What is Drama: Meaning, Examples and Types?

What is drama? A layman would ask maybe to justify his understanding of it or to clarify himself. Whatever the case, one must know what drama is all about.

To be dramatic means to be theatrical, elevated, and sensational. But what does it mean to be dramatic in a literary sense?

To get a better understanding of this popular form, let us look at the meaning, elements, history, and examples of dramas in literature.

Meaning of Drama

The meaning of drama is that it is a way of representing fictional or non-fictional narratives through a performance before an audience. They are supposed to be seen and heard, not read.

On many occasions, dramas contain dialogues meant to be repeated before an audience and stage directions that are acted out.

In most cases, dramas take the form of plays, where a written script by a playwright is performed at a theatre in front of an audience.

A drama could also mean any other performance that may be either live or recorded, such as mime theatre, ballets, musicals, operas, films, television shows, or even radio programs.

Elements of Drama in Literature

Although dramas can take various shapes and forms, here are a few common elements that clip all dramas together as a genre.

Here are the elements of drama:

Plot

Character

Conflict

Dialogue

Setting

Theme

Tone

Symbolism

Foreshadowing

Conflict Resolution

Pacing

Spectacle

Monologue and Soliloquy

History of Drama

The history of drama can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it originated as religious rituals honoring the god Dionysus. These rituals eventually evolved into theatrical performances, with the first recorded play being performed in Athens in 534 BC.

The Greeks developed three main genres of drama: tragedy, comedy, and satyr play. Tragedies were serious plays that dealt with themes of human suffering and mortality. Comedies were lighter plays that satirized contemporary society. Satyr plays were bawdy burlesques that were performed between tragedies.

The most famous Greek playwrights include Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes. Their plays are still performed today and continue to influence dramatists around the world.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, drama declined in Europe for several centuries. However, it began to revive in the Middle Ages with the rise of mystery plays and morality plays. Mystery plays were religious dramas that told stories from the Bible. Morality plays were allegorical dramas that taught moral lessons.

In the Renaissance, drama flourished again, with playwrights such as William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Ben Jonson writing some of the greatest plays ever written. Shakespeare’s plays, in particular, have had a profound influence on Western drama.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, drama continued to evolve, with new genres such as melodrama and realism emerging. Melodramas were sensational plays that often featured exaggerated characters and plots. Realist plays were dramas that tried to depict life as it really was.

In the 20th century, drama became even more diverse, with new movements such as expressionism, absurdism, and postmodernism emerging. Expressionist plays focused on the inner lives of their characters, while absurdist plays explored the meaninglessness of life. Postmodern plays challenged traditional dramatic conventions.

Today, drama is a thriving art form all over the world. There are plays written and performed in a wide range of styles, from traditional tragedies and comedies to experimental and innovative works.

History of Drama in Different Parts of the World

Here is a brief overview of the history of drama in different parts of the world:

India

Indian drama has a long and rich history, dating back to the 5th century BC. The earliest form of Indian drama was the Sanskrit drama, characterized by its complex plots, elaborate language, and musical elements.

Some of the most famous Sanskrit playwrights include Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti.

China

Chinese drama has a history that is just as long and rich as Indian drama. The earliest form of Chinese drama was the opera, characterized by its singing, dancing, and acrobatics.

Some of the most famous Chinese opera playwrights include Guan Hanqing and Wang Shifu.

Japan

Japanese drama has a history that dates back to the 7th century AD. The earliest form of Japanese drama was the Noh theater, characterized by its slow, stylized movements and its use of masks.

Some of the most famous Noh theater playwrights include Zeami Motokiyo and Kan’ami Kiyotsugu.

Africa

African drama has a long and rich history, dating back to pre-colonial times. African drama is characterized by its oral tradition, its use of music and dance, and its focus on community.

Some of the most famous African playwrights include Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Latin America

Latin American drama has a history that dates back to the colonial period. Latin American drama is characterized by its diversity, with influences from Spain, Portugal, Africa, and the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Some of the most famous Latin American playwrights include Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes.

Drama is a universal art form that has been enjoyed by people worldwide for centuries. It is a powerful way to explore the human condition and to communicate complex ideas and emotions.

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