The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018
Freytag’s Pyramid: German writer Gustav Freytag’s conception of the structure of a typical five-act play, introduced in Die Technik des Dramas (Technique of the Drama) (1863). According to Freytag’s analysis, such plays are divisible into five parts: the introduction (containing an “inciting moment” or “force”), rising action, climax, falling action, and catastrophe. These parts loosely correspond with the five acts of the drama, although rising action can occur during the first act and falling action usually includes the catastrophe or “closing action,” which typically takes place in the fifth and last act. Freytag referred to the five acts — as opposed to the five parts — of a drama as “the act of introduction,” “the act of the ascent” (in which the play’s action intensifies as conflicts develop), “the act of the climax” (containing the play’s most important scene, the one in which the rising action culminates), “the act of the return” (in which new characters are introduced and “fate wins control over the hero”), and “the act of the catastrophe.”
Although Freytag confined his analysis to five-act plays (tragedies in particular, and especially William Shakespeare’s), Freytag’s Pyramid has been applied to other dramatic forms and even to fiction, including prose. In these applications, the term resolution is used instead of catastrophe.