Last updated on January 13th, 2022 at 07:03 pm
The word “drama” comes from late Latin drāma, “play, drama,” from Greek drâma (dramatos) “action, deed; play, spectacle,” from drāo“to do, make, act, perform, achieve” especially some great deed, whether good or bad.
Drama refers to literature that is written in dialogue form. It is a composition, normally in prose, telling a story and intended to be represented by actors impersonating the characters and speaking the dialogue. This form of fictional representation through dialogue and performance; is also an imitation of different actions. We can also explain drama as a type of a play written for theatre, television, radio, and film.
Drama should be acted before the audience in order to communicate a message. It includes conflict of characters that perform in front of the audience on stage. Any text that is meant to be performed rather than read can be considered as drama. Drama are also frequently called plays and the one who writes drama/play is called a dramatist or playwright.
PARRIS: I saw Tituba waving her arms over the fire when I came on you; why were she doing that? And I heard a screeching and gibberish comin‘ from her mouth…
ABIGAIL: She always sings her Barbados songs and we dance.
PARRIS: I cannot blink what I saw, Abigail-for my enemies will not blink it. And I thought I saw a….someone naked running through the trees!
ABIGAIL: No one was naked! You mistake yourself, Uncle!
PARRIS: I saw it! Now tell me true, Abigail. Now my ministry‘s at stake; my ministry and perhaps your cousin‘s life…..whatever abomination you have done, give me all of it now, for I dare not be taken unaware when I go before them down there.
ABIGAIL: There is nothin‘ more. I swear it, Uncle.
Extract from “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, ACT I: Scene 1
The types of Drama
A comedy is a light and funny or humorous play with a happy ending. It is a work of drama that is written in order to provide the audience with amusement or entertainment. The main aim or purpose of comedies is to make the audience laugh. A comedy is a type of drama that adopts a humorous style and portrays laughable characters and situations. A play that is described as a comedy brings about laughter. It is based on the strange or funny events or actions of human beings. Comedies normally have happy endings. They are plays or a form of art where the main message or content is conveyed through the use of humour and satirical tone. Comedies involve the audience and are funny, ironical, and include a lot of wordplay. Examples of comedies include Trials of Brother Jero by Wole Soyinka, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night both written by William Shakespeare.
The comedies have origin in Athens-Ancient Greece. They arose from a ritual in honour of Dionysus,the Greek god. The comedies of this period were full of insult, abuse and obscenity. Aristophanes is considered as “The Father of Comedy” and representative of “Old Comedy” with many works which have been preserved.
General characteristics of comedies are the following:
- Comedies present love as a motivating force, which can make people do silly things.
- They show that people face difficult situations and serious problems.
- Human endeavour is usually seen as being pretentious, ludicrous and therefore stupid.
- They expose foolishness of customs or laws.
- Comedies often use exaggerations, caricatures, and stereotypes.
- They present absurd and bizarre situations to reflect the absurdity of the human condition.
- Comedies follow logical sequences of events and mostly, have predictable endings.
- Issues in comedies are mostly handled on a light note.
- In comedies, irony is applied in the different situations and words of the characters as the occurrences do not match the reactions.
- When it’s necessary, satire is used instead of sarcasm to criticize somebody or something.
- Comedies involve amusing situations as well as awkward or ridiculous manners.
Tragedy refers to a kind of drama with tragic events and having an unhappy ending especially the downfall of the main character. It is a serious play that discusses matters of great importance and that affect human beings. Tragedies are also plays that have a series of unfortunate events and in most cases, the main character undergoes several misfortunes which make the play end in a great disaster.
For example, in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the main characters Romeo and Juliet fall in love. However, they cannot love each other, as their families are sworn enemies. This relationship causes members of the two families to fight. As Romeo intervenes, he kills Juliet’s relative. Romeo is banished. Finally, as the two lovers try to reconnect, each thinks the other is dead. Hence, they both commit suicide.
Some tragedies end in the death or frustration of the main character and in some, the main protagonists fall from a high position to a low position in society. These characters mainly fall due to a number of reasons. It may be because of faults within their own personalities; or because of fate. Their fall may also be caused by the gods that have decreed their fall; and sometimes, a combination of all of them.
