly and regally. I shall hereafter, my thrice gracious lord, be more myself

It is the rebel spy, Sir Richard Vernon, who pays Hal a most worthy compliment when he remarks on the remarkable transformation, as earlier predicted by the scheming prince. Note once again the celestial image of a noble warrior and the true intentions of Hal. “I saw young Harry, with his beaver on, His cuisses on his thighs, gallantly arm’d, Rise from the ground like feather’d Mercury, And vaulted with such ease into his seat, As if an angel dropp’d down from the clouds, To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus, And witch the world with noble horsemanship

Motif of thief: – parallels between Falstaff, the King and the rebels

As the “king of misrule”, Sir John Falstaff is depicted as a contrast to Henry but one that sheds light on the flaws in his leadership. Falstaff often puns on stealing “crowns” to symbolically capture the source of the King’s anxiety. As a “thief”, Henry struggles to gain the support of the disunified band of rebels. The fact that he disrupted the social order in his grab for power constantly plagues the king who seeks to rationalise and justify his actions, especially by going on the crusade.
However, as the thief, Falstaff’s actions also conjure up parallels with the rebels whose grab for land and power is thinly concealed beneath their list of grievances.

Sequentially, Shakespeare moves from the tavern world in Eastcheap, during which Falstaff hides behind the arras to Owen Glendower’s castle in Wales. At the end of Act II, the Prince negotiates with the Sheriff and promises to make “the oily rascal” “answerable”. At the beginning of Act III, a disunified band of rebels is planning their land grab. Should the tables and chairs be left the same during the stage production, this would link the theme of theft between the two disparate worlds and enable Shakespeare to clearly show the rebels are just as unruly and self-serving in their lust for power as Falstaff.

In this regard, the rebels’ confused entrance (III.1) contrasts to the formality of the king’s court. The rebels cannot decide who should sit down first; ultimately Hotspur takes charge. The fact that he cannot find the map of England that they have been consulting is another symbol of their disorder and eventual disintegration. Shakespeare suggests that, symbolically, they have lost sight of England and her best interests in their struggle for power

Motif: language

As a “truant to chivalry”, and although condemned by his father, Hal believes that he is profiting from his time in the tavern world, “mingling his royalty with capering fools”. He shows an ability to be able to “drink with any tinker in his own language”. His linguistic abilities also help him later to appease his father’s wrath. To his credit, Hal speaks Falstaff’s language of fellowship, “I am a sworn brother to a leash of drawers; 2.5.6. “I am so good a proficient in one quarter of an hour that I can drink with any tinker in his own language during my life”. He believes this will be crucial to his future exercise of power: “When I am king of England I shall command all the good lads in Eastcheap (2.5.12).

During the play extempore, Falstaff seeks to redden his eyes to imitate the King’s fury and woe; it must look as though “I have wept; for I must speak in passion, and I will do it in King Cambyses’ vein”. This allusion to Preston’s King Cambyses (1569) implies a ranting leader and in this case Falstaff draws attention to the King’s conflicting emotions born of passion and woe.

If Hal is learning the language of commoners, Falstaff speaks to Hal “not in words only, but in woes also” and the Prince praises the language, “dost thou speak like a king?” (Throughout, Shakespeare uses the motif of language to suggest that each character, and not just the punning Falstaff, creates and (re)invents self in words that shift and change according to the context. In this case, the language of the king is one of passion; of trials and tribulations; of woe and grief.)

Themes in the Henry IV
The Nature of Honour
Though it is one of the principal themes of the play, the concept of honour is never given a consistent definition in 1 Henry IV. In fact, the very multiplicity of views on honour that Shakespeare explores suggests that, in the end, honour is merely a lofty reflection of an individual’s personality and conscience. In other words, honour seems to be defined less by an overarching set of guidelines and more by an individual’s personal values and goals. Thus runs the argument of Hotspur, a quick-tempered and military-minded young man. He feels that honour has to do with glory on the battlefield and with defending one’s reputation and good name against any perceived insult. For the troubled and contemplative King Henry IV, on the other hand, honour has to do with the well-being of the nation and the legitimacy of its ruler. One of the reasons Henry is troubled is that he perceives his own rebellion against Richard II, which won him the crown, to be a dishonourable act.
For the complex Prince Harry, honour seems to be associated with noble behaviour, but for long stretches of time Harry is willing to sacrifice the appearance of honour for the sake of his own goals, confident that he can regain his honour at will. Harry’s conception of honour is so all-inclusive that he believes that, by killing Hotspur, Hotspur’s honour becomes his own. For the amoral rogue Falstaff, the whole idea of honour is nothing but hot air and wasted effort that does no one any good. All the major characters in the play are concerned with honour, but their opinions about the subject illuminate more about them than they do about the concept of honour.
The Legitimacy of Rulership
Because 1 Henry IV is set amid political instability and violent rebellion, the play is naturally concerned with the idea of rulership. It questions what makes a ruler legitimate, which qualities are desirable in a ruler, when it is acceptable to usurp a ruler’s authority, and what the consequences of rebelling against a ruler might be. The concept of legitimate rule is deeply connected in the play with the concept of rebellion: if a ruler is illegitimate, then it is acceptable to usurp his power, as Hotspur and the Percys attempt to do with King Henry. While the criteria that make a ruler legitimate differ—legitimate rule may be attributed to the will of the people or to the will of God—on some level the crack in Henry’s power results from his own fear that his rule is illegitimate, since he illegally usurped the crown from Richard II.
The consequences of failed rulership are explored in the scenes depicting the violence of lawlessness and rebellion sweeping England—the robbery in Act II, the battle in Act V, and so forth. The qualities that are desirable in a ruler are explored through the contrast inherent in the play’s major characters: the stern and aloof Henry, the unpredictable and intelligent Harry, and the decisive and hot-tempered Hotspur. Each man offers a very different style of rulership. In the end, Shakespeare seems to endorse Harry’s ability to think his way through a situation and to manipulate others without straying too far from the dictates of conscience. In any event, Harry emerges as Shakespeare’s most impressive English king two plays later, in Henry V.

