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Breaking the 4th Wall

by John Public
The fourth wall is the imaginary “wall” at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a proscenium theatre, through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play. The idea of the fourth wall was made explicit by philosopher and critic Denis Diderot and spread in 19th-century theatre with the advent of theatrical realism,which extended the idea to the imaginary boundary between any fictional work and its audience. Speaking directly to or otherwise acknowledging the audience through a camera in a film or television program, or through this imaginary wall in a play, is referred to as “breaking the fourth wall”… Read more

The fourth wall is the imaginary “wall” at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a proscenium theatre, through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play. The idea of the fourth wall was made explicit by philosopher and critic Denis Diderot and spread in 19th-century theatre with the advent of theatrical realism,which extended the idea to the imaginary boundary between any fictional work and its audience.

Speaking directly to or otherwise acknowledging the audience through a camera in a film or television program, or through this imaginary wall in a play, is referred to as “breaking the fourth wall” and is considered a technique of metafiction, as it penetrates the boundaries normally set up by works of fiction.This can also occur in literature and video games when a character acknowledges the reader or player.

The fourth wall should not be confused with the aside or the soliloquy, dramatic devices often used by playwrights where the character on stage is delivering an inner monologue, giving the audience insight into their thoughts.

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