Guide to Literary Terms Dialogue

Dialogue

Dialogue - is a conversation, or a literary work in the form of a conversation, that is often used to reveal characters and to advance the plot. Also, the lines spoken by a character in a play, essay, story, or novel.

The word is derived from the Greek dialogosa, meaning “conversation.” This Greek word evolved from dialegesthai, meaning “to discourse.”

Greek philosophers used dialogue as the best way to instruct their students.

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s good night to Romeo is part of the dialogue:

Juliet: Tis almost morning: I would have thee gone:
And yet no further than a
wanton’s bird:
Who lets it hop a little from
her hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his
twisted gyves,
And with a silk thread plucks
it back again,
so loving - jealous of his liberty.

Romeo: I would I were thy bird.

Juliet: Sweet, so would I:
Yet I should kill thee with
much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Parting
is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till
it be morrow.
Act II, scene ii : lines 189-201

An example of a modern dialogue is the following from Margaret Truman’s Murder in Georgetown:

“Joe, I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Yeah, me too. What’s happened? Why did they do this to you? Have you been like this since you disappeared?”

She shook her head. “No, nothing like this. They brought me here and—”

“Who brought you here?”

“I don’t know. They brought me here and I’ve been okay. They’ve treated me well. I’ve had good food and they even let me play the piano. They talk to me.”