While a play presents its action upon a stage, it can forcefully command the spectator's attention. For, the stage is lighted, the theatre dark, there is nothing to distract the audience. Unlike the fiction writer or the poet, the playwright is not dependent upon the power of words alone.
Some other differences that drama has from written narration:
- The experience that a drama presents is communal and has a more intense impact than narration.
- Talented actors, through expression, gestures, speech rhythn, and intonation are often able to make a speaker's words more expressive than the reader's unaided imagination can.
- The kind of materials that playwrights can present is limited
- Point of view is limited to the objective. The dramatist cannot directly comment on the action or the characters as he/she can with narration.
- New ideas in a characters mind must be shown through the conventions of soliloquy and aside. But these devices interrupt the action.
- Ideas must be mainly presented with human beings in spoken interaction with each other. Materials in which the main interest is in unspoken thoughts and reflections cannot be used. e.g. stream of consciousness narration.
- Certain actions cannot be presented. e.g. attacking wolves or charging cavalry.
- It is often very difficult to shift scenes rapidly, or use such techniques as flashback. Playwrights usually stay with one setting for an extended period of time; sometimes there is, in fact, just one stage setting.
- Nothing on a large scale can be presented on stage. e.g. battles, ships coming into a port, etc.
- Plays cannot present certain actions e.g. an insect crawling somewhere such as on a window sill.
- It is absolutely important that a drama have a well-defined plot, swift exposition, strong conflict, and dramatic confrontations in order to interest viewers.
- Plays are usually divided into parts, and each part has its own climax and suspense.
- A play is written so that its central meanings may be grasped in a single performance.
- Playwrights usually avoid long narrative passages since spoken interaction of character is what moves the play along.
Certainly, there are both gains and losses on both parts, but sharing the experience of a play with other audience members--often an emotional experience--is an advantage of viewing it alone, or of reading it as one does narration.
Source: Arp, Thomas and Johnson, Thomas, Ed. Perrine's Literature: Structure, Sound & Sense.Wadsworth, Boston: Wadsworth, 2006.