Deus ex machina (Latin: [ˈdeʊs ɛks ˈmaː.kʰɪ.naː]: /ˈdeɪ.əs ɛks ˈmɑːkiːnə/ or /ˈdiːəs ɛks ˈmækɪnə/; plural: dei ex machina; English ‘god from the machine’) is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and seemingly unlikely occurrence, typically so much as to seem contrived. Its function can be to resolve an otherwise irresolvable plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or act as a comedic device.
The term was coined from the conventions of Greek tragedy, where a machine is used to bring actors playing gods onto the stage. The machine could be either a crane (mechane) used to lower actors from above or a riser that brought actors up through a trapdoor. Preparation to pick up the actors was done behind the skene. The idea was introduced by Aeschylus and was used often to resolve the conflict and conclude the drama. Although the device is associated mostly with Greek tragedy, it also appeared in comedies.
Aeschylus used the device in his Eumenides, but with Euripides, it became an established stage machine. More than half of Euripides' extant tragedies employ a deus ex machina in their resolution, and some critics claim that Euripides, not Aeschylus, invented it. A frequently cited example is Euripides' Medea, in which the deus ex machina, a dragon-drawn chariot sent by the sun god, is used to convey his granddaughter Medea, who has just committed murder and infanticide, away from her husband Jason to the safety and civilization of Athens. In Alcestis, the eponymous heroine agrees to give up her own life to spare the life of her husband, Admetus. At the end, Heracles shows up and seizes Alcestis from Death, restoring her to life and to Admetus.
The effect of the device on Greek audiences was a direct and immediate emotional response. Audiences would have a feeling of wonder and astonishment at the appearance of the gods, which would often add to the moral effect of the drama.
Shakespeare used the device in As You Like It, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Cymbeline, and The Winter's Tale. It was also used in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, where the author uses a character to break the action and rewrite the ending as a reprieve of the hanging of MacHeath. In both Shakespeare and Gay's plays, the deus ex machina happens with breaking the dramatic illusion often in the form of an episodic narrator exposing the play itself and laying bare the author. This is different from the use of the deus ex machina in the ancient examples with the ending coming from a participant in the action in the form of a god. It is natural for the gods to be considered participants and not outside sources because of their privileged position and power. These attributes allow the Greek gods to believably wrap up and solve the series of events.
During the politically turbulent 17th and 18th centuries, the deus ex machina was sometimes used to make a controversial thesis more palatable to the powers of the day. For example, in the final scene of Molière's Tartuffe, the heroes are saved from a terrible fate by an agent of the compassionate, all-seeing king — the same king who held Molière's career and livelihood in his hands.
Aristotle was the first to use a Greek term equivalent to the Latin phrase deus ex machina as a term to describe the technique as a device to resolve the plot of tragedies. It is generally deemed undesirable in writing and often implies a lack of creativity on the part of the author. The reasons for this are that it does not pay due regard to the story's internal logic (although it is sometimes deliberately used to do this) and is often so unlikely that it challenges suspension of disbelief, allowing the author to conclude the story with an unlikely, though perhaps more palatable, ending.
In the novel Lord of the Flies, the rescue of the savage children by a passing navy officer (which author William Golding called a "gimmick") is viewed by some critics as a deus ex machina. The abrupt ending conveys the terrible fate that would have afflicted the children (in particular Ralph) if the officer had not arrived at that moment.
J. R. R. Tolkien referred to the Great Eagles that appear in several places in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as "a dangerous 'machine'". This was in a letter refusing permission to a film adapter to have the Fellowship of the Ring transported by eagles rather than traveling on foot. He felt that the eagles had already been overused as a plot device. For example, in The Hobbit, the eagles save Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and the dwarves from the goblins and wargs, then help turn the tide of the Battle of the Five Armies, and in The Return of the King, they save Frodo and Sam from certain death on Mount Doom. In the Harvard Lampoon's parody Bored of the Rings, the eagles are referred to as "Deus ex Machina Airlines".
