Character Dialogue & Nonverbal Communication in a Drama

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  • 0:01 Two Forms of Communication
  • 2:24 A Classic Example
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

Characters in plays have two ways of communicating with the audience and each other. They can use verbal or nonverbal forms of communication. In this lesson, you'll learn about how both are used in drama.

Two Forms of Communication

Imagine this situation: you're out to dinner with a friend. You've been watching this great TV show and five minutes into your explanation of your favorite episode, you notice your friend staring off into space, pushing food around her plate with her fork, and even checking her phone for messages. You ask her, 'Doesn't that sound like a great show?' She responds that it sounds really great.

In this scene you're getting two types of communication from your friend. Her words tell you that she's interested, but her body says the opposite and you have to consider both signals when you're trying to understand your friend's reaction. Characters in plays are just like your friend; they communicate with words and with body language.

The two types of communication described in the opening scene are verbal and nonverbal. Verbal communication means getting across ideas by using words. What we're doing right now - that's verbal communication from me to you. Nonverbal communication means getting across ideas wordlessly, usually through visual means. In our opening example, the verbal communication was the words exchanged between you and your friend and the nonverbal communication was your friend's lack of eye contact and the fact that she checked her phone, both of which could indicate boredom.

In plays, the dialogue is the words spoken by the characters. That's the verbal communication. Stage directions are written notes to the actors and while these notes can give the actors some cues for nonverbal communication, most of what actors do on stage in terms of body movement does not appear in the script. Instead, the actors and director work together to create a plan for how the actors will communicate nonverbally.

And it's not just body language. Facial expressions are part of nonverbal communication and so is proximity. Proximity is the term for how closely two or more people stand. Characters who stand close together communicate their comfort with each other. Those who have to have space between them are less comfortable with each other. Even something as simple as space can communicate a lot about the relationship between two characters on stage!

A Classic Example

The audience learns about characters through what they say and do. In other words, through their verbal and nonverbal communication. Let's look at a famous example to better understand how the two types of communication work together.

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