Definition of deus ex machina
- … the shipwreck, far from being a tragic peripety, is the deus ex machina which makes it possible for Defoe to present solitary labour … as a solution to the perplexities of economic and social reality.
- —Ian Watt
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The New Latin term deus ex machina is a translation of a Greek phrase and means literally "a god from a machine." "Machine," in this case, refers to the crane that held a god over the stage in ancient Greek and Roman drama. 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.C.; Euripides (circa 484-406 B.C.) was one playwright who made frequent use of the device. Since the late 1600s, "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.
First Known Use: 1697See Words from the same year
: a character or thing that suddenly enters the story in a novel, play, movie, etc., and solves a problem that had previously seemed impossible to solve
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about deus ex machina
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