Deus ex machina was also used by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist, when in the very peak of climax, Rose Maylie turns out to be the long-lost sister of Agnes, and therefore Oliver's aunt; she marries her long-time sweetheart Harry, allowing Oliver to live happily with his saviour, Mr. Brownlow.
The deus ex machina device has many criticisms attached to it, mainly referring to it as inartistic, too convenient, and overly simplistic. However, champions of the device say that it opens up ideological and artistic possibilities.
when they don't know what to say
and have completely given up on the play
just like a finger they lift the machine
and the spectators are satisfied.— Antiphanes
In the characters, too, exactly as in the structure of the incidents, [the poet] ought always to seek what is either necessary or probable, so that it is either necessary or probable that a person of such-and-such a sort say or do things of the same sort, and it is either necessary or probable that this [incident] happen after that one. It is obvious that the solutions of plots, too, should come about as a result of the plot itself, and not from a contrivance, as in the Medea and in the passage about sailing home in the Iliad. A contrivance must be used for matters outside the drama — either previous events, which are beyond human knowledge, or later ones that need to be foretold or announced. For we grant that the gods can see everything. There should be nothing improbable in the incidents; otherwise, it should be outside the tragedy, e.g., that in Sophocles' Oedipus.— Poetics, (1454a33–1454b9)
Aristotle praised Euripides, however, for generally ending his plays with bad fortune, which he viewed as correct in tragedy, and somewhat excused the intervention of a deity by suggesting that "astonishment" should be sought in tragic drama:
Irrationalities should be referred to what people say: That is one solution, and also sometimes that it is not irrational, since it is probable that improbable things will happen.
Such a device was referred to by Horace in his Ars Poetica (lines 191–2), where he instructs poets that they should never resort to a "god from the machine" to resolve their plots "unless a difficulty worthy of a god's unraveling should happen" [nec deus intersit, nisi dignus uindice nodus inciderit; nec quarta loqui persona laboret].
Following Aristotle, Renaissance critics continued to view the deus ex machina as an inept plot device, although it continued to be employed by Renaissance dramatists.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche criticized Euripides for making tragedy an optimistic genre by use of the device, and was highly skeptical of the "Greek cheerfulness", prompting what he viewed as the plays' "blissful delight in life". The deus ex machina as Nietzsche saw it was symptomatic of Socratic culture, which valued knowledge over Dionysiac music and ultimately caused the death of tragedy:
But the new non-Dionysiac spirit is most clearly apparent in the endings of the new dramas. At the end of the old tragedies there was a sense of metaphysical conciliation without which it is impossible to imagine our taking delight in tragedy; perhaps the conciliatory tones from another world echo most purely in Oedipus at Colonus. Now, once tragedy had lost the genius of music, tragedy in the strictest sense was dead: for where was that metaphysical consolation now to be found? Hence an earthly resolution for tragic dissonance was sought; the hero, having been adequately tormented by fate, won his well-earned reward in a stately marriage and tokens of divine honour. The hero had become a gladiator, granted freedom once he had been satisfactorily flayed and scarred. Metaphysical consolation had been ousted by the deus ex machina.— Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche argued that the deus ex machina creates a false sense of consolation that ought not to be sought in phenomena. His denigration of the plot device has prevailed in critical opinion.
In Arthur Woollgar Verrall's publication Euripides the Rationalist (1895), he surveyed and recorded other late 19th-century responses to the device. He recorded that some of the critical responses to the term referred to it as 'burlesque', 'coup de théâtre', and 'catastrophe'. Verrall notes that critics have a dismissive response to authors who deploy the device in their writings. He comes to the conclusion that critics feel that the deus ex machina is evidence of the author's attempt to ruin the whole of his work and prevent anyone from putting any importance on his work.
However, other scholars have looked at Euripides' use of deus ex machina and described its use as an integral part of the plot designed for a specific purpose. Often, Euripides' plays would begin with gods, so it is argued that it would be natural for the gods to finish the action. The conflict throughout Euripides' plays would be caused by the meddling of the gods, so would make sense to both the playwright and the audience of the time that the gods would resolve all conflict that they began. Half of Euripides' eighteen extant plays end with the use of deus ex machina, therefore it was not simply a device to relieve the playwright of the embarrassment of a confusing plot ending. This device enabled him to bring about a natural and more dignified dramatic and tragic ending.
