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set the scene for

Also, set the stage for. Provide the underlying basis or background for, make likely or inevitable, as in Their fights about money set the scene for a divorce, or The comptroller's assessment of the firm's finances set the stage for a successful bond issue. These expressions allude to arranging a play's actors and properties on a theatrical stage. The first term dates from the late 1700s, the variant from the late 1800s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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