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Act and Scene

12 Aug

An act is a major division in the action of a play. In England
this division was introduced by Elizabethan dramatists, who imitated ancient
Roman plays by structuring the action into five acts. Late in the nineteenth
century a number of writers followed the example of Chekhov and Ibsen by
constructing plays in four acts. In the present century the most common form
for nonmusical dramas has been three acts.
Acts are often subdivided into scenes, which in modern plays usually
consist of units of action in which there is no change of place or break in the
continuity of time. (Some recent plays dispense with the division into acts
and are structured as a sequence of scenes, or episodes.) In the conventional
theater with a proscenium arch that frames the front of the stage, the end of
a scene is usually indicated by a dropped curtain or a dimming of the lights,
and the end of an act by a dropped curtain and an intermission.

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