Other champions of the device believe that it can be a spectacular agent of subversion. It can be used to undercut generic conventions and challenge cultural assumptions and the privileged role of tragedy as a literary/theatrical model.
Some 20th-century revisionist criticism suggests that deus ex machina cannot be viewed in these simplified terms, and contends that the device allows mortals to "probe" their relationship with the divine. Rush Rehm in particular cites examples of Greek tragedy in which the deus ex machina complicates the lives and attitudes of characters confronted by the deity, while simultaneously bringing the drama home to its audience. Sometimes, the unlikeliness of the deus ex machina plot device is employed deliberately. For example, comic effect is created in a scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian when Brian, who lives in Judea at the time of Christ, is saved from a high fall by a passing alien space ship.
For the Draco Rosa album of the same title see Amor Vincit Omnia (Draco Rosa album)
Amor Vincit Omnia is the second full-length album by British progressive rock band Pure Reason Revolution.
The title of the album is Latin for Love Conquers All, alluding to Vergil's famous line from Eclogue 10.69. It is also a reference to the painting Amor Vincit Omnia by the Italian baroque painter Caravaggio, completed circa 1601. The track title Victorious Cupid is also an alternate name of the same painting. Lead singer and song writer Jon Courtney, however, claims that the album title was derived from his school motto, veritas vincit omnia (truth conquers all),.The album introduces a more electronic sound than the first album. The band makes heavy use of synths, most noticeably on "Les Malheurs" and "Deus ex Machina". The album cover and artwork have been designed by band member Chloe Alper.
The lyric, "Did you feel loved? Did you ever burn Avalon?" is repeated on several tracks on the album including "Deus Ex Machina", "Disconnect" and "AVO".Automata UK
Automata UK was a software house which developed and published ZX Spectrum video games between 1982 and 1985. Significant releases included Pimania (1982), My Name Is Uncle Groucho, You Win A Fat Cigar (1983) and Deus Ex Machina (1984).Deus Ex Machina (Liv Kristine album)
Deus Ex Machina is the first full-length album from former Leaves' Eyes frontwoman Liv Kristine. Unlike her follow-up, "Enter My Religion", she only co-wrote two songs: the title track and "In the Heart of Juliet". The song "3 am" is a duet between Liv Kristine and Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost.
It was re-issued in 2007 on Candlelight Records, with the catalog number 338.Deus Ex Machina (Lost)
"Deus Ex Machina" is the 19th episode of the first season of Lost. The episode was directed by Robert Mandel and written by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. It first aired on March 30, 2005, on ABC. The character of John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) is featured in the episode's flashbacks.Deus Ex Machina (Paul Schütze album)
Deus Ex Machina is the debut album of composer Paul Schütze, released in 1989 through Extreme Records.Deus Ex Machina (heavy metal band)
Deus Ex Machina is a Singaporean death metal/thrash metal band, and is one of the few extreme metal acts from Southeast Asia that has gained a following in Europe and the United States. They represent a rarity in the Southeast Asian Metal scenes in favouring a more melodic musical approach and concept-based poetic lyrics in contrast to the more aggressive and brutal stylings of the region. They are also a highly internationalized band, with a background of having band members from different parts of the world.Deus Ex Machina (punk band)
Deus Ex Machina is a popular Greek hardcore punk band from Athens formed in 1989 by Dimitris Spyropoulos and Dimitris Manthos, with Spyropoulos and Yiannis Venardis (the group's drummer) having already been early Greek Punk scene's 'veterans' (they were members of Adiexodo).
The band's lyrics are often political having references to subjects such as the War on Iraq and the Mexican Zapatista Army of National Liberation movement.Deus Ex Machina (video game)
Deus Ex Machina is a video game designed and created by Mel Croucher and published by Automata UK for the ZX Spectrum in October 1984 and later converted to other popular 8-bit formats.
