In Sociology, dramaturgy is a theory which interprets individual behaviour as the
dramatic projection of a chosen self. Dramaturgy is a sociological perspective stemming
from symbolic interactionism.
As used by Erving Goffman (1922-1982) and symbolic interactionists since,
dramaturgical model is a metaphor for understanding human interaction and how humans
present their self in society.
In dramaturgical model, all the world is conceived as a stage and individuals are
seen as actors who present a show of their self by putting their best foot forward.
The dramaturgical model metaphor is extended by Erving Goffman through concepts
such as front stage, back stage, presentation of self.
Erving Goffman in his dramaturgical model of social relations, sees social life
literally in terms of actors acting, that is, all of us are like actors on a stage,
presenting a play. Goffman sees social interaction as involving 'impression management'. A
social actor wants to feel that he or she is performing the role that he or she is playing
In a dramaturgical model, social interaction is analyzed as part of a theatrical
performance. People are actors who must convey their personal characteristics and their
intentions to others through performances.
Dramaturgy emphasizes expressiveness as the main component of interactions. It is
termed a "fully two-sided view of human interaction".
Dramaturgical perspective is one of several sociological paradigms separated from
other sociological theories because it does not examine the cause of human behavior but
The Dramaturgical Model of Behavior: Its Strengths and Weaknesses
Bruce Wilshire, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Symbolic Interaction, Fall
1982, Vol. 5, No. 2
Abstract: By means of the dramaturgical model we freshly illuminate social behavior as
role-like performances in which persons manage the impressions that others get
of them. This impression management involves the concealment of data in a
dramatic struggle with those others who wish to penetrate one's
mask. But the chief limitations of the dramaturgical model are that it excites
the invalid inferences that offstage roles are more like stage actors' roles
than they really are, and that the person is nothing but these roles. The
differences between onstage and offstage behavior are kept in view when the metaphorical
concept of role playing is re-connected to its
source in role playing onstage. Through an analysis of theatre and the concepts of
appearance and time we conclude that while we must appear to others in a
role-like way offstage in order to be ourselves, we are nevertheless involved
in world-time offstage in a way that fundamentally distinguishes our
role-playing from an actor's role playing. We are our roles, but
not just our roles.
The Psycho-Social Bases of Scatological Humor: The Unmasking of the Self
- William G. Plank
Abstract: Using Erving Goffman's model of dramaturgical sociology (The Presentation of
Self in Everyday Life, Garden City: 1959), we can see that scatological humor removes the
props by which the self attempts to create and control its image: clothing, privacy,
secrecy, composition of the face, and self-control. There is a general debasement of the
human individual and at the same time an exaltation of the basic organic existence of the
self. This situation, whether in jokes or literature, can be precisely expressed in
Sartrean (and generally in an existential vocabulary): Scatological humor, unexpected
flatulence, public excretion and other such acts are the proof of the independent behavior
of the en-soi, which reveals the ultimate facticity (the rootedness of the pour-soi in the
en-soi) of the pour-soi and destroys the latter's claims to be the origin of itself, of
its freedom, and threaten the very existence of the pour-soi. This reduction of the self
to flesh is Sartre's definition of sadism. We are then encouraged to develop the following
hypothesis: Scatological humor is more evident in a society where strong individualism is
a cultural value: conversely, scatological humor would be less obvious in a society where
the individual was of lesser importance, where his identity was created by fixed social
roles or by strong tribal definitions.