8 Bombastic Words Every Theatre Lover Should Know

Posted on Jun 27th, 2012 by Shuchi in Theatre Trivia

Theatre Words You can live without knowing these words, but when wading through highfalutin writing/conversations about theatre you will be glad to have them in your verbal armoury.

1. Dénouement

Meaning: The resolution of the intricacies of a plot.

Origin: From the French word dénouer, which means ‘untying’.


  • At the end of every performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, the audience is requested to keep the surprise dénouement to themselves.
  • Yours Truly theatre specializes in interactive plays that let the audience decide the play’s dénouement.

2. Deus ex machina

Meaning: The theatrical device of abruptly introducing a person, object or event to resolve a seemingly unsolvable problem. The use of a deus ex machina is generally frowned upon – it is like the playwright copping out of giving the audience a logical plot.

Origin: The Latin phrase deus ex machina originates from the Greek ‘theos ek mēkhanēs’, which literally means ‘god out of the machine’. In ancient Greek and Roman theatre, a ‘god’ character would be lowered onto the stage from a suspended crane to sort out complications in the play and bring it to a tidy conclusion. Implausible endings would be accepted since ‘god’ was involved.

The phrase found its way into English from Horace’s Ars Poetica. Horace discouraged the use of deus ex machina [189-201] with words to this effect:

Nor should any god intervene unless a knot show up that is worthy of such a liberator; nor should a fourth actor strive to speak.


  • The Importance of Being Earnest wouldn’t be as much fun without the deux ex machina of Miss Prism’s revelations.
  • "That Potter lives is due more to dei ex machina than to his triumphs." [so Voldemort might have said]

3. Entr’acte

Meaning: Intermission between acts of a theatrical production, more specifically a piece of music performed during the intermission.

Origin: From French, a combination of:
entre, meaning ‘between’
acte, meaning ‘act’


  • In Pierrot’s Troupe’s staging of Sayeed Alam’s Ghalib in New Delhi, the entr’acte is a beautiful rendition of songs from the 1954 movie Mirza Ghalib.
  • During the entr’acte in Evam’s production Doubles, Triples and Quadruples, the artists shared with the audience funny experiences from their lives.

4. Ingénue

Meaning: A stock character in theatre of an endearingly innocent (read: empty-headed) young woman. Also an actress who gets typecast in playing such roles.

The ingénue is typically beautiful, dependent, and in distress. Ariel of The Little Mermaid and Cosette of Les Miserables are two examples of this role type.

Origin: From French ingénue, in turn derived from the Latin ingenuus meaning natural or freeborn.


5. Mise-en-scène

Meaning: The design aspects of a theatrical production including stage arrangement, lighting, positioning of actors, etc. Sometimes used in a broader sense to cover all elements of style and storytelling.

Origin: From French, translating to ‘putting on the stage’.


  • The mise-en-scène in Just Theatre’s Hedda Gabler was not too audience-friendly in making the actors frequently face away from the viewers.
  • An elaborate mise-en-scène does not make up for a weak script.

6. Ouvre

Meaning: A work of art, or the works of an artist (e.g. playwright) regarded collectively.

Origin: From the French word ‘oeuvre’, meaning work.


  • Homeland and the pain of exile are central concerns in Abhishek Majumdar‘s oeuvre.
  • "Judge me by my oeuvre, not my personal life", said the actor.

7. Proscenium

The opening separating the stage from the auditorium, traditionally designed like a picture frame and mounted with a curtain.

The ‘proscenium arch’ is the arch built around the stage opening, as in the picture below:

Proscenium Arch

The arch creates a window around the stage, giving everyone in the audience a good view of the performance, at the same time easily hiding props and actors not currently performing.


  • Modern theatre spaces favour the thrust stage over the proscenium.
  • The proscenium arch in this playhouse is so majestic, it is hard take your eyes off it to watch the performance.

8. Soliloquy

Speech by a character talking to himself/herself, as if there is no one hearing. A soliloquy reveals the character’s inner thoughts to the audience, like the thought bubble over a comic strip character or the voiceover when an evil bahu concocts her diabolical plans in a TV soap.

Monologue and soliloquy often get used interchangeably but there is a difference between the two. A monologue may be spoken within the hearing of other characters in the play, a soliloquy is made when the character is alone.

Origin: From Latin sōliloquium, a combination of:
sōli-,a combining form meaning ‘alone’ (also found in ‘solitude’)
-loqu-, to speak (also found in ‘loquacious’)
-ium, the Latin suffix for nouns derived from verbs (also found in ‘odium’)


  • "To be, or not to be: that is the question" from Hamlet’s soliloquy must be the most quoted line written by Shakespeare.
  • The play resorts to soliloquies for what should have been conveyed through the character’s expressions.

Other bombastic words you wish to nominate for the list?

If words interest you, check out my other blog Crossword Unclued.

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Article by Shuchi

Shuchi lives in Bangalore (mostly), when she isn't traveling out of town for work. She adores theatre and writes about plays she watches whenever she gets a chance.
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3 Comments to “8 Bombastic Words Every Theatre Lover Should Know”

  1. Love this, very useful:).Did you know that the term “deux ex machina” keeps cropping up in economics papers? Hadn’t known the exact meaning till now. Let’s discuss how to pronounce all these bombastic words next time we talk, so that I can casually drop them into conversations 🙂

    June 28th, 2012 11:07 am

  2. In economics papers – really! What is the correlation?

    July 4th, 2012 1:02 am

  3. I guess it refers to “assuming away the problem” by introducing a cop-out. You use some possibly quite unlikely assumption to get your model out of a hole 🙂

    July 4th, 2012 12:55 pm

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