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Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" (Classical Greek: , dráma), which is derived from "to do" (Classical Greek: , dráō). 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 BCE) by Sophocles are among the supreme masterpieces of the art of drama.

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. Thalia was the Muse of comedy (the laughing face), while Melpomene was the Muse of tragedy (the weeping face). 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 BCE)—the earliest work of dramatic theory.

The use of "drama" in the narrow sense to designate a specific type of play dates from the 19th century. Drama in this sense refers to a play that is neither a comedy nor a tragedy--for example, Zola's Thérèse Raquin (1873) or Chekhov's Ivanov (1887). It is this narrow sense that the film and television industry 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 sung throughout; musicals include spoken dialogue and songs; and some forms of drama have regular musical accompaniment (melodrama and Japanese , for example). In certain periods of history (the ancient Roman and modern Romantic) 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.

History of Western drama

Classical Athenian drama

Western drama originates in classical Greece. The theatrical culture of the city-state of Athensmarker produced three genres of drama: tragedy, comedy, and the satyr play. Their origins remain obscure, though by the 5th century BCE they were institutionalised in competitions held as part of festivities celebrating the god Dionysus. Historians know the names of many ancient Greek dramatists, not least Thespis, who is credited with the innovation of an actor ("hypokrites") who speaks (rather than sings) and impersonates a character (rather than speaking in his own person), while interacting with the chorus and its leader ("coryphaeus"), who were a traditional part of the performance of non-dramatic poetry (dithyrambic, lyric and epic). Only a small fraction of the work of five dramatists, however, has survived to this day: we have a small number of complete texts by the tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and the comic writers Aristophanes and, from the late 4th century, Menander. Aeschylus' historical tragedy The Persians is the oldest surviving drama, although when it won first prize at the City Dionysia competition in 472 BCE, he had been writing plays for more than 25 years. The competition ("agon") for tragedies may have begun as early as 534 BCE; official records ("didaskaliai") begin from 501 BCE, when the satyr play was introduced. Tragic dramatists were required to present a tetralogy of plays (though the individual works were not necessarily connected by story or theme), which usually consisted of three tragedies and one satyr play (though exceptions were made, as with Euripides' Alcestis in 438 BCE). Comedy was officially recognised with a prize in the competition from 487-486 BCE. Five comic dramatists competed at the City Dionysia (though during the Peloponnesian War this may have been reduced to three), each offering a single comedy. Ancient Greek comedy is traditionally divided between "old comedy" (5th century BCE), "middle comedy" (4th century BCE) and "new comedy" (late 4th century to 2nd BCE).

Roman drama

Following the expansion of the Roman Republic (509-27 BCE) into several Greek territories between 270-240 BCE, Rome encountered Greek drama. From the later years of the republic and by means of the Roman Empire (27 BCE-476 CE), theatre spread west across Europe, around the Mediterranean and reached England; Roman theatre was more varied, extensive and sophisticated than that of any culture before it. While Greek drama continued to be performed throughout the Roman period, the year 240 BCE marks the beginning of regular Roman drama. From the beginning of the empire, however, interest in full-length drama declined in favour of a broader variety of theatrical entertainments. The first important works of Roman literature were the tragedies and comedies that Livius Andronicus wrote from 240 BCE. Five years later, Gnaeus Naevius also began to write drama. No plays from either writer have survived. While both dramatists composed in both genres, Andronicus was most appreciated for his tragedies and Naevius for his comedies; their successors tended to specialise in one or the other, which led to a separation of the subsequent development of each type of drama. By the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, drama was firmly established in Rome and a guild of writers (collegium poetarum) had been formed. The Roman comedies that have survived are all fabula palliata (comedies based on Greek subjects) and come from two dramatists: Titus Maccius Plautus (Plautus) and Publius Terentius Afer (Terence). In re-working the Greek originals, the Roman comic dramatists abolished the role of the chorus in dividing the drama into episodes and introduced musical accompaniment to its dialogue (between one-third of the dialogue in the comedies of Plautus and two-thirds in those of Terence). The action of all scenes is set in the exterior location of a street and its complications often follow from eavesdropping. Plautus, the more popular of the two, wrote between 205-184 BCE and twenty of his comedies survive, of which his farces are best known; he was admired for the wit of his dialogue and his use of a variety of poetic meters. All of the six comedies that Terence wrote between 166-160 BCE have survived; the complexity of his plots, in which he often combined several Greek originals, was sometimes denounced, but his double-plots enabled a sophisticated presentation of contrasting human behaviour. No early Roman tragedy survives, though it was highly-regarded in its day; historians know of three early tragedians—Quintus Ennius, Marcus Pacuvius and Lucius Accius. From the time of the empire, the work of two tragedians survives—one is an unknown author, while the other is the Stoic philosopher Seneca. Nine of Seneca's tragedies survive, all of which are fabula crepidata (tragedies adapted from Greek originals); his Phaedra, for example, was based on Euripides' Hippolytus. Historians do not know who wrote the only extant example of the fabula praetexta (tragedies based on Roman subjects), Octavia, but in former times it was mistakenly attributed to Seneca due to his appearance as a character in the tragedy.