The game was the first to be accompanied by a fully synchronised soundtrack which featured narration, celebrity artists and music. The cast included Ian Dury, Jon Pertwee, Donna Bailey, Frankie Howerd, E.P. Thompson, and Croucher (who also composed the music). Andrew Stagg coded the original Spectrum version, and Colin Jones (later known as author/publisher Colin Bradshaw-Jones) was the programmer of the Commodore 64 version.
The game charts the life of a "defect" which has formed in "the machine", from conception, through growth, evolution and eventually death. The progression is loosely based on "The Seven Ages of Man" from the Shakespeare play, As You Like It and includes many quotations and parodies of this.Deus ex Machina (Daugherty)
Deus ex Machina is a piano concerto by the American composer Michael Daugherty. The 33-minute work was jointly commissioned by the Charlotte, Nashville, New Jersey, Rochester and Syracuse Symphony Orchestras. It won the 2011 Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition for a recording by soloist Terrance Wilson and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Giancarlo Guerrero.
Deus ex Machina was recorded and released on Naxos along with a work from earlier in Michael Daugherty's career, the Metropolis Symphony. The album was nominated for a total of 5 Grammys. In addition to Best Classical Contemporary Composition, it won in the categories of Best Orchestral Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical.Deus ex Machina (band)
Deus Ex Machina (band) is an Italian progressive rock group. Members include Claudio Trotta (drums), Alessandro Porreca (bass) Maurino Collina (guitar), Alessandro Bonetti (violin) Luigi Ricciardiello (keyboards) and Alberto Piras (vocals).Eucatastrophe
A eucatastrophe is a sudden turn of events at the end of a story which ensures that the protagonist does not meet some terrible, impending, and very plausible and probable doom. The writer J. R. R. Tolkien coined the word by affixing the Greek prefix eu, meaning good, to catastrophe, the word traditionally used in classically inspired literary criticism to refer to the "unraveling" or conclusion of a drama's plot. For Tolkien, the term appears to have had a thematic meaning that went beyond its literal etymological meaning in terms of form. In his definition as outlined in his 1947 essay "On Fairy-Stories", eucatastrophe is a fundamental part of his conception of mythopoeia. Though Tolkien's interest is in myth, it is also connected to the gospel; Tolkien calls the Incarnation of Christ the eucatastrophe of "human history" and the Resurrection the eucatastrophe of the Incarnation.Eucatastrophe has been labelled as a form of deus ex machina, due to both sharing an impossible problem being suddenly resolved. However, differences between the two have also been noted, such as its inherent connection to an optimistic view on the unfolding of events in the narrative of the world. In his view, eucatastrophe can also occur without the use of a deus ex machina.Greek Fire (band)
Greek Fire is an American rock band from St. Louis, Missouri. The band was formed in 2008 by members of Story of the Year and Maybe Today. Since formation, Greek Fire has released a self-titled EP, a single titled "Doesn't Matter Anyway", on August 16, 2011, they released their debut, full-length album, Deus Ex Machina, and have recently announced a new addition to the Lost/Found EPs titled Broken set to be released before Found.Greek punk
The Greek punk (Greek: Ελληνική πάνκ, pronounced [eliniˈki ˈpank]) scene was small but powerful in the Greek capital, Athens, in the 1980s. Bands such as Adiexodo (Dead end), Genia Tou Chaous (Chaos generation), Stress, Panx Romana, Ex-humans, Anti (Contra) functioned as a bunch of related bands, who gave concerts together, in the same locations. Like elsewhere, punk attitude has been loosely used by various individuals, but most of the times the key element was the youthful anger, the provocative anti-establishment attitude.
A lot of newer crust, hardcore, punk bands such as Ksehasmeni Profitia (Gr:ξεχασμένη προφητεία) (Forgotten prophecy), Naftia (Nausea), Deus Ex Machina and others of the 1990s followed DIY ethics, gradually forming a small but powerful network in most big Greek cities. This network has sometimes been linked with local anarchist-related groups, squats, cultural/social/left-wing centers. Most of the concerts of punk bands in Greece have no, or minimal, entrance fee and many of them are arranged according to DIY ethics.
