Essay Sample on The Embodiment of Self and the Dramaturgical Perspective

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1621 Words
Date:  2022-10-24


Personifying self to other people during interaction is something us humans strive to accomplish. This brings about the question, what is self? According to Goffman (1990), social interactions are equated to theatrical performance in a theory he called Dramaturgical Theory. He argued that human interaction elements are majorly dependent on time, place and the audience. This means that the self is a form of dramatic effect emerging from immediate scenes being presented. A close case study of the society will show many aspects of self-embodiments with political movement's interaction acting as an example (Benford, 2013, p.8). In front of the electoral audience, competitors create an appealing persona that is not present in other private environments like when with their families. This highlights Goffman's view that when on the "front stage", humans will intentionally present themselves in a specific way. Therefore, Goffman's analysis of social interaction and presentation of self is important in the political world.

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In Goffman's work "the presentation of self in everyday life", he interprets that people perform different roles so as to shape their definition of the situations as well as how they are viewed within it. He metaphorically represents our interaction life as 'a play 'consisting of six major elements namely; actor, audience, stage, script, performance, and audience reaction (Goffman, 2003, p.10). Actors have some social status and play one or more roles in life and each actor tailors what face he/she presents to the values and social preferences of a specific group called the audience. Goffman used the front or backstage terms to represent several social settings with actors ensuring they create some appealing identity in the front stage as opposed to the more private backstage. Goffman implied that human beings are con artists that apply impression management so as to get a positive feedback from those we are interacting with. Feedback obtained from people around us that helps in determining how successful/unsuccessful our performance was.

In addition to the impression given to the audience, Goffman introduced a metaphor of 'mask' as a way of hoodwinking the audience. The mask will be that of concealing from the audience certain manners done by the actor but deemed inappropriate or damaging at that particular setting (McCoy & Mateas, 2012, p.3). The mask could also be used as a mystery meter thus increasing the audience's interest in the subject matter. Moreover, Goffman illustrated that the masked individual is not becoming another person, but is just becoming a part of his/her other persona, with the flexibility deemed appropriate for each setting.

Dramaturgy in the political setting exemplifies self in social interaction, so well that you can think Goffman used it to come up with his theory. Firstly, the political scene has the political leaders acting as the actors and the electorate acting as the audience. Leaders usually perform impression management with the front stage acting as the campaign trail or during candidates' debates. The backstage can be at dinners with family members or friend or at their offices while rehearsing on how to perform to the electorates. In these two settings, the leaders exhibit differing traits. Take for instance during candidates' debate the leaders, manage their clothing styles, verbal and non-verbal actions in order to impress his/her audience. These traits will be totally different for a road trip or a vacation attended by friends and family alone.

Political leaders running for office may also use deception strategies outlined by Goffman. This may be used to swindle the electorates into liking them (Furtner & Baldeggar, 2016, p.81). The most used tactics are by showing compassion or sympathy say on national television and also helping in charity or social work that is of essential benefit to the electorate. This will lead to a positive feedback from the electorate on the favor of the leader. The secrets involved in the political arena are also vast as explained by the dramaturgical perspective. The dark secrets are the ones that if leaked to the audience, it would damage the image of the leaders. Strategic secrets are those which would help in the actor having control over the audience and also over his/her competitors. Inside secrets are those shared with the confidants of the political leaders to enhance loyalty.

A detailed study of dramaturgical ideas, help in getting a good grasp on the nature and importance of embodiment of self in political scenes (Pendzik, 2016, p.63). First and foremost, presentation of physical appearance in the political setting matters a lot to both the leader and the electorate. We are told not to judge a book by its cover, but the nature of human beings directs us to do so. Dramaturgy provides a lead on how appearance looks and how it works in the society. When leaders create the appearance, they surely know that the electorate will be deceived and taken in by the appearance. They also know that they will be judged on their appearance. Electorate examining only self-presentation is not wise enough since a complete person is not only what he says or wears but as a whole, together with the unsaid and unseen persona, he presents in his/her personal life.

