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In theatre, an aside is a device that allows a character to speak their thoughts aloud to the audience in a way that suggests none of the other characters on stage can hear them. It’s a brief remark, usually made to express the character’s inner thoughts, feelings, or additional information that can help the audience understand the plot or the character better. 

Contrast with Monologues and Soliloquies

Asides are shorter than monologues and soliloquies and are delivered within the presence of other characters on stage. Soliloquies tend to be longer and are spoken when the character is alone on stage.


    • Shorter comment
    • One character
    • No others on stage can hear what is said
    • Comments on the action of the play
    • Reveals judgments or hidden secrets


    • Longer speech
    • One character
    • Others onstage can hear what is said and respond to it
    • Generally reveals previous events
    • Explains a character’s choice of action


    • Longer speech
    • One character
    • No others on stage can hear what is said
    • Reveals the inner thoughts or motives of a character


    • Shorter or longer speeches
    • Between two characters
    • Among many characters
    • Others onstage can hear and respond

Types of Aside

Direct Aside

The character directly addresses the audience, using phrases like “you see,” “between you and me,” or simply speaking directly.

Indirect Aside

The character speaks to a seemingly empty space on stage, implying they are addressing the audience.

Character Insight

An aside gives the audience a glimpse into the character’s private thoughts and feelings that might otherwise remain hidden. It provides insight into a character’s psychology or can create dramatic tension by revealing intentions or secrets unknown to other characters. This helps to create a more rounded and complex character, adding depth to the narrative. 

Breaking the Fourth Wall

By addressing the audience directly, actors break the imaginary “fourth wall” of the stage, creating a moment of intimacy between the character and the audience. The character invites the audience into their personal world, creating a sense of involvement and complicity. This engagement can foster a stronger emotional connection between the audience and the character.

Plot Enhancement

Asides can quickly convey important background information or explain plot points. This helps clarify the storyline without lengthy dialogue or exposition that might slow the action.

Conflict and Foreshadowing

Characters might use asides to express doubts, fears, or plans, hinting at future conflicts or twists in the story. This prepares the audience for upcoming developments and adds a layer of anticipation.

Dramatic Irony

Using an aside can create dramatic irony, where the audience is privy to information other characters are not. This can build suspense or add a layer of humour to the performance, as the audience anticipates the reactions of the uninformed characters.

Comic Relief

In comedies, asides often provide humour, as characters give witty commentary about the situation at hand or other characters, which the audience can appreciate. At the same time, the rest of the cast remains oblivious.

Timing and Delivery

The effectiveness of an aside depends significantly on timing and delivery; the actor must swiftly transition between speaking to other characters and the audience without disrupting the flow of the performance.

Examples of the Aside

Example #1

Play: Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Scene: Act 1, Scene 2
Character: Hamlet

Hamlet: (Aside) A little more than kin, and less than kind.

In this line, Hamlet comments on his relationship with his uncle, King Claudius, who has recently married Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, following the death of Hamlet’s father. The audience learns of Hamlet’s disdain and mistrust towards Claudius through this brief aside, setting the stage for the unfolding drama.

Example #2

Play: Othello by William Shakespeare
Scene: Act 1, Scene 3
Character: Iago

Iago: (Aside) Thus do I ever make my fool my purse.  
For I mine own gained knowledge should profane  
If I would time expend with such a snipe  
But for my sport and profit. I hate the Moor:  
And it is thought abroad, that ‘twixt my sheets  
He has done my office: I know not if’t be true;  
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,  
Will do as if for surety. He holds me well;  
The better shall my purpose work on him.  
Cassio’s a proper man: let me see now:  
To get his place and to plume up my will  
In double knavery—How, how? Let’s see:  
After some time, to abuse Othello’s ear  
That he is too familiar with his wife.  
He hath a person and a smooth dispose  
To be suspected, framed to make women false.  
The Moor is of a free and open nature,  
That thinks men honest that but seem to be so,  
And will as tenderly be led by the nose  
As asses are.  
I have’t. It is engender’d. Hell and night  
Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.

In this aside, Iago reveals his malicious plans and true feelings towards Othello, Cassio, and other characters. The audience learns his manipulative nature and scheme to deceive and destroy Othello. This creates dramatic irony, as the audience knows Iago’s intentions while the other characters remain unaware, intensifying the tension and drama.

The aside is a versatile dramatic tool utilised across various genres and periods to engage the audience, create multi-dimensional characters, and enhance storytelling. It’s inherent to the live experience of theatre, which is why it’s not commonly found in other storytelling mediums like novels or films, though similar techniques can be employed, such as voice-over narration. In traditional theatre, asides are essential to the actor’s toolkit to guide the audience through the narrative.