The Suspension of Disbelief



The Suspension of Disbelief

As members of an audience, we can best enjoy the performance of a play if we become emotionally involved with the events and characters on stage. But to do this, we need to forget that what we see on stage is only imaginary, and pretend instead—temporarily--that it is real. This ability to temporarily put aside, or suspend, our doubt and believe that the action of a play is real is called the suspension of disbelief. Suspending disbelief enables viewers to become more and more absorbed in the play as they watch the story develop, and to respond emotionally to the events and characters as if they were real.

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    <-NARRATOR:-> Now listen to part of a lecture on this topic in a theater studies class.
    <-MALE PROFESSOR:-> So, for example...
    back when I was in college, one of my roommates, Richard, was in a play I went to see.
    And when he first walked out on stage, I have to admit, I was a little distracted.
    Richard was dressed up like an old man-
    I could tell that his hair was colored gray and he was pretending, you know, to be older,
    so he walked more slowly-
    the way an older person would.
    But at first I only saw him as my roommate
    dressed up to look like an older man.
    But then as the play went on,
    I began to think of him less as the guy I lived with
    and more as this older man who was a father...
    one who had worked very hard for his family...
    uh, the family in the play.
    And in the play, the father gets sick,
    and so is out of work-
    which, you know, caused me to become a little sad.
    And because of the father's long illness,
    the family was worried that they wouldn't have enough money to pay the bills.
    And this made me feel worried too.
    Well, in the end,
    what happened was...
    the family all came together
    and everyone found jobs and started working-
    they all pitched in to help in the time of crisis.
    So, the family gets by and pays their bills,
    and soon after,
    the father recovers from his illness.
    And this made me feel relieved,
    and even rather happy.


Explain how the example from the lecture illustrates the suspension of disbelief.


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