Secondly, dramaturgical analysis study on impression management plans helps the electorate and the leaders exercise influence on each other (Turner &Behrndt, 2016, p.76). Leaders particularly have an upper hand on this. A good example being the case scenario that won Hillary Clinton New Hampshire votes over Obama. In this case, dubbed 'Hillary's Tears', she was asked by a female supporter 'how she kept going' considering Obama's support base was at a rise and showed an emotional breakdown that won a lot of electorate hearts leading to them electing her. The electorate should also learn that some behaviors are usually intended to impress thus deceiving.

Thirdly, the perspective helps a leader in becoming more aware self-presentation. Since the self is reflective, self-interfaces with others and itself to come up with presentational capabilities (Morin, 2018). The leader can determine who they want to be by trying to place themselves in another person's eyes. This is helped by getting a feedback from the audience of how merited the performance was. If the feedback is positive, the performance is enhanced and if not a rework is needed to reach the levels one desire to be.

The fourth importance of dramaturgy is that it helps people learn on the social influences associated with various actions of human beings. In the political setting, all leaders present their goals towards the electorate and manifestos with an aim that they will be successful in their political endeavors. Even if particular audiences may not be welcoming, the leaders strive to ensure that they pass their message along with the hope that some would be moved within the crowd and choose them. Furthermore, the leaders also learn about the pressures involved during the campaign and other areas. This helps them in knowing how well to maneuver every situation that presents itself, whenever they attend those specific areas in the future.

A fifth benefit involved with dramaturgical perspective is that studying about it will incorporate into someone's skill set a new academic discipline approach. Many political leaders learn political science, in order to understand social behaviors and have an upper hand in political strategies. During these studies, dramaturgy is important to all those involved in political science study. This theory will help the students grasp all aspects of social interactions, their benefits in their career, and how to apply them to their advantage

The sixth significance of dramaturgical perspective to the political community is its interesting nature and how it helps all stakeholders involved in the community, become more reflective of self and introspective people-observer. Since social interactions are metaphorically represented by drama, the subject matter is so interesting to learn about. Moreover, on learning of all elements involved in self-presentation like secrets, masks, and impression management, people should be able to ascertain that deceiving techniques are involved in social interactions. This helps all those that have known about them be thoughtful in observing what is presented by the people they interact with.


In conclusion, the applicability of Goffman's work to the analysis of self-presentation and interaction between political leaders and the electorate was remarkably fitting. The leaders get to adopt an appealing self when representing their views to the electorate that is usually different from the one exhibited in their private life. The significance of the dramaturgical perspective is of important note to the electorate who use the knowledge of the elements involved in this theory to correctly judge the difference between impression management the leaders use to swindle them, and the true self of the leaders. These cases outline that Goffman's theory is still at use in our contemporary world and that it is of great usefulness in the interaction and embodiment of self, involved in the political world. Equally, the political environment offer opportunity to further Goffman Framework's development through the possibility of editing the self-presentation.


Benford, R. D. (2013). Dramaturgy and Social Movements. The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements, 10, 1-20.

Furtner, M., & Baldegger, U. (2016). Self-Leadership. Self-Leadership und Fuhrung, 3, 59-101.

Goffman, E. (1990). The presentation of self in everyday life. London: Penguin.

Goffman, E. (2003). On Face-Work: An Analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction. Reflections: The SoL Journal, 4(3), 7-13.

McCoy, J., & Mateas, M. (2012). The Computation of Self in Everyday Life: A Dramaturgical Approach for Socially Competent Agents. The Journal of Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, 5, 1-8.

Morin, A. (2018). The Self-Reflective Functions of Inner Speech. Oxford Scholarship Online.

Pendzik, S. (2016). The Dramaturgy of Autobiographical Therapeutic Performance. The Self in Performance, 29(2), 55-69.

Turner, C., & Behrndt, S. (2016). Names and Identities: Political Dramaturgies in Britain. Dramaturgy and Performance, 29, 74-97.

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