Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Notes on Western Drama

Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" (Classical Greek, drama), which is derived from "to do", "to act" (Classical Gree, draƍ).

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).

The use of "drama" in the narrow sense is to designate a specific type of dramatic form (Renaissance theater) from the 19th century. Drama in this sense refers to a play that is neither a comedy nor a tragedy. 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.

Drama is often combined with music and dance: the drama in opera is generally sung throughout; musicals generally include both spoken dialogue and songs; and some forms of drama have incidental music or musical accompaniment underscoring the dialogue.

History of Western drama

Western drama originates in classical Greece. The theatrical culture of the city-state of Athens produced three genres of drama: tragedy, comedy, and the satyr play.

Their origins remain obscure, though by the 5th century BCE they were institutionalized in competitions held as part of festivities celebrating the god Dionysus.

Five most celebrated Greek dramatists are the tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and the comic writers Aristophanes and, from the late 4th century, Menander.

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), theater spread west across Europe, around the Mediterranean and reached England.

By the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, drama was firmly established in Rome and a guild of writers had been formed. The Roman comedies that have survived are all (comedies based on Greek subjects and come from two dramatists: Plautus and Terence.

In re-working the Greek originals, the Roman comic dramatists abolished the role of the chorus (a group of performers whose function is to comment on the dramatic action in a collective voice) in dividing the drama into episodes and introduced musical accompaniment to its dialogue.


In the Middle Ages, drama in the vernacular languages of Europe may have emerged from religious enactments of the liturgy. Mystery and mystery plays on the porch of the cathedrals or on feast days.

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.

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.

The works of both playwrights are, in their different ways, both modernist and realist, incorporating formal experimentation, meta-theatricality, and social critique.


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