Framing devices

Robyn Starkey rohina at
Thu Apr 3 22:31:56 EST 2003

>What do you call stories-within-stories? Like _Pyramus and Thisbe_ in _A
>Midsummer Night's Dream_ (although I'm not sure they *really* tell the
>story during the play; the great Bernard Miles children's version I have
>does, because, well, it's a children's book).

This is a different case, because the story within the story is so short 
and relatively unimportant to the overall story. A frame usually takes up 
much less narrative than the story it surrounds. However, the frame may 
carry a lot of the meaning of the entire story, or explain the internal 
story in some way.  There are some fruit and vegetable metaphors for how 
this works - a frame narrative may be a grain of wheat, where the kernel or 
internal story has all the value, or an apricot, where the frame or outside 
is actually the nourishing part, or it may be an onion (everything is 
layers or equal importance).

>Does _A Thousand and One
>Nights_ (or whatever it's called) count as having a frame?

Yes, this is an archetypical frame narrative - lots of stories joined 
together with a framing story that explains why we are hearing the whole 
group. Other examples of this type include the Canterbury Tales, and 
Boccaccio's Decameron. These both have more than one narrator.

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