Drama is the specific mode of narrative, typically fictional, represented in performance. The term comes from the Greek word δρᾶμα, drama, meaning action, which is derived from the verb δράω, draō, meaning to do or to act. The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience,

presupposes collaborative modes of production and a collective form of reception. The structure of dramatic texts, unlike other forms of literature, is directly influenced by this collaborative production and collective reception.

The early modern tragedy Hamlet (1601) by Shakespeare and the classical Athenian tragedy Oedipus the King (c. 429 BC) by Sophocles are among the masterpieces of the art of drama.

A modern example is Long Day’s Journey into Night (1956) by Eugene O’Neill.

The two masks associated with drama represent the traditional generic division between comedy and tragedy. They are symbols of the ancient Greek Muses,Thalia and Melpomene, the Muse of comedy represented by the laughing face, and the Muse of tragedy represented by the weeping face, respectively. Considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic and the lyrical modes ever since Aristotle’s Poetics (c. 335 BC)—the earliest work of dramatic theory.

The use of “drama” in the narrow sense to designate a specific type of playdates from the 19th century. Drama in this sense refers to a play that is neithera comedy nor a tragedy—for example, Zola’s Thérèse Raquin (1873) orChekhov’s Ivanov (1887). It is this narrow sense that the film and televisionindustry and film studies adopted to describe “drama” as a genre within their respective media. “Radio drama” has been used in both senses—originally transmitted in a live performance, it has also been used to describe the more high-brow and serious end of the dramatic output of radio.

Drama is often combined with music and dance: the drama in opera is generally sung throughout; musicals generally include both spoken dialogueand songs; and some forms of drama have incidental music or musical accompaniment underscoring the dialogue (melodrama and Japanese Nō, for example).

In certain periods of history (the ancient Roman and modern Romantic) some dramas have been written to be read rather than performed. In improvisation, the drama does not pre-exist the moment of performance; performers devise a dramatic script spontaneously before an audience.



Western opera is a dramatic art form, which arose during the Renaissance in an attempt to revive the classical Greek drama tradition in which both music and theatre were combined. Being strongly intertwined with western classical music, the opera has undergone enormous changes in the past four centuries and it is an important form of theatre until this day.

Noteworthy is the huge influence of the German 19th-century composer Richard Wagner on the opera tradition. In his view, there was no proper balance between music and theatre in the operas of his time, because the music seemed to be more important than the dramatic aspects in these works. To restore the connection with the traditional Greek drama, he entirely renewed the operatic format, and to emphasize the equal importance of music and drama in these new works, he called them “music dramas”.

Chinese opera has seen a more conservative development over a somewhat longer period of time.


Main article: Pantomime

These stories follow in the tradition of fables and folk tales. Usually there is a lesson learned, and with some help from the audience, the hero/heroine saves the day. This kind of play uses stock characters seen in masque and again commedia dell’arte, these characters include the villain (doctore), the clown/servant (Arlechino/Harlequin/buttons), the lovers etc. These plays usually have an emphasis on moral dilemmas, and good always triumphs over evil, this kind of play is also very entertaining making it a very effective way of reaching many people.

Creative drama

Creative drama includes dramatic activities and games used primarily in educational settings with children. Its roots in the United States began in the early 1900s. Winifred Ward is considered to be the founder of creative drama in education, establishing the first academic use of drama in Evanston, Illinois.

