Guide to Literary Terms Drama

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Drama - a composition in prose or verse presenting, in pantomime and dialogue, a narrative involving conflict and usually designed for presentation on a stage. Aristotle called it “imitated human action.” This type of composition needs a theater, actors, and an audience in order to be fully experienced; reading it is not enough. Sometimes, the word is used to mean a serious play.

The word is taken directly from the Greek drama, meaning “a deed or action of the stage.” The Greek word evolved from the Greek term dran, meaning “to do” or “to act.”

Drama arose from religious ceremonies, as opposed to comedy and tragedy’s evolvement from themes in ceremonies such as fertility, life, death. Thespis of Sixth Century B.C. Attica was the first composer and soloist in tragedy. Aeschylus added a second actor to allow conflict and dialogue. Sophocles and Euripides added a third. Medieval drama largely evolved from the rites commemorating birth and the resurrection of Christ. During the Renaissance, we can see the beginning of drama as we know it: a picture of human life revealed in successive changes or events and told in dialogue and action for the entertainment and instruction of an audience. During the mid-Sixteenth Century, England was host to one of the greatest eras of world drama. It was during the Elizabethan/Jacobean Age that Shakespeare wrote his 38 plays.

According to the modern definition, any play (such as Beckett’s Waiting for Godot) may be considered a drama.

see: absurd, antagonist, dialogue, protagonist, satire, tragedy

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