media res

A narrative work beginning in medias res (Classical Latin: [ɪn mɛdiaːs reːs], lit. "into the middle of things") opens in the midst of action (cf. ab ovo, ab initio). Often, exposition is bypassed and filled in gradually, either through dialogue, flashbacks or description of past events. For example, Hamlet begins after the death of Hamlet's father. Characters make reference to King Hamlet's death without the plot's first establishment of said fact. Since the play focuses on Hamlet and the revenge itself more so than the motivation, Shakespeare utilizes in medias res to bypass superfluous exposition.
Works that employ in medias res often, though not always, will subsequently use flashback and nonlinear narrative for exposition of earlier events in order to fill in the backstory. For example, in Homer's Odyssey, we first learn about Odysseus's journey when he is held captive on Calypso's island. We then find out, in Books IX through XII, that the greater part of Odysseus's journey precedes that moment in the narrative. On the other hand, Homer's Iliad has relatively few flashbacks, although it opens in the thick of the Trojan War.

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