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1. an underlying theme in a piece of writing
2. a message which is not stated directly but can be inferred
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the latent, covert, indirectly revealed sense of an utterance, literary narrative, or line in a play or the second level of a stage role. Subtext is based on a trait of conversational speech according to which the lexical meaning of words and phrases, depending on the situation and the speaker’s intentions and expression, no longer has a relation to the inner content of the speech or may even contradict it.

Subtext, the complex of thoughts and feelings concealed beneath the words of a text, may be revealed by:

(1) Lines that contain allusions and that are often repeated as leitmotifs.

(2) Such qualities of the sound of speech as intonation and pauses that attest to an undercurrent in the action. For example, in Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, Masha’s question about whether Dr. Chebutykin loved her mother is followed by the doctor answering, after a pause, “I no longer remember.”

(3) Emphasized juxtapositions of speech, plot, and staging situations differing in content or sound, such as the combination of an outwardly insignificant conversation between characters with an intense inner argument taking place between them. From time to time this argument surfaces, as in M. Maeterlinck’s play Pelléas and Mélisande and E. Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants.”

The concept of subtext was comprehended in the West by Maeterlinck, who called it the “second dialogue” in his book The Treasure of the Humble (1896), and in Russia by Chekhov and the founders of the Moscow Art Theater, K. S. Stanislavsky and V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko. (See, for example, Nemirovich-Danchenko’s preface to N. Efros’ book The Three Sisters: A. P. Chekhov’s Play as Produced by the Moscow Art Theater, St. Petersburg, 1919.) In the Stanislavsky method, subtext came to express the inner emotional basis of stage speech.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Us is still well worth seeing despite the flaws, however, as it cements Peele's reputation as a filmmaker equally happy soaking his work in subtext as he is blood.
Some have pointed out that plenty of Brits don't understand the subtext of these phrases either, and others think it's "bulls***" to say Americans don't understand such phrases.
Under these circumstances, Bill Louw and Marija Milojkovic's Corpus Stylistics as Contextual Prosodie Theory and Subtext is instructive and worthy of reading, for it offers valuable perspectives for interdisciplinary investigations.
The traditional commentators' frank reporting of multiple opinions of these matters, and their often inconclusive treatment of them, as well as the variations and necessary parenthetical clarifications common among the translations indicate that there is a subtext to these passages--and, the author would maintain, to the whole Qur'an--that very often eludes its readers.
The free Subtext app, available on the App Store, includes social networking and enrichment features to transform reading into a social activity and connect books to the web.
Fans have conjured up theories on the web suggesting a gay subtext between the wizard and Camelot's future king.
The subtext of the bill's language is that gays and lesbians, who are not allowed to marry in Tennessee, are unfit parents, but the bill would also include heterosexuals living together who are unmarried.
For example, Meyer asserts that "Janin's The Dead Donkey or the Guillotined Woman is an important (and entirely unexamined) subtext for Crime and Punishment" (94) and that Janin's La Confession is a "hitherto undiscovered, governing subtext for the same novel" (89), although she herself has discussed and examined these works in articles more than a decade ago.
I have long understood that race is a powerful subtext in almost any interaction between two individuals of different races.
Dave Harris "has just booked LA - watch out hot girls in bikinis" - subtext, Dave got dumped yesterday didn't he?
All of that serves to unearth the subtext that gay viewers have sensed in Company since the day it premiered.
As a dancer, you have to like repetition, and be aware of the subtext of your work.