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In the well-made play structure, after the exposition and introduction of the main characters, the plot in media res proceeds toward its denouement through several steps, called the “rising action.” The first step is the first complication, an event or revelation that upsets the status quo established in the opening, and begins the conflict (since drama is conflict) between two characters, or character and setting, etc. These complications can be of several types: revelations from outside the immediate family structure, social complications, time constraints on decisions, etc. As the play’s plot proceeds through various complications and revelations, the drama condenses to its climax, and culminates in a denouement (final revealing) to an emotionally and thematically satisfying coda. But it is not merely descriptive; when Scribe defined the well-made play, he was offering a formula for successful dramatic structure, a formula that others followed well into the realistic drama of Ibsen and Chekhov. The problem with the formula, as pointed out by George Bernard Shaw, was that character was subordinated to plot, and poetic language and classical qualities were neglected.
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