Most playwrights of tragedies depict religious aspects of gods, supernatural powers and beings as controllers of the fate of human beings. There is a central character called the protagonist who is the point of focus. He or she is either the hero or the villain. The disaster directly affects this character either due to personal fault or unavoidable circumstances.
Tragedies get their format and content from various aspects of some stories in the Greek Mythology. They take origin in ancient Greece towards the end of 6th century BC. Tragedies were popular and the most performed dramas in theatres. Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides are regarded as the most influential playwrights of tragedies as their works have continued to be performed for several centuries since their premiere. Sophocles and William Shakespeare, the English playwright, are credited for writing the greatest plays of tragedy. Famous works of tragedy include Shakespeare’s like Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Coriolanus, among others. Sophocles tragedies include Oedipus the King, Antigone, Ajax, Oedipus at Colonus and Electra.
Characters in tragedy
Tragedies unlike most plays, have very few characters. The major character is called the protagonist. The protagonists usually suffer greatly out of flaws in their own characters. Sometimes, they suffer out of forces greater than they can control. In tragedies, the protagonist is the character depicted to have good admirable traits. He or she is usually the hero or heroine. A hero in a tragedy is usually a tragic hero and he/she is great. However, this hero is not perfect. His or her own downfall is partly his or her fault. The hero’s misfortune is not wholly deserved. Hence, the reader will sympathize with him or her.
The villain in tragedies could be an individual or a group of people against the victim who is the general recipient of the tragedy. Villains exhibit villainy – wicked or criminal behaviours. The antagonist is the character brought out as mean and majorly tramples on the good character in the play.
Common stylistic devices used in tragedy
In tragedies, like most of literary works, imagery is used when describing situations and the emotional disposition of the various characters while the use of foreshadowing gives a prediction of an oncoming occurrence or an impending tragedy. Flashback is employed for character and plot development or when recounting on a past event.
Suspense is also used. It creates tension most especially in the end after the tragedy has taken place and no resolution is made; rather, the effects are not, if at all, explained. Tragedies mostly do not follow the logical sequence of happenings rather, end in anticlimax.
Common themes in tragedies
Tragedies explore the place of religion, the quality of one’s character and the power of fate on the lives of people. As such, most tragedies will focus on themes such as love, pain and suffering, death, religion among others.
In Oedipus the King, for instance, love is depicted by the fact that the king and queen love their new born son so very much they are unable to kill him as directed by Tiresias. They therefore task a servant to go kill him. The servant is sympathetic towards the small innocent child and abandons him in the bushes. In Corinth, the king and queen shower their new found child with so much love and care that he grows up without ever realizing he was adopted. It is for the love of his kingdom that king Oedipus finally gorges out his eyes and exiles himself. By doing this, he knows that it is the only way to save the kingdom from the calamity it now faces.
A tragicomedy is a drama that combines the elements of a tragedy and a comedy. It can be a tragedy with a happy ending or a tragedy with enough comic elements. This kind of drama may use humour while addressing a serious and important matter about human relations. It is the delivery of a tragic play in a humorous way. Comic or humour scenes are used to lighten the tone and mood of the play
The reader of melodramas is held between laughter and sadness because he/she cries and laughs while watching a tragicomedy.
A melodrama is a play that contains the characters that show stronger emotions than real people do. This kind of drama has a musical accompaniment to intensify the effects of certain scenes. Therefore, melodrama is an exaggerated drama as it includes exaggerated characters and exciting events; with the aim of appealing to the emotions of the audience. Simply, it deals with romantic and sensational topics.
Live music was incorporated in melodrama to heighten the senses in the performances and mark entrances and exits.
Melodramatic plays do not deliver much in themes but have a major concern of entertaining the audience. They are in a sense, plays meant for pleasure more than any moral lessons.
Features of Melodrama
Melodramatic plays depict the following features:
- Strong facial expressions;
- Large quick movements and gestures;
- Clear, well-projected delivery of lines by, for instance, being extremely loud;
- Extensive use of live music;
- Excessive use of hyperbole of characters and reactions to situations: for example, loud prolonged laughter, extreme anger pangs and so forth.