19 Aug What are the Elements of Drama?
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Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, stated in The Poetics (c.335 BC) that each dramatic performance (tragedy) must include the six key elements of plot, character, thought (theme), diction (language), and melody (music-dance, song, rhythm), and spectacle.
This is the first surviving example of dramatic theory in history.
What are Elements of Drama?
Dramatic elements are essential components in presenting dramatic work on stage.
A drama is a type of fictional dialogue that is presented through action or theatrical performance. There is much more to playwriting than just exchanging words.
Aristotle defined drama as having six elements: plot, characters, thought, diction, music, and spectacle.
All of these factors influence a play’s performance; however, each aspect is unique to the drama, as each play is different.
Aristotle’s Six Elements of Drama
Aristotle pondered many topics, including drama. He came to the conclusion that drama had six elements. Plot, character, thought, diction, melody, and spectacle are some of them.
We’ll take a quick look at each and how they fit into a dramatic work down below:
The plot is probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think of a movie or play. The plot is the sequence of events from A to Z, beginning to end. Even if the story is told in non-chronological order (as in Citizen Kane or Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal”), our understanding of the situation grows as it progresses.
Aristotle defines a plot as a “reversal of fortune” – in other words, the situation in a play or film may start out good and then turn bad (see Macbeth) or vice versa (see most romantic comedies or any story with a happy ending).
The plot, according to Aristotle, is the foundation of drama. It is similar to life in that it consists of a series of actions that lead to outcomes.
The plot is what makes a story interesting or uninteresting – humans are active creatures, and we understand action.
The characters in a drama, according to Aristotle, are secondary to the plot. Characters are primarily representative of specific morals or qualities (i.e., their personality) and how those morals or qualities affect the plot’s outcome.
In Greek plays, for example, it was frequently a character’s hubris (excessive pride) that would lead to tragedy – Oedipus Rex comes to mind. Similarly, in Star Wars, Anakin thought he could save his wife from death, but his arrogance led to her death.
In this way, we can get a sense of how certain traits are positive or negative, and how they can lead to good or bad outcomes. A character’s personality or choices directly contribute to the previously mentioned “reversal of fortune” (in Aristotle’s opinion, the main “point” of the plot).
The theme of a drama is its thought. Uncertainty is a theme in Hamlet, for example, and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner explores what it means to be human.
A specific thought (recognition or realization) may have prompted an author to create the work, which is then woven throughout the story.
Characters in a play or film may traditionally comment on or ask questions about the theme, prompting the audience to do the same.
When Frodo asks Sam why they are sacrificing so much to bring the Ring to Mordor, Sam responds, “There’s good in the world…worth fighting for,” highlighting one of the Lord of the Rings’ themes: sacrifice.
The director has a lot of influence on themes in films because he or she controls the camera – Stanley Kubrick’s films use a lot of visuals and actor placement in a scene to communicate certain themes.
Aristotle defined diction as the language used to tell the story. Information can be communicated verbally (via speech or song) or nonverbally (facial expressions, a written note in a movie).
Aristotle believes that it is critical for work to strike the proper balance between poetic and prosaic (regular) diction. What’s the point of a play if no one understands it because it’s all poetic? Regular speech provides clarity, while poetic speech provides beauty and stimulates thought – they must, however, work in tandem.
Melody is a term that refers to music and how it is used in the story. Of course, there was a chorus in ancient Greek plays that would comment on the events and, at times, dance and sing.
Melody can also refer to the natural progression of events. Plot, like music, has a natural flow that must feel natural in order to “function” properly.
The appearance of a film or play is referred to as spectacle. Fancy costumes and meticulously designed set pieces in a play help the audience become more invested in the story.
The same thing occurs with movies. Consider Star Wars: the fact that it is set in space adds something to it, and the spectacle (combined with a classic “hero’s journey” narrative) made it extremely popular when it first aired in 1977 and continues to be so today.
Of course, a work cannot be merely a spectacle. A satisfying plot is also required. “A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing,” George Lucas once said.
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