AskDefine | Define aside

Dictionary Definition



1 a line spoken by an actor to the audience but not intended for others on the stage
2 a message that departs from the main subject [syn: digression, excursus, divagation, parenthesis] adv
1 on or to one side; "step aside"; "stood aside to let him pass"; "threw the book aside"; "put her sewing aside when he entered"
2 out of the way (especially away from one's thoughts); "brush the objections aside"; "pushed all doubts away" [syn: away]
3 not taken into account or excluded from consideration; "these problems apart, the country is doing well"; "all joking aside, I think you're crazy" [syn: apart]
4 in a different direction; "turn aside"; "turn away one's face"; "glanced away" [syn: away]
5 placed or kept separate and distinct as for a purpose; "had a feeling of being set apart"; "quality sets it apart"; "a day set aside for relaxing" [syn: apart]
6 in reserve; not for immediate use; "started setting aside money to buy a car"; "put something by for her old age"; "has a nestegg tucked away for a rainy day" [syn: by, away]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. To one side so as to be out of the way.
    Move aside, please, so that these people can come through.

Derived terms


to one side
trans-mid [[]] trans-bottom [[]]


  1. An incidental remark made quietly so as to be heard by the person to whom it is said and not by any others in the vicinity.


an incidental remark made quietly

Extensive Definition

An aside is a literary device in that an actor speaks to the audience; he/she is not heard by the other characters. It is similar to a monologue and soliloquy.


In the European dramatic tradition, the aside has a lengthy pedigree; versions of the device may be found in Greek Old Comedy. In these originary days, asides were part of a broader style of metatheatre in the Old Comedy. The most important example of this is the parabasis; asides, however, punctuate many plays, often deflating and ironizing moments of tension. The basic function of the device is to weaken the dramatic illusion and to remind the audience--if it needed reminding--of the festive and communal occasion of the drama.
Roman New Comedy continues the technique without, however, going so far in the direction of breaking the dramatic illusion. In the work of Plautus and Terence, the aside above all bears the burden of explaining motives that, in plays dominated by quick action and complicated, often hidden machinations, are often far from obvious. As important to note, the Roman model uses asides to develop character rather than break it. Although the device depends on the unrealistic convention that such asides, though vocalized, cannot be heard by other characters, they present some space for the representation of "interior" psychology. In addition, the device was a serviceable vehicle for dramatic irony; many of these asides still draw laughter in modern productions for that reason.
The rebirth of drama in Europe at the end of the medieval period saw a natural revival of the aside, derived not from emulation of classical models but rather from a recrudescence of similar theatrical conditions. The open staging of, for instance, the early Tudor interludes, and their festive occasions, were conducive to the same kind of metadramatic joking so common in Aristophanes. Early on, certain figures such as the Vice became strongly associated with the device; thus, already by the mid-1500s, the Vice as a character type appears to have been a crowd favorite, a protean and anarchic figure not bound by the rules that governed most of the other characters, and seemingly possessed of a special relationship with the audience.
As the Elizabethan drama developed, the aside changed in a manner similar to that it had undergone in the development of New Comedy; in this case, of course, the similarity is more clearly an instance of emulation, as is most clear in plays such as The Comedy of Errors that are revamped Roman stories. Strikingly, however, the syncretic Elizabethans did not confine the device to comedy. Indeed, some of the best-remembered instances of the device are from tragedies such as Hamlet and The Duchess of Malfi. In its tragic uses, the aside tends to highlight a mood of suspense or paranoia. One late play, James Shirley's The Cardinal, is conducted in asides for large stretches of the action.
Jacobean dramatists continued to employ the device, at times ironically: in Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, a hapless judge is overheard making an aside, highlighting both the crowdedness of the stage at that point and the absurdity of a dramatic convention when viewed realistically.
The slow growth of a naturalistic impulse in European drama signalled an equally slow decline in the role available to the aside. While a similar device is still on occasion found in modern plays, it has not, and seems unlikely ever to, regain the ubiquity it had in Renaissance drama.


This technique is used by many playwrights, including Shakespeare. For instance, in the play Macbeth, Macbeth has the following aside:
Asides are also used in novels. For instance, in The Scarlet Letter, Roger Chillingworth has at least one aside:


  • Bevington, David (1962). From Mankind to Marlowe. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
  • Cox, John D. and David Scott Kastan (Eds) (1997). A New History of English Drama. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Salingar, Leo (1972). Shakespeare and the Traditions of Comedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

a huis clos, all, apart, askance, askant, askew, aslant, aslope, asquint, away, awry, back, behind closed doors, beside, between the teeth, broadside, broadside on, by, crabwise, discursion, divagation, downgrade, downhill, each, edgeway, edgeways, edgewise, episode, excursion, excursus, glancingly, in a whisper, in an aside, in camera, in chambers, in executive session, in juxtaposition, in privacy, in private, in private conference, in privy, in reserve, infix, injection, insert, insertion, insinuation, intercalation, interjection, interlineation, interlocution, interpolation, introduction, januis clausis, laterad, laterally, monodrama, monologue, monology, nearby, nigh, obiter dictum, obliquely, on its side, on one side, on the beam, on the side, out of earshot, parenthesis, per, per capita, privately, privily, remark, right and left, round, side remark, sideling, sidelong, sideward, sidewards, sideway, sideways, sidewise, sidling, slant, slantingly, slantways, slantwise, slaunchways, slopeways, soliloquy, solo, sotto voce, to one side, to the side, tossing-in, wide apart, wide away, with bated breath
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