An exciting moment is an element in classical drama. It serves to create a dramatic conflict and to arouse suspense. It denotes the point when the protagonist takes the decision that leads to the following action. It may also be the antagonist’s decision to set the hero in motion through an action or intrigue. The exciting moment culminates in the climax of the drama, the so-called peripetia.
The term goes back to the theory of Gustav Mahler. Freytag records the exciting moment between the exposure and the peripetia of the drama. Exposure leads to the basic mood of the drama; the audience is presented with the initial situation, conflicts, states, time, place and persons of the play in order to provide a prerequisite for the understanding of the action.
Peripety means the turning point or climax of the dramatic work. At this very point, tragedy or comedy transpires, which is why the result (bad or good) of the action is clear. It is precisely between these elements that the exciting moment lies, which triggers a feeling of volition in the hero and thus causes him to act at all.
The exciting moment lies between exposure and peripetia in classical drama
In classical drama, ie in the five-act, the individual elements can be assigned to an act of the work. This means that in the first act the exposure, the second the exciting moment, the third the peripetia, the fourth the retarding moment (retardation) and the last the disaster. In a comedy the whole does not end in catastrophe, but in the solution of the conflict.
It can thus be seen that the exciting moment opposes the retarding moment in the course of the action. However, it is not imperative that the exciting moment in any case determine a whole scene. Gustav Freytag described this in the technique of drama (1863) as follows:
“It may fill an executed scene, it may be summarized in a few words. […] However, it always forms the transition from the introduction to the ascending action ”
Note: Consequently, the exciting moment belongs to the increase in drama. In the increase, this element is introduced in that a dramatic conflict is built up by the actions of the protagonist or antagonist, or the intrigue is spun, which determines the further course.Example: Exciting moment in Maria Stuart
Maria Stuart, a classic drama by Friedrich Schiller, is ideally suited to the individual elements of the dramatic text because of its structure. All the components are clearly visible, and we are dealing here with a tragedy.
The drama consists of five acts, all acts having a special function. Crucial to us is the sixth elevator in the first act. In this Mortimer confesses to Maria and wants to free her from the dungeon. Instead of addressing his escape plans, she asked him to deliver a letter to Leicester.
It is therefore that Mary Stuart, the protagonist of the work, begins to act and decisively influences the subsequent concatenations and actions of the dramatic text by the letter to Count Leicester. She makes the decision to act and that affects the following.
Note: In this case, the exciting moment in this case is the transition between the initiation of the work and the rising action of the second act, culminating in the third act, the summit of the two queens, which initiates the catastrophe.
Overview: Meaning, function and characteristics of the exerting moment
As an exciting moment is an action in the drama, which induces the dramatic conflict in a certain way. Here, the protagonist of the work decides to act. Sometimes the antagonist initiates an intrigue to move the hero to action.
Thus, an exciting moment usually lies between the exposure and the climax of a work and directs the increase, which sets the dramatic action in motion. Here, therefore, the first action-changing event occurs, on which all further development rests and which is intended to excite the tension of the spectators.
In the classical rule drama, the excitatory moment is mirrored as opposed to the retarding moment. In the exciting moment the tension rises decisively, culminates then in the climax and finally ends before it declines in the retardation, in the catastrophe (tragedy) or even solution (comedy).
Further examples of the exciting moment (according to Gustav Freytag)
Julius Caesar (I, 2): A conversation between Cassius and Brutus, in which Brutus is convinced to kill Caesar.
Othello (I, 10): to divide the plan between Iago and Rodrigo, Othello and Desdemona.
Richard III. (I, 1): Richard’s plan, which is revealed from the beginning.
Romeo and Juliet (I, 2): The invitation to the Maskenfest and Romeo’s intention to visit this.
Emilia Galotti (I, 6): The news of the imminent marriage of Emilia Galotti.
Maria Stuart (I6): Mortimer’s confession against Mary.
Faust: Mephisto’s entry into Faust’s study.