Medieval

In the Middle Ages, drama in the vernacular languages of Europe may have emerged from religious enactments of the liturgy. Mystery plays were presented on the porch of the cathedrals or by strolling players on feast days. Miracle and mystery plays, along with moralities and interludes, later evolved into more elaborate forms of drama, such as was seen on the Elizabethan stages.

Elizabethan and Jacobean

One of the great flowerings of drama in England occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries. Many of these plays were written in verse, particularly iambic pentameter. In addition to Shakespeare, such authors as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Middleton, and Ben Jonson were prominent playwrights during this period. As in the medieval period, historical plays celebrated the lives of past kings, enhancing the image of the Tudor monarchy. Authors of this period drew some of their storylines from Greek mythology and Roman mythology or from the plays of eminent Roman playwrights such as Plautus and Terence.

Modern and postmodern

The pivotal and innovative contributions of the 19th-century Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen and the 20th-century German theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht dominate modern drama; each inspired a tradition of imitators, which include many of the greatest playwrights of the modern era. The works of both playwrights are, in their different ways, both modernist and realist, incorporating formal experimentation, meta-theatricality, and social critique. In terms of the traditional theoretical discourse of genre, Ibsen's work has been described as the culmination of "liberal tragedy," while Brecht's has been aligned with an historicised comedy.

Other important playwrights of the modern era include August Strindberg, Anton Chekhov, Frank Wedekind, Maurice Maeterlinck, Federico García Lorca, Eugene O'Neill, Luigi Pirandello, George Bernard Shaw, Ernst Toller, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Jean Genet, Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Dario Fo, Heiner Müller, and Caryl Churchill.

Other Asian cultural forms

Indian



Indian drama is traced back to certain dramatic episodes described in the Rigveda, which dates back to the 2nd millenium BC. Early examples include the Yama-Yami episode and other Rigvedic dialogue hymns. The dramas dealt with human concerns as well as the gods. The nature of the plays ranged from tragedy to light comedy.

Dramatists often worked on pre-existing mythological or historical themes that were familiar to the audience of the age. For instance, many plays drew their plot lines from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the great epics of India. Their stories have often been used for plots in Indian drama and this practice continues today.

The earliest theoretical account of Indian drama is Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra (literally "Scripture of Dance," though it sometimes translated as "Science of Theatre'") that may be as old as the 3rd century BC. The text specifically describes the proper way one should go about staging a Sanskrit drama. It addresses a wide variety of topics including the proper occasions for staging a drama, the proper designs for theatres, the types of people who are allowed to be drama critics and, most especially, specific instructions and advice for actors, playwrights and (after a fashion) producers.

Drama was patronized by the kings as well as village assemblies. Famous early playwrights include Bhasa, Kalidasa (famous for Vikrama and Urvashi, Malavika and Agnimitra, and The Recognition of Shakuntala), Śudraka (famous for The Little Clay Cart), Asvaghosa, Daṇḍin, and Emperor Harsha (famous for Nagananda, Ratnavali and Priyadarsika).

Chinese

Chinese theatre has a long and complex history. Today it is often called Chinese opera although this normally refers specifically to the popular form known as Beijing Opera; there have been many other forms of theatre in China. Shirley Wo also is in interest in an act of drama shows especially Asian dramas.

Japanese

Japanese Nō drama is a serious dramatic form that combines drama, music, and dance into a complete aesthetic performance experience. It developed in the 14th and 15th centuries and has its own musical instruments and performance techniques, which were often handed down from father to son. The performers were generally male (for both male and female roles), although female amateurs also perform Nō dramas. Nō drama was supported by the government, and particularly the military, with many military commanders having their own troupes and sometimes performing themselves. It is still performed in Japan today.

Kyōgen is the comic counterpart to Nō drama. It concentrates more on dialogue and less on music, although Nō instrumentalists sometimes appear also in Kyōgen.

Forms of drama

Opera

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.

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 del 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 refers to 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.

Legal status

UK

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 does not define a dramatic work except to state that it includes a work of dance or mime. However, it is clear that dramatic work includes the scenario or script for films, plays (written for theatre, cinema, television or radio), and choreographic works.

