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About Breaking the 4th Wall

The fourth wall refers to the imaginary "wall" at the front of the stage in a proscenium theatre, through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play. The term also applies to the boundary between any fictional setting and its audience. When this boundary is "broken" (for example by an actor speaking to the audience directly through the camera in a television sitcom), it is called "breaking the fourth wall."

Origin and meaning:

The term was made explicit by Denis Diderot[1] and spread in nineteenth century theatre with the advent of theatrical realism. Critic Vincent Canby described it in 1987 as "that invisible screen that forever separates the audience from the stage."[2] Another among early practitioners of this method (now referred to as the "Fourth Wall") is Thornton Wilder & his 1937 play "Our Town". The term "fourth wall" stems from the absence of a fourth wall on a three-walled set where the audience is viewing the production. The audience is supposed to assume there is a "fourth wall" present, even though it physically is not there. This is widely noticeable on various television programs, such as sitcoms, but the term originated in theatre, where conventional three-walled stage sets provide a more obvious "fourth wall". The term "fourth wall" has been adapted to refer to the boundary between the fiction and the audience. "Fourth wall" is part of the suspension of disbelief between a fictional work and an audience. The audience will accept the presence of the fourth wall without giving it any direct thought, allowing them to enjoy the fiction as if they were observing real events.The presence of a fourth wall is one of the best established conventions of fiction and as such has led some artists to draw direct attention to it for dramatic or comedic effect. This is known as "breaking the fourth wall". For instance, in Puckoon, Spike talks to the author multiple times. Spike also at one stage in the book, looks to see what page the reader is on. Besides theatre and cinema, the term has been adopted by other media, such as television, comics, and more recently, video games. Though some table-top roleplaying games do allow for breaking the fourth wall, these are usually beer and pretzel type games.

Breaking the 4th Wall

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