General Vocabulary

THE THEATRE                                                        DRAMA

A Few Definitions

the stage directions


the dramatis personae


the scene in context



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  • the box office: le bureau de location

  • the cloakroom: le vestibule

  • the stalls: l'orchestre

  • the circle: le balcon

  • the gallery: le deuxième balcon

  • the stage: la scène

  • backstage: dans les coulisses

  • the stage door: l'entrée des artistes

  • a stage hand: un machiniste

  • a dressing room: une loge

  • a make-up artist: un maquilleur

  • the wings: les coulisses

  • the scenery: le décor

  • stage props: des accessoires de scène

  • flashing lights: projecteurs

  • the lighting: l'éclairage

  • brightly lit: très éclairé

  • dimly lit: à peine éclairé

  • the sound effects: les effets sonores

  • the audience: le public

  • the spectators: les spectateurs

  • an actor: un acteur

  • an actress: une actrice

  • the cast of the play: distribution / liste des comédiens qui jouent la pièce

  • to cast a play: distribuer les rôles

  • to play the part of: jouer le rôle de

  • a stage name: un pseudonyme

  • the top of the bill: la tête d'affiche

  • an understudy: une doublure

  • to rehearse: répéter

  • the dress rehearsal: la répétition générale

  • a director: un metteur en scène

  • the staging: la mise en scène

  • to perform a play: jouer une pièce

  • the performance: le spectacle

  • to play in a scene: jouer dans une scène

  • the curtain rises: le rideau se lève




  • a play: une pièce

  • a playwright: un dramaturge

  • a screenplay: un scénario (pour la télévision ou le cinéma)

  • the script: le texte (de la pièce / du scénario)

  • the dramatis personae: la liste des personnages de la pièce

  • the stage directions: les didascalies / indications scéniques

  • a tragedy: une tragédie

  • a comedy: une comédie  

  • a social satire: une satire sociale

  • a puppet show: un théâtre de marionnettes

  • a Punch and Judy show: un spectacle de guignol






  1. Are there many / few / no stage directions? Why?

  2. Do they give any special indications about the setting?

  3. What use is made of space?

  4. Do the stage directions give information about time?

  5. Do they refer mostly to the characters' movements

  6. or do they refer to their emotional / psychological reactions?




Define each character's relationship with:

  1. the other characters on the stage

  2. the off-stage characters

  • to embody / to portray: incarner

  • to set off: mettre en valeur

  • to serve as a foil: servir de faire valoir

  • the lead: le rôle principal

  • a supporting part: un rôle secondaire

  • a villain: un traître

  • a stock character: un personnage type

  • a fool, a jester: un fou

Study their language:  

  1. Do they speak in prose or verse?

  2. If there is an alternation of prose and verse, what does it reflect?

  3. Are the cues rather short or long?

  4. If there is an alternation of short and long cues, what does it reveal?

  5. What is the meaning of their speech?

  6. Do they address other characters, the audience, themselves?

  7. What do they refer to - feelings, events?

  • a soliloquy: un soliloque

  • a monologue: un monologue

  • a cue: une réplique

  • a dialogue: un dialogue

  • to give somebody his cue: donner la réplique à quelqu'un

  • an aside: un aparté

  • a speech: une tirade  

  • the tone of voice: le ton de la voix

  • a case of mistaken identity: un quiproquo

  • a pun: un jeu de mots

Define each character's behaviour on stage
  • behaviour: un comportement, une attitude

  • to behave: se comporter

  • the movements on stage: la façon dont les personnages se déplacent sur la scène

  • a gesture: un geste

  • to come on the stage: entrer en scène

  • to leave the stage: quitter la scène

  • to be of a cheerful disposition: être d'un tempérament enjoué

  • to be passionate: être passionné

  • to be temperamental: être capricieux

  • to be whimsical: être fantasque

  • to be moody: être d'humeur changeante

  • a failing: un travers

  • to be liable to: être sujet à

  • to be prone to: avoir tendance à


  • ambition (to be ambitious): l'ambition

  • kindness (to be kind): la gentillesse

  • awkwardness (to be awkward): la maladresse

  • leniency (to be lenient): indulgence

  • bashfulness (to be bashful): la timidité

  • loyalty (to be loyal): la loyauté

  • boastfulness (to be boastful): la vantardise

  • meanness (to be mean): l'avarice

  • conceit (to be conceited): la prétention

  • nastiness (to be nasty): la méchanceté

  • confidence (to be self-confident): la confiance en soi

  • pride (to be proud): la fierté

  • cowardice (to be cowardly): la couardise

  • rashness (to be rash): l'imprudence

  • daring (to be daring): l'audace

  • relief (to be relieved): le soulagement

  • diffidence (to be diffident): le manque d'assurance

  • selfishness (to be selfish): l'égoïsme

  • distrust (to be distrustful): la méfiance

  • strength (to be strong): la force, le courage

  • double dealing (to be double dealing): la duplicité, le double jeu

  • sympathy (to be sympathetic): la compassion

  • earnestness (to be earnest): le sérieux

  • unobtrusiveness (to be unobtrusive): la discrétion

  • eccentricity (to be eccentric): l'excentricité

  • faithfulness (to be faithful): la fidélité

  • vanity (to be vain): l'orgueil

  • honesty (to be honest): l'honnêteté

  • weakness (to be weak): la faiblesse

  • hypocrisy (to be hypocritical): l'hypocrisie

  • wisdom (to be wise): la sagesse

  • jealousy (to be jealous): la jalousie







  1. Is it suggested that little time or, on the contrary, a long period of time has elapsed

    since the previous scene or meeting of the characters on stage? 

  2. What are the implications?


  1. Why are the characters on the stage together at this moment?

  2. dramatic irony : Is the audience supposed to know something that (some of) the characters do not know ?

  3. If so, what colouring does it give to what is going on stage?


  1. Does the scene resolve some suspense or does it create it?

  2. Is it simply a buffer-scene (a scene that provides relief between two tense scenes)? 

  3. What elements allow us to say this?

  4. Is there an evolution, a progression? 

  5. If so what words, phrases or attitudes mark the various phases of the development?

  6. What effect does the scene have on the audience?

  7. Is the playwright committed or are personal relationships the main interest of the play?

  8. What is the genre of this play?

  • an act: un acte

  • a scene: une scène

  • to appear in Act I, scene 2: figurer dans la scène ii de l'acte 1

  • the inciting moment: le départ de l'action

  • the plot: l'intrigue

  • a reversal of situation: un renversement de situation

  • a coup de théâtre: un coup de théâtre

  • the climax: le noeud de la pièce

  • the anticlimax: la chute

  • the resolution of the conflict: la résolution du conflit

  • a happy ending: une fin optimiste

  • the unravelling / outcome of the play: le dénouement de la pièce

  • to foreshadow the outcome: anticiper le dénouement





  • catharsis (from a Greek word meaning purification): effect of the tragedy on the audience. It is the process by which strong and dangerous feelings are allowed to be experienced so that they lose their power 

  • comic relief: passages that are meant to alleviate tension between tragic scenes 

  • the climax of a play: moment of extreme tension 

  • poetic justice: moment when justice is restored after a moment of upheaval 

  • dramatic irony: when the audience knows more than one of the characters 

  • pathos: quality of some scenes of high sentimentality 

  • the tragic flaw: an error of judgement, a mistake, or a weakness in a hero which is the cause of a change in his fortune 









Ó Madame Yannick Guillet