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Difference between revisions of "Deus ex machina"

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''Article on the'' '''''deus ex machina''''' ''is not yet written.''
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The Latin term '''''deus ex machina''''', literally meaning "the god from [''or:'' by (reason of)] the machine" (female: ''dea ex machina''), is a translation of the original Greek ''theós ek mêkhanês''. In ancient [[Theater of ancient Greece|Greek]] and [[Theater of ancient Rome|Roman theater]], a ''deus ex machina'' was a god introduced by means of a [[Mechane|''mêchanê'']] to unravel and resolve the plot. As a more general term used in modern times it describes an active agent who appears unexpectedly to solve an apparently insoluble difficulty.
  
For the time being, see [[Mechane|'''''mêchanê''''']], the mechanical device used to bring a ''deus ex machina'' onto the stage.
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==Antiquity==
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''Article on the'' '''''deus ex machina''''' ''is not yet fully written.''
 +
 
 +
''still needed'': explanation and examples from antiquity incl. interpretations etc. pp.
 +
 
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==Modern use==
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Today the term ''deus ex machina'' is mostly used to describe a sudden, out-of-nowhere, sometimes improbable and always easy solution to a [[Plot (narrative)|plot]], which is often an anticlimactic and obnoxious experience for the audience, especially if the [[protagonist]] is artificially aided by external forces to escape from a seemingly hopeless situation. A modern ''deus ex machina'' can be introduced by one or several [[Fictional character|characters]], e.g. a rescue team, by a general event, sometimes only loosely connected to a story, e.g. an earthquake, or by a special device, as it is often encountered in [[James Bond films]].
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The term ''deus ex machina'' is sometimes erroneously applied either to an author's clumsy (or deliberate) violation of a story's internal logic or to a revelation of [[plot twist]]s, which often means the untangling of a narrative.
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===Examples and parodies===
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*In [[Dante Alighieri]]'s [[The Divine Comedy|''Commedia'']] a being is sent from heaven to open the gates of [[Dis (Divine Comedy|Dis]], the city of the dead, for Dante and [[Virgil]] to pass.
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*''[[The Threepenny Opera]]'' by [[Bertolt Brecht]] and [[Kurt Weill]] ends with a rousing musical performance that also parodies a ''deus ex machina'': a messenger rides a white horse down the theater aisles onto the stage to announce that Queen Victoria has  pardoned Mack the Knife, together with all other criminals throughout the land.
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*A similar parody is found in ''[[The Pirates of Penzance]]'' by [[Arthur Sullivan]] and [[W. S. Gilbert]], where a comic musical number is used to inform the audience that the queen has pardoned and freed all pirates.
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*In [[film]] the ''deus-ex-machina'' device is often used, however in more subtle and disguised ways. A notable example is found in [[Patriot Games (film)|''Patriot Games'']] by W. Peter Iliff and Donald Stewart, where the [[antagonist]], who is being pursued by [[Jack Ryan (fictional character)|Jack Ryan]] ([[Harrison Ford]]) in a boat chase during the film's climax, first kills all his aides, before Ryan enters his boat. Here the screenwriters clearly paved the way for an unskillfully solved personal confrontation between protagonist and villain in order to bring the story to a quicker and less super-human ending.
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*In [[Robert Altman]]'s and Frank Barhydt's ''[[Short Cuts]]'' the earthquake concluding the film also functions in part as a ''deus ex machina'', a narrative method copied for ''[[Magnolia]]'' by [[Paul Thomas Anderson]], who tried to disguise his ''deus ex machina'' by creating connotations to the ten [[Plagues of Egypt|Biblical plagues]].
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*One of the most famous ''deus-ex-machina'' devices is the [[Transporter (Star Trek)|transporter]] in the [[Star Trek]] universe, a [[teleportation]] device often used by the characters (and writers) to elude conflicts.
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==Quotes==
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*"But we also need the possibility of cataclysm, so that, when situations seem hopeless, and beyond the power of any natural force to amend, we may still anticipate salvation from a messiah, a conquering hero, a ''deus ex machina'', or some other agent with power to fracture the unsupportable and institute the unobtainable." ([[Stephen Jay Gould]], [[Questioning the Millennium|''Questioning the Millennium: A Rationalist's Guide to a Precisely Arbitrary Countdown'']], New York 1997/1999, pp. 57–58)
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*"In times of affluence and peace, with technology that always seems to arrive like a ''deus ex machina'' to solve any problem, it becomes easy to believe that life is perfectible." (Stephanie Gutmann, ''The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars?'', New York 2000)
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==See also==
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===Ancient===
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*[[Mechane|''Mêchanê'']]
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* [[Theater of ancient Greece]]
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* [[Theater of ancient Rome]]
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===Modern===
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*[[Morris the Explainer]]
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*[[Retroactive continuity]]
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*[[Reset button technique]]
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*[[Character shield]]
  
