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There are two distinct differences that go all the way back to Aristotle: 1. Poetry (what we now call literature) is “imitation of an action by language”, but drama is “imitation of an action by action”; 2. Verse and epic have narrators, but drama has no narrator. These distinctions manifest themselves in several changes in how characterization is constructed. (Characterization is the process of representing psychological constructions that act and are acted upon in any work of art): In literature, character is displayed in three ways: by what the character does (including speech acts—promise, declare, question, etc.), how the character is acted upon by others (and the environment), and what the narrator or narrators says about the character. In drama, the actor has no narrator to explain his or her mind, to interpret actions, or to provide a mise-en-scene, but does have the metalanguage of the stage (blocking, costume, set, etc.); all the character come in the form of dialogue. (There are some stage conventions to augment the story-telling: asides, soliloquoys, prologues, etc.) So characterization is revealed by what the character says and does. A stage prescript (what we call a play) can be “read” (that is treated like literature) but is really a “recipe” for performance.
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