Introduction to Drama

Drama:  Consists of a series of actions meant to be performed on a stage by live actors for a live audience.  Because the audience always collaborates with the playwright, it is the most communal, collaborative form of literature.

*Drama is similar to fiction in many ways*


Verbal Irony
:  When a character says the opposite of what s/he means (sarcasm).

Situational Irony:  When the actual outcome of the plot is the opposite or different from the expected outcome.

Dramatic Irony:  When a character says words that have a hidden meaning understandable to the audience but of which s/he is unaware.

Plot:  Action of the play.

Exposition: The introduction of characters, setting, and background information

Rising Action:  Part of the play leading to the climax.

Climax:  Highest emotional peak of the play: turning point where the opposing forces meet.

Falling Action:  Immediately following the climax.

Dénouement:   Literally, 'unknotting.' The final unraveling of a plot; the solution of a mystery; an explanation or outcome.  Also known as the conclusion.

Complication:  Tends to be the middle part of the play where the problem(s) facing the characters tends to develop.

Dilemma:  A very difficult decision in which both choices have equally weighted consequences.

Conflict:  Struggle between opposing forces.

Internalà Takes place within the character

Externalà Takes place between the character and outside forces

Characterization: character development 

There are three fundamental methods of characterization :

(1) What the author tells us about the character
(2) What the character says and does
(3) The interactions of other characters / other characters’ perceptions

Round character:  Fully developed & 3-dimensional.

Flat character
:  Not fully developed.  Not completely believable.  A caricature.

Static character:  One that does not change.

Dynamic character
:  One that changes during the course of the story.

*Since drama is written to be performed though, it has specific characteristics that differentiate it from other literary genres like fiction and poetry*

Playwright:  Author of a play. 

Script:  Written form of a play.  Includes dialogue, stage directions, and may be divided into scenes or acts.

Dialogue:  Speech between actors in a play.

Monologues:  Long speeches given by an individual actor on stage to other actors or the audience.

Soliloquy:  Speech given by a lone character on stage.

Aside:  Statement meant for the audience or a single character, but not by other characters on the stage (Malcolm in the Middle, The Bernie Mac Show).

Stage Directions:  Notes provided by the playwright to describe how something should be presented or performed.  They may describe entrances / exits, movement, facial expressions, vocal qualities, gestures, etc.  Stage directions include elements of the spectacle:  lighting, music, sound effects, costumes, props, or set designs.  Spectacle is specific to drama—it is what SHOWS the action vs. TELLING.

Blocking:  How the actors move or are positioned around the space.

Act:  Major division of a play—often includes scenes.

Scene:  Smaller division within an act—usually marked by the entrance of one or more characters.

Suspension of disbelief:  An audience’s willingness to accept the world of the drama as reality during the course of a play.

Catharsis:  The emotional release audiences should feel after watching a tragedy.