The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018


Aside: A convention in drama whereby a character onstage addresses the audience to reveal some inner thought or feeling that is presumed inaudible to any other characters in earshot. It is as if a character delivering an aside has momentarily stepped outside of the world of the play and into the world of the audience in order to provide illuminating information.

EXAMPLES: In William Shakespeare’s As You Like It (c. 1600), Touchstone, who is about to be married to “a country wench,” informs the audience that:

I am not in the mind but I were better to be married by [bumbling vicar Sir Oliver Martext] than by another, for he is not like to marry me well, and not being well married, it will be a good excuse for me hereafter to leave my wife.

In the Netflix political drama House of Cards (2013— ), protagonist Frank Underwood periodically addresses the viewer via asides, as in the first episode, when, after seeing a dog hit by a car, he says, “There are two kinds of pain. The sort of pain that makes you strong, or useless pain, the sort of pain that’s only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.” Crouching down, he strangles the dog to put it out of its misery, all the while telling the viewer “Moments like this require someone who will act, who will do the unpleasant thing, the necessary thing… . There, no more pain.”