CriticaLink | Aristotle: Poetics | Terms

deus ex machina

Deus ex machina refers to the intervention of a divinity in the action of a drama to resolve a conflict and, often, to bring the action to a conclusion. Its literal sense, "god from the machine," comes from ancient stagecraft, in which an actor playing the deity would be physically lowered by a crane-like mechanism into the stage area. We sometimes use the term to refer to a miraculous (or just improbable) external influence that brings about the resolution of a problem or conflict. Aristotle recommends against using this technique to resolve the plots of tragedies, suggesting that its proper place is for staging commentaries by the gods that lie outside the actual action of the drama.