Guide to Literary Terms

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Denouement

Denouement - refers to the outcome or result of a complex situation or sequence of events. It is the final outcome or unraveling of the main dramatic complications in a play, novel, or other work of literature. In drama, the term is usually applied to tragedies or to comedies with catastrophes in their plot. Denouement is usually the final scene or chapter in which any necessary, and, as yet unmade, clarifications are made.

The word is taken directly from French and means literally “untying.” The French nouer is from the Latin nodare which was derived from nodus, meaning “knot to untie.”

An example of denouement is when, after Beowulf has once again saved a group of villagers, this time from a dragon, the poet writes of Beowulf’s funeral and the grief of his followers (lines 3058 – 3182).

see: anticlimax, climax, plot