Drama on stage often reflects the drama of everyday life, but (just like other forms of literature and art) it concentrates life, focuses it, and holds it up for examination. Since plays are written with the intention of performance, the reader of the play must use her imagination to enact the play as she reads it. Readers of the play need to imagine not just feelings or a flow of action, but how the action and the characters look in a theater, on a stage, before a live audience.
The fact of a live audience also has an important impact on the way plays are created. The essential feature of an audience involves the fact that they have, at a single instant, a common experience; they have assembled for the explicit purpose of seeing a play. Drama not only plays before a live audience of real people who respond directly and immediately to it, but drama is also conceived by the author with the expectation of a specific response. Authors calculate for the effect of a community of watchers rather than for the silent response. With this in mind, most plays written deal with topics that are timely.
Dialogue provides the substance of a play. Each word uttered by the character furthers the business of the play, contributes to its effect as a whole. Therefore, a sense of DECORUM must be established by the characters, i.e., what is said is appropriate to the role and situation of a character. Also the exposition of the play often falls on the dialogue of the characters. Remember exposition establishes the relationships, tensions or conflicts from which later plot developments derive.
The interest generated by the plot varies for different kinds of plays. (See fiction elements on plot for more information regarding plot.) The plot is usually structured with acts and scenes.
The stage creates its effects in spite of, and in part because of, definite physical limitations. Setting and action tend to be suggestive rather than panoramic or colossal. Both setting and action may be little more than hints for the spectator to fill out.
The means the playwright employs are determined at least in part by dramatic convention.
Just a there are various types of novels, i.e., western, romance, science fiction, there are different genres of plays. While it is difficult at times to place many latter day plays into a specific genre, seeing the attributes will enable the reader to understand the particular play better.
Tragedy: In classic tragedy and the modern problem play, tragedy is a play in which a central character faces, and is finally defeated by, some overwhelming threat or disaster. The hero or heroine is an active participant in the event through a tragic flaw, a shortcoming of the protagonist, i.e., pride, rashness, indecision. This reinforces the emphasis on action derived from character, which explains the psychological and moral interest of much great drama. Another common type of tragedy focuses not on how the protagonist brings about but on how he meets his fate. Tragedy so defined celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over physical necessity.
Comedy: Different kinds of comedy illustrate different ways a playwright may leaven grim truth with humor or temper the playful with the serious. Traditionally comedy is defined as a play that bestows on its characters good fortune, or more popularly, a happy ending. It may deal with the loves and jealousies of the young, and the reluctance other elders to give their blessings or the necessary funds.
A playwright's success ultimately depends on his ability to create a character that an actor can "bring to life." The playwright's ability to match the PROTAGONIST against an ANTAGONIST of some complexity and vitality can make the difference between a success and failure. Idiom, a character' personal thoughts and feelings as reflected through dialogue.
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