Drama is a form of literature that is performed. It differs from other forms of literature such as the novel and short story in that it is designed to be performed by actors using theatrical devices. It is usually written in the form of a play which serves to tell a story that revolves around conflict and emotion.
The play utilizes certain elements such as dialogue, action, and characterization in order to create both an oral and visual performance. Drama is subject to interpretation by the reader and as a result each perfromance achieves a different effect on the audience.
Drama shares many of the same elements of fiction. It must contain a plot, characters, setting, dialogue, and a theme. However, drama places more emphasis on the devices of dialogue and character. The dialogue has three major functions. It serves to advance the plot, establish setting, and most importantly it is used to reveal a character’s thoughts, responses, and emotional states. This is important since the primary focus is human nature which is portrayed through characterization. Characterization is not only dependent on dialogue but also the manner in which the character speaks, the actions they perform, and what other characters report. Another essential element of drama is staging. Staging is the visual detail of the play. Staging includes the stage directions and movements of the characters, the scenic background, the props, costumes, lighting, and music.
Drama must also follow a certain structure divided into acts and scenes. The structural pattern of a play is very similar to the structural pattern of a short story. It has an introduction followed by rising action which introduces the conflict.
The rising action leads to the climax followed by the falling action which leads to the conclusion of the play. However, this structure is not set in stone. Many 20th century dramatists like Samuel Beckett have experimented with the structural elements of drama in his play Waiting for Godot .
There are many different genres of drama, but they all derive from two basic types: comedy and tragedy. Both developed from the Ancient Greeks. Comedy is a play that shows the humorous side of human nature as portrayed through the actions of the characters as they try to solve a conflict. It makes use of human error, mistaken identity, awkward meeting, and verbal humor. It can essentially be divided into two categories: high and low. High comedy focuses on intellectual humor relying on the use of sophisticated witty dialogue. A popular example is Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Low comedy focuses on achieving laughter through the devices of jokes, gags, slapstick humor, and clownish physical activity. A popular example is William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.
Tragedy is the other basic type of drama. It is a play that evokes pity and terror from the audience and deals with important social, personal, or religious issues. The main character or protagonist usually suffers from a character flaw that impedes his or her struggle to overcome the obstacles in the play. The tragedies of the Ancient Greeks has evolved over the centuries into the traditional tragedy of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and into modern day tragedy of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
Drama is a staged art that constantly undergoes experimentation. Film and television shows such as sitcoms and soap operas have all evolved from traditional forms of drama. Drama can be performed in any medium from city parks and theaters to restaurants and movie screens. It is a great from of literature that can be enjoyed by any audience.