Developed by Kenneth Burke, and sometimes called the Pentad because of its five key terms, Dramatism offers a simple yet effective way to generate ideas. It resembles the Journalist's Questions and, like them, can be applied to many topics.

The Five Key Terms of Dramatism

Act: What is happening?
Agent: Who is doing it?
Agency: What method is being used?
Purpose: What is the goal, intent, objective?
Scene: Where and when is it happening?

These questions themselves are useful, but the true power of the Pentad comes when the key terms are combined to construct what Burke calls "ratios." These ratios yield a second layer of questions, often more interest­ing and penetrating than the first.

These ratios yield a second layer of questions, often more interesting and penetrating than the first.

  Act Agent Agency Purpose Scene
Act       X  
Agent       X  
Agency       X  
Scene       X  

The ratios of the Pentad can be used to create a master/subquestion pattern:

Purpose: What was the purpose of Reconstruction?
Act/Purpose: How did the Acts of Reconstruction relate to this purpose?
Agent/Purpose: Who determined that this was necessary?
Agency/Purpose: Was this an effective means of accomplishing the purpose?
Scene/Purpose: Why was this goal considered important for the South at that time?


1.11    Use the ratios of the Pentad to construct some master/subquestion com­binations on a subject you're interested in writing about.

Agency: ______________?
Agency/Purpose: ______________?
Agency/Act: ______________?
Agency/Scene: ______________?
Agency/Agent: ______________?

Try one from scratch:

_____: ______________?
_____ /_____ ______________?
_____ /_____ ______________?
_____ /_____ ______________?
_____ /_____ ______________?

Remember, when using the Pentad or any other discovery aid, that the purpose is to help you open up and explore a subject. You want to find new insights and ideas. Don't let the mechanics of the system bog you down. Use the methods as springboards for your imagination.