RunSensible’s Legal Dictionary

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Legal Dictionary

Deus ex machina

Deus ex machina is a Latin phrase that means “god from the machine” in English. It refers to a literary or dramatic device in which a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly resolved by the intervention of a new event, character, ability, or object. This intervention often appears to be contrived or unexpected and is used to bring about a conclusion to a story.

The term has its roots in ancient Greek theater, where actors portraying gods were sometimes lowered onto the stage using a machine (mechane) to resolve a complicated or impossible situation in the plot. Over time, “deus ex machina” has become a term used to describe any overly convenient or forced resolution in a story.

While it can be an effective storytelling tool when used judiciously, relying too heavily on deus ex machina can lead to a lack of narrative tension and may leave audiences feeling dissatisfied with the resolution of a story. Writers often strive to create resolutions that are consistent with the established rules and elements of their fictional worlds, avoiding the need for overly convenient interventions.

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