Elements of Drama

  1. Plot – the sequence of events or incidents of which the story is composed.
  2. Conflict is a clash of actions, ideas, desires or wills.
  3. human against human.
    b. human against environment – external force, physical nature, society, or “fate.”
    c. human against herself/himself – conflict with some element in her/his own nature; maybe physical, mental, emotional, or moral.
  4. Protagonist and Antagonist- the protagonist is the central character, sympathetic or unsympathetic. The forces working against her/him, whether persons, things, conventions of society, or traits of their own character, are the antagonists.
  5. Artistic Unity- essential to a good plot; nothing irrelevant; good arrangement.
  6. Plot Manipulation- a good plot should not have any unjustified or unexpected
    turns or twists; no false leads; no deliberate and misleading information.
  7. Character
  8. Direct Presentation- author tells us straight out, by exposition or analysis, or through another character.
  9. Indirect Presentation- author shows us the character in action; the reader infers what a character is like from what she/he thinks, or says, or does. These are also called dramatized characters and they are generally consistent (in behavior), motivated (convincing), and plausible (lifelike).
  10. Character Types- a Flat character is known by one or two traits; a Round character is complex and many-sided; a Stock character is a stereotyped character (a mad scientist, the absent-minded professor, the cruel mother-in-law); a Static character remains the same from the beginning of the plot to the end; and a Dynamic (developing) character undergoes permanent change. This change must be a. within the possibilities of the character; b. sufficiently motivated; and c.allowed sufficient time for change.
  11. Theme – the controlling idea or central insight. It can be
  12. a revelation of human character;
  13. may be stated briefly or at great length; and
  14. a theme is not the “moral” of the story.
  15. A. A theme must be expressible in the form of a statement – not “motherhood” but “Motherhood sometimes has more frustration than reward.”
  16. B. A theme must be stated as a generalization about life; names of characters or specific situations in the plot are not to be used when stating a theme.
  17. C. A theme must not be a generalization larger than is justified by the terms of the story.
  18. D. A theme is the central and unifying concept of the story. It must adhere to the following requirements:
  19. It must account for all the major details of the story.
  20. It must not be contradicted by any detail of the story.
  21. It must not rely on supposed facts – facts not actually stated or clearly implied by the story.
  22. E. There is no one way of stating the theme of a story.
  23. F. Any statement that reduces a theme to some familiar saying,
    aphorism, or clich³ should be avoided. Do not use “A stitch in time saves nine, “”You can’t judge a book by its cover, “” Fish and guests smell in three days,” and so on.
  24. Points of View
  25. A. Omniscient – a story told by the author, using the third person; her/his knowledge, control, and prerogatives are unlimited; authorial subjectivity.
  26. B. Limited Omniscient – a story in which the author associates with a major or minor character; this character serves as the author’s spokesperson or mouthpiece.
  27. C. First Person – the author identifies with or disappears in a major or minor character; the story is told using the first person “I”.
  28. D. Objective or Dramatic – the opposite of the omniscient; displays authorial objectivity; compared a roving sound camera. Very little of the past or the future is given; the story is set in the present.
  29. Symbol – a literary symbol means more than what it is. It has layers of meanings. Whereas an image has one meaning, a symbol has many.
  30. A. Names used as symbols.
  31. B. Use of objects as symbols.
  32. C. Use of actions as symbols.

Note: The ability to recognize and interpret symbols requires experience in literary readings, perception, and tact. It is easy to “run wild” with symbols – to find symbols everywhere. The ability to interpret symbols is essential to the full understanding and enjoyment of literature. Given below are helpful suggestions for identifying literary symbols:

  1. The story itself must furnish a clue that a detail is to be taken symbolically – symbols nearly always signal their existence by emphasis, repetition, or position.
  2. The meaning of a literary symbol must be established and supported by the entire context of the story. A symbol has its meaning inside not outside a story.
  3. To be called a symbol, an item must suggest a meaning different in kind from its literal meaning.
  4. A symbol has a cluster of meanings.
  5. Irony

– a term with a range of meanings, all of them involving some sort of  discrepancy or incongruity. It should not be confused with sarcasm which is simply language designed to cause pain. Irony is used to suggest the difference between appearance and reality, between expectation and fulfillment, the complexity of experience, to furnish indirectly an evaluation of the author’s material, and at the same time to achieve compression.

  1. Verbal irony- the opposite is said from what is intended.
  2. Dramatic irony- the contrast between what a character says and what
    the reader knows to true.
  3. Irony of situation – discrepancy between appearance and reality, or
    between expectation and fulfillment, or between what is and what
    would seem appropriate.

Drama has one characteristic peculiar to itself –

it is written primarily to be performed, not read. It is a presentation of action :

  1. through actors (the impact is direct and immediate),
  2. on a stage (a captive audience), and
  3. before an audience (suggesting a communal experience).

Of the four major points of view, the dramatist is limited to only one – the objective or dramatic. The playwright cannot directly comment on the action or the character and cannot directly enter
the minds of characters and tell us what is going on there. But there are ways to get around this limitation through the use of

  1. soliloquy (a character speaking directly to the audience),
  2. chorus ( a group on stage commenting on characters and actions), and
  3. one character commenting on another.


Aristotle’s definition of tragedy: A tragedy is the imitation in dramatic form of an action that is serious and complete, with incidents arousing pity and fear where with it effects a catharsis (emotional outpouring) of such emotions. The language used is pleasurable and throughout appropriate to the situation in which it is used. The chief characters are noble personages (“better than ourselves,” says Aristotle) and the actions they perform are noble actions.

