A comprehensive study of the different shapes and conventions of dialogue in major drama from Aeschylus to modern times. Following a sustained discussion of the special nature of dramatic dialogue the author singles out for detailed study the duologue of personal encounter between protagonists. The historical perspective is illustrated by close analysis of certain passages from Greek tragedy, Shakespeare, Jonson, Restoration Comedy, Ibsen, Strindberg, Brecht, O'Neill, Albee, Shepard, Beckett, Pinter and Stoppard. The duologues have been grouped so as to illuminate both the type of dramatic situation embodied, e.g. recognition, confession, the combat of wit, and the verbal style employed, from Greek stichomythis to the slangy contest of American rock stars. Andrew Kennedy presents the language and convention of each duologue as part of the play's total sign system. The critical approach integrates the formal and existential aspects of drama and theatre, showing both the emotional transformations and the changing modes of expression made possible in and through dialogue.