Forms of narrative such as drama allow for the transmission of information to large audiences. The drama therefore has to contain structural elements that are easily accessible to the viewer. The structures of 10 plays by William Shakespeare were studied and shown to exhibit small world properties, in that any node (character) in a network is connected to any other node by only a few intermediate steps. It is suggested that the number of characters that are present within each scene reflect similar numbers to those of observed human support cliques. This might reflect possible cognitive limits, as when there is an increase in the number of characters within a play rather than add new characters to a scene Shakespeare has instead created new scenes, thus maintaining the scene clique size. These scene cliques are connected by a series of weak links (keystone characters) that maintain the flow of information within a growing network of characters. It is suggested that this might provide a useful basis for further research into the structure, purpose and development of drama.



Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology

Organisational Unit

School of Psychology