Contemporary punk bands have seldom managed to form a solid scene outside that DIY / anarchopunk movement, but sometimes a band might attract an enthusiastic core of dedicated fans, such as in the Oi! or streetpunk subgenres. Few attempts have been made to document information about Greek punk; one of those being a limited edition brochure of Anarchist Library (Anarhiki Vivliothiki). Some Greek webzines have also documented Greek punk history.I, Human
I, Human is the second full-length album by Singaporean death metal band, Deus Ex Machina, and the first to feature a permanent vocalist, giving it more uniformity in contrast to The War Inside, which had a different singer for each track. Musically, it is an edgy mixture of Death Metal and Thrash Metal with Melodic death metal and Progressive Metal interjections, coupled with a diversified vocal approach. The lyrical content of the album deals with the future: Cloning. Specifically, questions regarding its use, legality, implications and the possibility of a world full of clones fighting to gain their own identity. The concept is based on Isaac Asimov's novel I,Robot, but also is influenced by other science fiction works such as Blade Runner, The 6th Day, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Warhammer 40,000. Each songs discusses the ethical issues pertaining to cloning, shifting from first person to second person to third person perspective. The band further divulges the mind frame of an unnamed clone character as it gradually realizes it is a clone, upon awaking from what it thought was a dream. In its desire to strive for acceptance as an equal, the band delves into its thoughts, fears and plans and invokes these emotions and transforms them into an aural assault with thought-provoking lyrics.Mechane
A mechane (; Greek: μηχανή, mēkhanḗ) or machine was a crane used in Greek theatre, especially in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Made of wooden beams and pulley systems, the device was used to lift an actor into the air, usually representing flight. This stage machine was particularly used to bring gods onto the stage from above, hence the Latin term deus ex machina ("god from the machine"). Euripides' use of the mechane in Medea (431 BC) is a notable use of the machine for a non-divine character. It was also often used by Aeschylus. It was used to allow actors playing gods to fly through the air.Mel Croucher
Mel Croucher is a British entrepreneur and video games pioneer. Originally an architect, he moved into computers and in 1977 launched one of the very earliest games companies, Automata UK, as an extension of his travel guide publishing business. He is now credited for setting up "the first games company in the U.K.", celebrated as "the father of the British videogames industry" and presented as "a pioneer in affective computing". His first broadcasts of computer game software were made over AM and FM radio. After the release of the Sinclair ZX81, his label published several games for the early home computer market, including three Computer Trade Association award-winners: Pimania (1982), Groucho (1983, a.k.a. My Name Is Uncle Groucho, You Win A Fat Cigar), and the groundbreaking "multi-media" title Deus Ex Machina (1984).Plot device
A plot device, or plot mechanism, is any technique in a narrative used to move the plot forward. A contrived or arbitrary plot device may annoy or confuse the reader, causing a loss of the suspension of disbelief. However a well-crafted plot device, or one that emerges naturally from the setting or characters of the story, may be entirely accepted, or may even be unnoticed by the audience.Plot twist
A plot twist is a literary technique that introduces a radical change in the direction or expected outcome of the plot in a work of fiction. When it happens near the end of a story, it is known as a twist or surprise ending. It may change the audience's perception of the preceding events, or introduce a new conflict that places it in a different context. A plot twist may be foreshadowed, to prepare the audience to accept it. There are a variety of methods used to execute a plot twist, such as withholding information from the audience or misleading them with ambiguous or false information.
Revealing a plot twist to readers or viewers in advance is commonly regarded as a "spoiler", since the effectiveness of a plot twist usually relies on the audience not expecting it. Even revealing the fact that a work contains plot twists – especially at the ending – can also be controversial, as it changes the audience's expectations. However, at least one study suggests that this does not affect the enjoyment of a work.