J. M. Synge

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What elements and qualities make drama unique as a literary form?

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Taking Synge as an example, to read that "da" has returned and is alive is not the same experience as seeing him (the actor playing him) appear suddenly on stage.  Dramitic literature is like a recipe--some sense of the experience can be gleaned from verbal clues and stage directions, but the visceral, "dramatic" experience is only partially perceived, even by the "informed reader," who understands the speech-acts performed by the dialogue and who can"block," light, and costume the performance in the mind's eye.  The absence of a narrator (Aristotle's criterion for drama) means that the reader must construct the plot, character development, etc., a different reading (literary) experience from reading, for example, a novel.  An "informed" cook can "taste" a recipe's subtleties by just reading: "blend in, fold in, a pinch of", etc.  A good cooks tastes the spice, smells the baking apples, hears the bubbling of the sauce, while "reading" the recipe.  That is what "reading" a drama is--hearing the distant crowd cheering, feeling the peanut shells underfoot in the bar, etc.

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Drama is a unique literary form in that it is created to be performed through spoken dialogue, rather than simply read, and it is produced by, and received by a group.  For example, a script may be written by one or more playwrights, and then to be brought before an audience, one will need  to involve many others, including a director and/or producer, actors, set/stage builders and decorators, lighting designers/technicians, and possibly even an orchestra or vocalists, in the case of a musical or opera.  Once a production is ready to go, it is performed for an audience, whose response then becomes another dimension of the drama experience.  Enthusiastic audiences can fuel the energy of a performance and create an electric atmosphere in which performers and audience interact on a somewhat personal level.  The ancient Greeks are typically credited with the first dramatic performances, which they normally divided into categories of tragedy or comedy.   

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