Five-act model

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IRIS Wiki - Narrative Theories - Five-act model


Gustav Freytag

Histo-geographical placement

Europe (Germany), 1863

Type of story

Play, film

Parent Theories


Child Theories

Three-Act Paradigm (Syd Field), and many other screenwriting methods.

Brief Description

This general view for dramatic structures focuses on Gustav Freytag's analysis of ancient Greek and Shakespearean drama. Freytag divides a drama in five parts or acts:

  1. Exposition
  2.  Rising action
  3. Climax (or turning point)
  4. Falling action
  5. Resolution

Freytag's Pyramid:

Freytag's pyramid

1. Exposition

The exposition introduces the main characters, describes the context and shows the basic conflict. The exposition ends with the incident moment, without which there would be no story.

2.The rising action

During the rising action the protagonist follows their dramatic need and encounters the basic conflict. Secondary conflicts and various obstacles may disturb their goal.

3. Climax (turning point)

The third act marks a change, for the better or the worse, in the evolution of the story. It is some kind of a decision-point, a point of no return.

4. Falling action

After the climax, the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist unravels, with the protagonist winning or losing.

5. Dénoument (or catastrophe or resolution)

A classical drama ends with a kind of a conclusion. The protagonist has changed – he is better off or worse off (tragedy) than at the beginning.

Relation with Interactive Storytelling

See the Three-Act Paradigm.

Systems/Tools using this theory





  • Freytag, G. (1863). Die Technik des Dramas, S. Hirzel.