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Foregone Conclusion / Theatre

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Foregone Conclusions in theatre.

  • All Greek tragedies, being based on well-known myths, were like that. It was considered normal to the point that, when New Comedy authors started imitating some aspects of tragedy while still telling stories they made up themselves, they created the Prologue, which was already pretty much what it is in the Shakespeare example: one of the actors would address the public at the beginning and explain how everything was going to play out — they feared the spectators would get confused otherwise.
  • William Shakespeare invented the phrase, used in Othello, although he meant it more literally: the evidence of Cassio's dream "denoted a foregone conclusion" of his sleeping with Desdemona, "foregone" meaning "having previously happened".
    • Also, here's a pattern: if you're in a Shakespearean tragedy, and your name is in the title, you're screwed. If your name is the title, doubly so.
    • Perhaps the most famous example is Romeo and Juliet. William Shakespeare says in the prologue that Romeo and Juliet are going to die.
    • Although inverted with King Lear. The legend at that time had Cordelia and Lear survive and Lear restored to the throne. Shakespeare surprised audiences by turning it into a tragedy.
    • The histories all fall into this trope as well, given that they're all Based on a True Story. There's even a meta-example in the epilogue of Henry V, in which the Chorus pretty much tells the audience the outcome of the next three plays in the chronology, Henry VI, Parts I, II and III.
      "Henry VI, in infant bands crowned King
      Of France and England did this king succeed
      Whose state so many had the managing
      That they lost France and made his England bleed."

  • 1776: Congress will declare independence and form the United States of America. This was a huge deal back in the 1960s when Sherman Edwards was trying to drum up interest in the show— absolutely no one wanted to finance it because who would watch a Broadway musical where you already know exactly how it's going to end? The show derives its tension from showing just what an actual long shot the now-foregone conclusion was, changing the source of suspense from what is going to happen to how can it possibly? It's a sign of a well-done production when the audience completely forgets what it knows and spends the entire play biting its collective nails.
  • Death of a Salesman. The main character's a salesman. Three guesses what happens to him.
  • The folk opera Down in the Valley, the Greek Chorus's introduction includes the ending of the plot:
    Come, all you people, I'll sing of Brack Weaver,
    Who died on the gallows one morning in May,
    He died for the love of sweet Jennie Parsons,
    He died for the slaying of Thomas Bouché.
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  • Elisabeth: The very first line of the musical makes it pretty clear that the titular character is going to die (and that everyone else in the play is dead).
    Judge: But why Lucheni? Why did you kill the Empress Elisabeth?
  • Evita begins with a song about Eva's funeral.
  • The small-scale play Finding Human begins with a news report of the protagonist's execution and what his last words were. The story then moves back in time to show the character's final week of life, in which we get to see him open up about his past and the crime. The final scene mirrors the first, with the difference being that the audience now knows the truth about the protagonist and has the context to understand his cryptic last words.
  • Hamilton, as you can see from the name of the show, is about an American politician who is probably most famous for dying in a duel with a man who introduces himself in the opening number as "the damn fool who shot him."
  • A small note of this is in the opening scene of the play An Inspector Calls. The rich family sat at dinner are discussing the amazing modern world they live in, including the new utterly unsinkable ship that's due to sail soon - The Titanic. It's a not-exactly subtle bit of symbolism - the family's own personal iceberg is, as the title says, about to call on them - and some productions have actually gone so far as to omit the line entirely, since the usual audience reaction is to laugh.
  • Lampshaded by Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, during "Go, Go, Go Joseph":
    Don't give up, Joseph, fight till you drop
    We've read the book, and you come out on top.
  • Literally the first line in The Last Five Years is "Jamie is over and Jamie is gone". Since the musical has two timelines with one going backwards, the entire musical may count since everything that happens to Jamie shows what later will happen to Cathy while everything that happens to Cathy shows what will happen to Jamie, ending with Jamie breaking up with her while she reaches the first date with which Jamie started the musical.
  • Les Misérables: Anyone who knows French history knows that the June Rebellion will fail and the barricade will fall.
  • The musical Miss Saigon reveals Chris will get out of Vietnam while Kim (and the Engineer) will not towards the end of the first act. The second act shows how this happened.
  • The story of Oedipus Rex was so well-known via oral tradition that even Sophocles' target audience likely knew the outcome of Oedipus the King before watching it.
  • The Phantom of the Opera starts with auctioning things from the opera house. The scene shows a crashed down chandelier and in general a opera house that is badly in shape, proving that - in one way or another - things will go downhill. And then time rewinds as the stage becomes the glamorous opera it had been in the past. Also, the one character that is absolutely clear will survive in the end is Raoul.
  • The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui: The scene curtain at the beginning is covered with headlines which give away most of the major plot turns, including that gangsters conquer the city of Cicero. Most of these you could already figure out if you're aware that the play is a Roman à Clef about the rise of Hitler, and the play makes absolutely sure you are.
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die.
  • The end of Sir Thomas More concerns the question of whether More will choose to die for his beliefs or give in to save his own life. Since the play is based on the life of the real Thomas More, its ending is clear to anybody who knows that the real Thomas More did choose death.
  • Titanic: It's a musical about the Titanic, one of the most famous shipwrecks ever.
  • In addition to being a Perspective Flip External Retcon of The Wizard of Oz, the play version of Wicked opens with everyone celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the West, and the story takes place in a flashback. However, Elphaba lives, subverting the trope.