 
[[Category:Theater Workgroup|Deus ex machina]]
 
[[Category:Theater Workgroup|Deus ex machina]]

Revision as of 20:12, 22 July 2007

The Latin term deus ex machina, literally meaning "the god from [or: by (reason of)] the machine" (female: dea ex machina), is a translation of the original Greek theós ek mêkhanês. In ancient Greek and Roman theater, a deus ex machina was a god introduced by means of a mêchanê to unravel and resolve the plot. As a more general term used in modern times it describes an active agent who appears unexpectedly to solve an apparently insoluble difficulty.

Antiquity

Article on the deus ex machina is not yet fully written.

still needed: explanation and examples from antiquity incl. interpretations etc. pp.

Modern use

Today the term deus ex machina is mostly used to describe a sudden, out-of-nowhere, sometimes improbable and always easy solution to a plot, which is often an anticlimactic and obnoxious experience for the audience, especially if the protagonist is artificially aided by external forces to escape from a seemingly hopeless situation. A modern deus ex machina can be introduced by one or several characters, e.g. a rescue team, by a general event, sometimes only loosely connected to a story, e.g. an earthquake, or by a special device, as it is often encountered in James Bond films.

The term deus ex machina is sometimes erroneously applied either to an author's clumsy (or deliberate) violation of a story's internal logic or to a revelation of plot twists, which often means the untangling of a narrative.

Examples and parodies

  • In Dante Alighieri's Commedia a being is sent from heaven to open the gates of Dis, the city of the dead, for Dante and Virgil to pass.
  • The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill ends with a rousing musical performance that also parodies a deus ex machina: a messenger rides a white horse down the theater aisles onto the stage to announce that Queen Victoria has pardoned Mack the Knife, together with all other criminals throughout the land.
  • A similar parody is found in The Pirates of Penzance by Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert, where a comic musical number is used to inform the audience that the queen has pardoned and freed all pirates.
  • In film the deus-ex-machina device is often used, however in more subtle and disguised ways. A notable example is found in Patriot Games by W. Peter Iliff and Donald Stewart, where the antagonist, who is being pursued by Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) in a boat chase during the film's climax, first kills all his aides, before Ryan enters his boat. Here the screenwriters clearly paved the way for an unskillfully solved personal confrontation between protagonist and villain in order to bring the story to a quicker and less super-human ending.
  • In Robert Altman's and Frank Barhydt's Short Cuts the earthquake concluding the film also functions in part as a deus ex machina, a narrative method copied for Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson, who tried to disguise his deus ex machina by creating connotations to the ten Biblical plagues.
  • One of the most famous deus-ex-machina devices is the transporter in the Star Trek universe, a teleportation device often used by the characters (and writers) to elude conflicts.

Quotes

  • "But we also need the possibility of cataclysm, so that, when situations seem hopeless, and beyond the power of any natural force to amend, we may still anticipate salvation from a messiah, a conquering hero, a deus ex machina, or some other agent with power to fracture the unsupportable and institute the unobtainable." (Stephen Jay Gould, Questioning the Millennium: A Rationalist's Guide to a Precisely Arbitrary Countdown, New York 1997/1999, pp. 57–58)
  • "In times of affluence and peace, with technology that always seems to arrive like a deus ex machina to solve any problem, it becomes easy to believe that life is perfectible." (Stephanie Gutmann, The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars?, New York 2000)

See also

Ancient

Modern