Understanding the Dramatic Device: Aside

In the realm of theater, playwrights often utilize characters' dialogues to convey their stories. However, there are times when expressing a character's inner thoughts becomes challenging. To address this, playwrights employ a dramatic device known as an "aside." An aside is a brief comment or speech delivered by a character directly to the audience or to themselves while other characters on the stage appear oblivious to it. It is a way for characters to share private opinions and reactions with the audience, offering insight into the unfolding drama.

Distinguishing Aside from Soliloquy

Both asides and soliloquies are dramatic devices with similarities and differences:

1. Similarity: In both cases, a single character speaks directly to themselves or the audience, and no other character within the play can hear their comments.

2. Difference: The key difference lies in the length and content. An aside is a brief comment, while a soliloquy is a more extended speech. Furthermore, an aside typically reveals hidden secrets or judgments, whereas a soliloquy delves into the character's motives, inner thoughts, or internal struggles.

Examples of Aside in Literature

Example #1: Macbeth (By William Shakespeare)

“Time thou anticipat’st my dread exploits.
The flighty purpose never is o’ertook
Unless the deed go with it. From this moment
The very firstlings of my heart shall be
The firstlings of my hand.”

In this excerpt from Shakespeare's "Macbeth," the character Macbeth reveals his inner turmoil and transformation into a violent and ambitious man through an aside. He contemplates an attack on MacDuff, signaling his loss of moral values.

Example #2: Crucible (By Arthur Miller)

Arthur Miller, in his play "Crucible," employs an aside through the last words of Elizabeth towards the conclusion of the play: "He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him."

Here, Elizabeth's aside expresses forgiveness and redemption as her husband, John, makes a morally correct decision. It reveals her thoughts about his regained goodness.

Example #3: Hamlet (By William Shakespeare)

In Shakespeare's "Hamlet," Prince Hamlet makes an aside when responding to his uncle Claudius, who has taken the throne and married Hamlet's mother. Hamlet says, "A little more than kin, and less than kind."

This aside provides insight into Hamlet's inner thoughts and his skepticism toward Claudius's actions.

Example #4: Cherry Orchard (By Anton Chekhov)

Yasha, in Anton Chekhov's "Cherry Orchard," makes an aside expressing his desire to return to Paris with Mrs. Ranavesky, highlighting his dissatisfaction with the estate's conditions and its residents.

This aside reflects Yasha's personal thoughts and intentions, offering a glimpse into his character.

Function of Aside

Aside serves several functions in drama:

1. Informative: Asides provide the audience with special information about the plot and the characters onstage. They offer a window into the thoughts of characters, enhancing the audience's understanding of the unfolding story.

2. Engaging: Asides create an engaging experience for the audience as characters speak directly to them. This direct address draws the audience closer to the character's actions and inner thoughts, fostering a deeper connection.

3. Insightful: By allowing the audience to access a character's private thoughts, asides offer a unique perspective on the character's true feelings and motivations. This insight can enrich the audience's appreciation of the play.

In comedies, asides can be particularly delightful, as playwrights can imagine the enjoyment the audience derives from these direct interactions. It adds an element of fun and engagement to the theatrical experience.

Let's Talk About It

Have you encountered memorable instances of asides in plays, movies, or any other forms of storytelling? How did these asides contribute to your understanding of the characters and the story? Share your thoughts and examples in the comments below.

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