the fourth wall



  • A convention of acting in which the actors take no cognizanceof the audience; the 'fourth wall' is an imaginary barrier sealingoff the proscenium. The convention was advocated by the French playwrightand critic Denis Diderot (1713 - 84), who argued that it wouldcreate a more natural interaction amongst performers and thus creategreater realism. Diderot's On Dramatic Poetry noted in 1758:
    Imagine a wall across the front of the stage, dividing youfrom the audience, and act precisely as if the curtain had not risen.
    The idea was enthusiastically adapted by André Antoine(1858 - 1943) for his naturalistic plays at the ThéâtreLibre. Actors were instructed to behave as if an audience didnot exist, and Antoine would even construct his sets with four wallsbefore deciding which one should be removed.