The term was first used in ancient Greek and Roman drama , where it meant the timely appearance of a god to unravel and resolve the plot. Since ancient times, the phrase has also been applied to an unexpected saviour or to an improbable event that brings order out of chaos e. Deus ex machina. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree See Article History. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. The lavish use of flying machines is attested by the poet Antiphanes, who wrote that tragic playwrights lifted up a machine as readily as they lifted a finger when they had nothing else to say.
Definition of Deus Ex Machina
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To save this word, you'll need to log in. The New Latin term deus ex machina is a translation of a Greek phrase and means literally "a god from a machine. The practice of introducing a god at the end of a play to unravel and resolve the plot dates from at least the 5th century B. Since the late s, "deus ex machina" has been applied in English to unlikely saviors and improbable events that bring order out of chaos in sudden and surprising ways. Examples of deus ex machina in a Sentence Recent Examples on the Web But the biopic, which changes the race and backstory of Peg Entwistle, an actor who leapt to her death off the Hollywood sign, gets saved from censorship by a deus ex machina. Send us feedback. Accessed 15 Aug.
Top definition. Deus Ex Machina. Dates from ancient Greek times, where " deus ex machina " "god from the machine" in a play referred to the act of lowering a god on stage using a cable device therefore, a god from a machine to decide in a dilemma and give fate a nudge, so to say. These days, deus ex machina has the negative connotation of an utterly improbable, illogical or baseless plot twist that drastically alters the situation, as if the "deus ex machina" came down to give fate that little push.
The machine could be either a crane mechane used to lower actors from above or a riser which brought them up through a trapdoor. Aeschylus introduced the idea, and it was used often to resolve the conflict and conclude the drama. The device is associated mostly with Greek tragedy, although it also appeared in comedies. Aeschylus used the device in his Eumenides , but it became an established stage machine with Euripides. More than half of Euripides' extant tragedies employ a deus ex machina in their resolution, and some critics claim that Euripides invented it, not Aeschylus.