; Drama
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Feature Menu
  What Is Drama?
  Structure of a Drama
  Kinds of Plays
      Modern Drama
  Performance of a Play
      The Stage
      The Characters
                What Is Drama?

A play is a story acted out, live and onstage.

                                       [End of Section]
                 Structure of a Drama

Like the plot of a story, the plot of a drama follows a
rising-and-falling structure.

                               tension at highest point
           tension builds

                                       conflict is settled,
Exposition                             play ends
conflict is introduced
                                          [End of Section]
                Kinds of Plays

A play may be a tragedy, a comedy, or, in modern
drama, a mixture of the two.
• A tragedy depicts serious and
  important events that end
• A comedy ends happily.
  Although most comedies are
  funny, they may also make us
  think and question.
                  Kinds of Plays
Quick Check
                                      Which plot would
1. A young woman wants to marry
                                      be a tragedy, and
   her love, but her mother           which would be a
   disapproves of him. After many     comedy?
   setbacks, the suitor wins the
   mother’s approval and the lovers

2. A young man, blinded by
   passion, worsens a feud between
   his family and his lover’s. The
   play ends with the deaths of the
   two lovers.
                                         [End of Section]

Most classical tragedies deal with serious
subjects—fate, life, and death—and center on a
tragic hero. Tragic heroes
 • are usually noble                   rebelliousness
   figures                 ambition

 • have a tragic flaw,
   a personal failing
   that leads to their    passion
                                      excessive pride
Innocent heroes                          [End of Section]

In a comedy, the characters usually face humorous
obstacles and problems that are resolved by the
end of the play. Comic heroes
• may be ordinary people instead
  of nobility
• eventually overcome their flaws
  and achieve happiness

The conflict in comedies is usually romantic.
• Someone wants to marry but
  faces an obstacle—opposing
  parents or rival suitors.
• Complications can involve
  misunderstandings, mistaken
  identities, disguises, or
• The obstacle is always
                                       [End of Section]
                Modern Drama

Many of today’s dramas can’t be neatly defined as
either comedy and tragedy. Modern plays
• often mix the serious
  with the humorous
• focus on characters
  that audiences will
  identify with rather
  than look up to

                                      [End of Section]
               Performance of a Play

Plays are meant to be performed. A play comes to
life in each unique performance.
Stage Directions
Playwright describes setting and actions

          Actors, directors, and designers interpret
          these directions creatively

                   Audience experiences the story through
                   the actors’ speech and actions

                                              [End of Section]
                    The Stage

A stage is like a small world unto itself. A stage
• can be grand or
• has its own

                    stage right               stage left

                   The Stage

The stage’s set might be
realistic and

                           abstract or

A set can be changed from scene to scene—
sometimes with machinery and sometimes with
just a change in lighting.
                   The Stage

Other important elements of set design are
costumes and props.
• Costumes tell us about the
  characters and the time and place.
  They can be elaborate or minimal.

           • Props are items that the characters
             carry or handle onstage.

                                       [End of Section]
                 The Characters

The actors and director bring characters to life by
• deciding how to interpret
  and speak the lines of the
                             Mary: Can I make
• building on the            it on my own?
  playwright’s stage
  directions for actions
  and movements

                               [Mary takes off her jacket
                               and faces the audience.]
                 The Characters

Characters’ speech takes the form of
 • Dialogue—conversation
   between characters
 • Monologue—a long speech by
   one character to one or more
   other characters
 • Soliloquy—a speech by a
   character alone onstage,
   speaking to himself or herself or
   to the audience
Asides                                 [End of Section]
Quick Check
[Gwendolen and Cecily are at the window,              What are
                                                      the stage
looking out into the garden.]
                                                      directions in
Gwendolen. The fact that they did not                 this passage?
follow us at once into the house . . . seems
to me to show that they have some sense
of shame left.
                                                      Is this more
Cecily. They have been eating muffins.
                                                      likely to be a
That looks like repentance.                           comedy or a
Gwendolen. [After a pause.] They don’t                tragedy? Why?
seem to notice us at all. Couldn’t you
from The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
                                                      [End of Section]

           Choose a play or movie you remember
seeing, and discuss its dramatic elements. Start by
describing the set (or sets). Then, describe the
actors’ costumes. Next, evaluate the characters’
dialogue—was it convincing? clever? silly? Finally,
write a few stage directions, based on what you
imagine them to have been.

                                      [End of Section]
The End

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