High and Low Language
One of the characteristics that sets 1 Henry IV apart from many of Shakespeare’s other plays is the ease with which it transitions between scenes populated by nobility and scenes populated by commoners. One result of these transitions is that the play encompasses many different languages and manners of expression. From the Welsh and Irish not understood by the English characters to the bartenders’ coarse language Harry picks up and uses to insinuate himself in their society, these languages display the extremely diverse cast of characters that populates Shakespeare’s stage.
But even more significant is the fact that knowledge of these languages and the ability to transition between them proves to be an invaluable tool. Harry makes friends quickly with the bartenders precisely because, unlike his father, he is able to emulate them and speak their language, leaving courtly diction behind. Harry demonstrates that he is not restricted to only one kind of language when he eloquently declares his loyalty to his father; his ability to speak to commoners and kings alike gives him a great deal of power.

Dramatic Designs’
1 Henry IV explores many different sides of a few major themes. Its primary technique for this multifaceted exploration is one of simple contrast. The differences between Harry and Hotspur make a statement on different perceptions of honour, just as the differences between the Boar’s Head Tavern and the royal palace make a statement on the breadth of England’s class differences. In utilizing contrast as a major thematic device, the play creates a motif of doubles, in which characters, actions, and scenes are often repeated in varied form throughout the play. For instance, Falstaff and the king act as doubles in that both are father figures for Harry. Harry and Hotspur act as doubles in that both are potential successors to Henry IV. Falstaff’s comical robbery in Act II, scene ii serves as a kind of lower-class double to the nobles’ Battle of Shrewsbury, exploring the consequences of rebellion against the law.
British Cultures
As befits the play’s general multiplicity of ideas, Shakespeare is preoccupied throughout much of 1 Henry IV with the contrasts and relationships of the different cultures native to the British Isles and united under the rule of the king. Accents, folk traditions, and geographies are discussed and analyzed, particularly through the use of Welsh characters such as Glyndwr and Scottish characters such as the Douglas. Shakespeare also rehearses the various stereotypes surrounding each character type, portraying Glyndwr as an ominous magician and the Douglas as a hotheaded warrior.
A strong current of magic runs throughout the play, which is primarily a result of the inclusion of the wizardly Glyndwr. Magic has very little to do with the plot, but it is discussed by different characters with uncommon frequency throughout the play. As with the subject of honour, a character’s opinion about the existence of magic tends to say more about the character than it does about the subject itself. The pragmatic and overconfident Hotspur, for instance, expresses contempt for belief in the black arts, repeatedly mocking Glyndwr for claiming to have magical powers. The sensuous and narcissistic Glyndwr, by contrast, seems to give full credence to the idea of magic and to the idea that he is a magician—credence that says more about Glyndwr’s own propensity for self-aggrandizement than about the reality of magic itself.

Representative Characters
Like most of Shakespeare’s other history plays, 1 Henry IV does not make great use of symbolism as a literary device: the play concerns real people and events and so tells a much more concrete story than a more symbolic play like Macbeth or The Tempest. The most important symbols, generally speaking, are the characters themselves, and what they represent is simply the set of ideas and traits with which they are involved. Glyndwr represents both the Welsh motif in the play and the motif of magic, while Hotspur represents rebellion and the idea that honour is won and lost in battle.
The Sun
The sun in 1 Henry IV represents the king and his reign. Both Harry and his father, Henry, use an image of the sun obscured by clouds to describe themselves—the former in Act I, scene ii, lines 175–181, and the latter in Act III, scene ii, lines 79–84. For King Henry, the clouds that blur his light come from his own doubts about the legitimacy of his reign. For Harry, these clouds are the shades of his immaturity and initial refusal to accept and adopt his noble responsibilities. Having accepted his royal duties, Harry can anticipate shining through these clouds and radiating his full regal glory.
Setting (time): Around 1402–1403. Place: London, especially the royal palace and the Boars Head Tavern; various other locales around England, including the battlefield of Shrewsbury, where the final act takes place

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