A character has just received a letter informing him of some important plot point. But the audience needs to be informed too, and they can't just read over his shoulder. So the letter gets read out loud by the messenger who brought it or someone else already on the scene. There may be a Hand Wave
as to why the addressee can't just read the letter himself.
This is mostly a theatrical trope. Visual media usually avert it by showing a close-up of the letter, unless they trust the audience to hear lines better than read text.
See Sounding It Out
for when a character reads his own letter out loud. Compare Repeating so the Audience Can Hear
, Voiceover Letter
- In The Four Musketeers, D'Artagnan receives a case of wine along with a note. He asks a man to read the note to him because he's illiterate, thus allowing the audience to know what's in the note.
- In the first Problem Child movie, the Bow Tie Killer gets a letter from "JR", and asks a prisoner to read it to him. They don't give a reason for it, though.
- Because the Sherlock Holmes stories are written in First-Person Perspective, Holmes always hands the letter to Watson saying "What do you make of this?" This has led some Sherlockians to theorise that Holmes was secretly illiterate.
- In The Truth, William De Worde reads and writes letters for the illiterate on a professional basis.
- In an episode of The Dumping Ground, Bailey receives a letter in the post, but does not immediately open it in front of everyone. Mo susses out that Bailey is dyslexic and offers to read him his letter. Bailey refuses, but then lets Mo read the letter (though Bailey claims it is because the letter had untidy handwriting and not because he is dyslexic).
- In Oscar's Orchestra, an animated show about some villain trying to eradicate music from the world and some animate instruments and a little girl who tried to save it, the villain was illiterate and one of his servants had to read letters to him.