Welcome to the Theatre Dictionary’s conversation about the term deus ex machina.

On deus ex machina’s official page, we explain that the Latin term translates as “god from the machine,” which has evolved to mean “not just a god saving the day, but any contrived ending that introduces a new element to solve the story’s central problem.” But now we want to know what the term deus ex machina means to you. You can use the comments section to tell us.

— Which shows have you seen that employed a deus ex machina and ended a little too abruptly and conveniently?

— Can you think of any shows where a deus ex machina was used in a funny or satirical way?

If you’d like to make a video of your own about the term deus ex machina, then we’d love to hear from you! Just email us through our contact page. Tell us about yourself and why you want to make a video. We’ll be in touch ASAP and give you details on how to add your video to the Theatre Dictionary!


Mark Blankenship, Theatre Dictionary editor

  • Wes Falcon

    why do they call the stage “deus” i can’t find an answer for this i know what Deus Ex Machina means which is why it confuses me can anyone answer this -thanks

  • TheatreDevelopmentFund

    Hi Wes — Hopefully this will help. These are the first two paragraphs from the essay about Deus Ex Machina’s on its official page in the Dictionary. (http://dictionary.tdf.org/deus-ex-machina/)

    ” If you’ve ever felt this about a play or movie, you may have just encountered a deus ex machina, from the Latin meaning “god from the machine.” In ancient Greece, tragic playwrights who had created gnarly dramatic situations
    occasionally wrote abrupt endings in which an actor playing a god or
    hero would be delivered to the stage by a crane to resolve a seemingly
    insoluble crisis.

    The dramatist Euripides (480-406 B.C.E.) was notorious for using this plot device. At the end of his play Medea, for example, the murderous heroine escapes her husband’s wrath by flying off stage in a chariot pulled by dragons. Euripides’ use of the deus ex machina was so well-known that his rival, the satirist Aristophanes, wrote a parody in which Euripides himself descends from a
    crane in a silly, ill-fated attempt to save his friend Mnesilochus from a
    blood-thirsty horde of women.”