See also







Notes

  1. Elam (1980, 98).
  2. Pfister (1977, 11).
  3. Fergusson (1949, 2-3).
  4. Francis Fergusson writes that "a drama, as distinguished from a lyric, is not primarily a composition in the verbal medium; the words result, as one might put it, from the underlying structure of incident and character. As Aristotle remarks, 'the poet, or "maker" should be the maker of plots rather than of verses; since he is a poet because he imiates, and what he imitates are actions'" (1949, 8).
  5. See also Wikipedia's List of drama films.
  6. Banham (1998, 894-900).
  7. See the entries for "opera", "musical theatre, American", "melodrama" and "Nō" in Banham (1998).
  8. While there is some dispute among theatre historians, it is probable that the plays by the Roman Seneca were not intended to be performed. Manfred by Byron is a good example of a "dramatic poem." See the entries on "Seneca" and "Byron (George George)" in Banham (1998).
  9. Some forms of improvisation, notably the Commedia dell'arte, improvise on the basis of 'lazzi' or rough outlines of scenic action (see Gordon (1983) and Duchartre (1929)). All forms of improvisation take their cue from their immediate response to one another, their characters' situations (which are sometimes established in advance), and, often, their interaction with the audience. The classic formulations of improvisation in the theatre originated with Joan Littlewood and Keith Johnstone in the UK and Viola Spolin in the USA. See Johnstone (1981) and Spolin (1963).
  10. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 13-15) and Banham (1998, 441-447).
  11. Banham (1998, 441-444). For more information on these ancient Greek dramatists, see the articles categorised under "Ancient Greek dramatists and playwrights" in Wikipedia.
  12. The theory that Prometheus Bound was not written by Aeschylus would bring this number to six dramatists whose work survives.
  13. Banham (1998, 8) and Brockett and Hildy (2003, 15-16).
  14. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 13, 15) and Banham (1998, 442).
  15. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 18) and Banham (1998, 444-445).
  16. Banham (1998, 444-445).
  17. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 43).
  18. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 36, 47).
  19. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 43). For more information on the ancient Roman dramatists, see the articles categorised under "Ancient Roman dramatists and playwrights" in Wikipedia.
  20. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 46-47).
  21. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 47).
  22. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 47-48).
  23. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 48-49).
  24. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 49).
  25. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 48).
  26. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 50).
  27. Brockett and Hildy (2003, 49-50).
  28. Williams (1993, 25-26) and Moi (2006, 17). Moi writes that "Ibsen is the most important playwright writing after Shakespeare. He is the founder of modern theater. His plays are world classics, staged on every continent, and studied in classrooms everywhere. In any given year, there are hundreds of Ibsen productions in the world." Ibsenites include George Bernard Shaw and Arthur Miller; Brechtians include Dario Fo, Joan Littlewood, W. H. Auden Peter Weiss, Heiner Müller, Peter Hacks, Tony Kushner, Caryl Churchill, John Arden, Howard Brenton, Edward Bond, and David Hare.
  29. Moi (2006, 1, 23-26). Taxidou writes: "It is probably historically more accurate, although methodologically less satisfactory, to read the Naturalist movement in the theatre in conjunction with the more anti-illusionist aesthetics of the theatres of the same period. These interlock and overlap in all sorts of complicated ways, even when they are vehemently denouncing each other (perhaps particularly when) in the favoured mode of the time, the manifesto" (2007, 58).
  30. Williams (1966) and Wright (1989).
  31. Website reference
  32. Green v. Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand [1989]
  33. The fixation of such a work can be in writing "or otherwise" and may accordingly be, for instance, on film. Where a dramatic work is recorded on a film, the film must contain the whole of the dramatic work in an unmodified state: Norowzian v. Arks [2000] (dance recorded on film, which was then edited, could not be protected because the film had been drastically edited and was not therefore a recording of the dance).


Works cited

  • Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521434378.
  • Brockett, Oscar G. and Franklin J. Hildy. 2003. History of the Theatre. Ninth edition, International edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 0205410502.
  • Carlson, Marvin. 1993. Theories of the Theatre: A Historical and Critical Survey from the Greeks to the Present. Expanded ed. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801481546.
  • Duchartre, Pierre Louis. 1929. The Italian Comedy. Unabridged republication. New York: Dover, 1966. ISBN 0486216799.
  • Dukore, Bernard F., ed. 1974. Dramatic Theory and Criticism: Greeks to . Florence, KY: Heinle & Heinle. ISBN 0030911524.
  • Durant, Will & Ariel Durant. 1963 The Story of Civilization, Volume II: The Life of Greece. 11 vols. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Elam, Keir. 1980. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. New Accents Ser. London and New York: Methuen. ISBN 0416720609.
  • Fergusson, Francis. 1949. The Idea of a Theater: A Study of Ten Plays, The Art of Drama in a Changing Perspective. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1968. ISBN 0691012881.
  • Gordon, Mel. 1983. Lazzi: The Comic Routines of the Commedia dell'Arte. New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications. ISBN 0933826699.
  • Harsh, Philip Whaley. 1944. A Handbook of Classical Drama. Stanford: Stanford UP; Oxford: Oxford UP.
  • Johnstone, Keith. 1981. Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre Rev. ed. London: Methuen, 2007. ISBN 0713687010.
  • Pfister, Manfred. 1977. The Theory and Analysis of Drama. Trans. John Halliday. European Studies in English Literature Ser. Cambridige: Cambridge University Press, 1988. ISBN 052142383X.
  • Rehm, Rush. 1992. Greek Tragic Theatre. Theatre Production Studies ser. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415118948.
  • Spolin, Viola. 1967. Improvisation for the Theater. Third rev. ed Evanston, Il.: Northwestern University Press, 1999. ISBN 081014008X.
  • Taxidou, Olga. 2004. Tragedy, Modernity and Mourning. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP. ISBN 0748619879.
  • Weimann, Robert. 1978. Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801835062.
  • ---. 2000. Author's Pen and Actor's Voice: Playing and Writing in Shakespeare's Theatre. Ed. Helen Higbee and William West. Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521787351.


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