Central features of the Aristotelian archetype:

  1. The tragic hero is a character of noble stature and has greatness. If the hero’s fall is to arouse in us the emotions of pity and fear, it must be a fall from a great height.
  2. Though the tragic hero is pre-eminently great, he/she is not perfect.Tragic flaw, hubris (excessive pride or passion), and hamartia (some error) lead to the hero’s downfall.
  3. The hero’s downfall, therefore, is partially her/his own fault, the result of one’s own free choice, not the result of pure accident or villainy, or some overriding malignant fate.
  4. Nevertheless, the hero’s misfortune is not wholly deserved. The punishment exceeds the crime. The hero remains admirable.
  5. Yet the tragic fall is not pure loss – though it may result in the hero’s death, before it, there is some increase in awareness, some gain in self-knowledge or, as Aristotle puts it, some “discovery.”
  6. Though it arouses solemn emotion – pity and fear, says Aristotle, but compassion and awe might be better terms – tragedy, when well performed, does not leave its audience in a state of depression. It produces a catharsis or an emotional release at the end, one shared as a common experience by the audience.


Northrop Frye has said, lies between satire and romance. Is the comic
mask laughing or smiling? We usually laugh at someone, but smile with someone. Laughter expresses recognition of some absurdity in human behavior; smile expresses pleasure in one’s company or good fortune. The essential difference between tragedy and comedy is in the depiction of human nature: tragedy shows greatness in human nature and human freedom whereas comedy shows human weakness and human limitation.

The norms of comedy are primarily social; the protagonist is always in a group or emphasizes commonness. A tragic hero possesses overpowering individuality – so that the play is often named after her/him (Antigone, Othello); the comic protagonist tends to be a type and the play is often named for the type (The Misanthrope,

The Alchemist, The Brute). Comic plots do not exhibit the high degree of organic unity as tragic plots do. Plausibility is not usually the central characteristic (cause-effect progression) but coincidences, improbable disguises, mistaken identities make up the plot. The purpose of comedy is to make us laugh and at the same time, help to illuminate human nature and human weaknesses. Conventionally comedies have a happy ending.

Accidental discovery, act of divine intervention (deus ex machina), sudden reform are common comedic devises. “Comedy is the thinking person’s response to experience; tragedy records the reactions of the person with feeling.”
– Charles B. Hands

Melodrama –

arouses pity and fear through cruder means. Good and evil are
clearly depicted in white and black motifs. Plot is emphasized over character

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Farce –

aimed at arousing explosive laughter using crude means. Conflicts are
violent, practical jokes are common, and the wit is coarse. Psychologically farce
may boost the reader’s spirit and purge hostility and aggression.

Using drama in school

Drama in school, whether building on English work, in its own dedicated curriculum-drama time or, as I’ve seen it increasingly being used, cross-curricular to supplement science lessons, allows children to try out another point of view. They can recreate situations using other perspectives and reach new conclusions.

Doing that collaboratively, trusting others by sharing our thoughts and being open – and in return being respectful through constructive criticism – is what makes drama so effective in developing the whole child and adolescent. While collaboration is the central principle where all involved share responsibility for the effectiveness of the finished piece in performance, it is exploration and curiosity that are at the heart of the playfulness that drama allows for. This keeps that child-like sensibility alive.


Drama helps with a child’s development in many ways. Here are 10 benefits of a Pyjama Drama class…


Even the shyest of children take just a few weeks to gently build up their self esteem until before long they are confident to take a full and active part in sessions – a few weeks is all it takes.


In every session children are encouraged to listen to each other’s ideas and thoughts, and to take turns. These activities allow children to recognise the value of concentration; a skill that is vital in the world outside their home.


Learning new songs, playing new games and participating in pretend play (when children must take on the language of the role they are playing) all contribute to a child’s developing vocabulary. They are encouraged to express themselves both verbally and through facial expressions and body language which is key to making them better and more effective communicators.


Every activity in Pyjama Drama, from playing drama games to improvisation to singing together, requires co-operation. Children quickly realise that in order to get the best out of sessions, co-operation is a much needed skill!


In Pyjama Drama children don’t ever guess they are learning along the way – counting the number of beats in a song, counting the number of stars on a camping trip or working out how many eggs to put in a cake are just a few examples of how being involved in a drama can help to develop important numeracy skills.


We explore a range of different themes and introduce children to different real and imaginary situations each week, sparking their interest in the world in which they live and making them more inquisitive (and therefore more interesting!) little people.


By encouraging children to ‘act out’ a range of emotions in the safe and supportive environment of a Pyjama Drama class, children are better able to understand their emotions and develop empathy with others.


In each session we play simple percussion instruments, create simple movement sequences and play drama games – all designed to help children gain mastery over their own growing bodies.


Creative people are able to view things in new ways and from different perspectives, to think on their feet and generate new ideas – this is a vital life skill. Our child led approach to improvisation and pretend play encourages the development of creativity as children lead the direction of the drama themselves, come up with solutions to problems in role, and respond imaginatively to a range of pretend situations.


By its very nature drama has the ability to create strong friendships between children as they laugh, learn and grow together week after week after week!

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