The dramatistic pentad forms the core structure of dramatism, a method for examining motivations that the renowned literary critic Kenneth Burke developed. Dramatism recommends the use of a metalinguistic approach to stories about human action that investigates the roles and uses of five rhetorical elements common to all narratives, each of which is related to a question.

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  • The dramatistic pentad forms the core structure of dramatism, a method for examining motivations that the renowned literary critic Kenneth Burke developed. Dramatism recommends the use of a metalinguistic approach to stories about human action that investigates the roles and uses of five rhetorical elements common to all narratives, each of which is related to a question. These five rhetorical elements form the "dramatistic pentad." Burke argues that an evaluation of the relative emphasis that is given to each of the five elements by a human drama enables a determination of the motive for the behaviour of its characters. A character's stress on one element over the others suggests their world view.Burke introduced the pentad in his 1945 book "A Grammar of Motives". Burke based his pentad on the scholastic hexameter which defines "questions to be answered in the treatment of a topic: Who, what, where, by what means, why, how, when". Burke created the pentad by combining several of the categories in the scholastic hexameter. The result was a pentad that has the five categories of: act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose. Burke states, "The 'who' is obviously covered by agent. Scene covers the 'where' and the 'when'. The 'why' is purpose. 'How' and 'by what means' fall under agency. All that is left to take care of is act in our terms and 'what' in the scholastic formula".The pentad also closely follows the journalistic 'Five Ws': who, what, when, where, why. 'Who' maps to agent. 'What' maps to action. 'When' and 'Where' map to scene. 'Why' maps to purpose. There is no direct mapping from the Five Ws to the pentads category of agency but Geoff Hart states "Some authorities add a sixth question, “how”, to this list, but “how to” information generally fits under what, where, or when, depending on the nature of the information."
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  • The dramatistic pentad forms the core structure of dramatism, a method for examining motivations that the renowned literary critic Kenneth Burke developed. Dramatism recommends the use of a metalinguistic approach to stories about human action that investigates the roles and uses of five rhetorical elements common to all narratives, each of which is related to a question.
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  • Dramatistic pentad
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