The Well-Made Play
Henrik Ibsen took the basic functions of the well-made play (the traits of which are listed below) and blended it with richly realized characters.
1. Plot contains secrets known to audience, but withheld from certain
characters. The secret is revealed and this is the climax. Here
the antagonist is revealed. The protagonist has dignity restored,
and receives his reward.
2. There is careful attention paid to exposition, usually the entire first
act at minimum. After this the remainder of the plot uses
contrived entrances (a woman walking in on her son with the
maid), exits, and props (such as letters) to increase suspense.
3. There are expected and logical reversals. The hero has a series of
successes and failures with the antagonist.
4. There are discovery scenes where the antagonist learn facts which
can hurt the protagonist in some way. The protagonist does not
learn until later that the antagonist possesses such knowledge.
5. There is a misunderstanding that is known to the audience, but not
to the characters. This increases suspense.
6. The denouement is believable and logical.
7. Each individual act repeats the general action pattern of the entire play.