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Elements of Drama A Brief Introduction

1. Plot the sequence of events or incidents of which the story is composed.


A. Conflict is a clash of actions, ideas, desires or wills.
a. person against person.
b. person against environment external force, physical nature,
society, or fate.
c. person against herself/himself conflict with some element in
her/his own nature; maybe physical, mental, emotional, or moral.
B. Protagonist and Antagonist the protagonist is the central character, sympathetic
or unsympathetic. The forces working against her/him, whether persons, things,
conventions of society, or traits of their own character, are the antagonists.
C. Artistic Unity essential to a good plot; nothing irrelevant; good arrangement.
D. Plot Manipulation a good plot should not have any unjustified or unexpected
turns or twists; no false leads; no deliberate and misleading information.
2. Character
A. Direct Presentation author tells us straight out, by exposition or analysis, or
through another character.
B. Indirect Presentation author shows us the character in action; the reader infers
what a character is like from what she/he thinks, or says, or does. These are also
called dramatized characters and they are generally consistent (in behaviour),
motivated (convincing), and plausible (lifelike).
C. Character Types a Flat character is known by one or two traits; a Round
character is complex and many-sided; a Stock character is a stereotyped character (a
mad scientist, the absent-minded professor, the cruel mother-in-law); a Static
character remains the same from the beginning of the plot to the end; and a Dynamic
(developing) character undergoes permanent change. This change must be a. within
the possibilities of the character; b. sufficiently motivated; and c. allowed sufficient
time for change.
Theme the controlling idea or central insight. It can be 1. a revelation of human character; 2. may
be stated briefly or at great length; and 3. a theme is not the moral of the story.
A. A theme must be expressible in the form of a statement not motherhood but
Motherhood sometimes has more frustration than reward.
B. A theme must be stated as a generalization about life; names of characters or
specific situations in the plot are not to be used when stating a theme.
C. A theme must not be a generalization larger than is justified by the terms of the
story.
D. A theme is the central and unifying concept of the story. It must adhere to the
following requirements: 1. It must account for all the major details of the story. 2. It
must not be contradicted by any detail of the story. 3. It must not rely on supposed
facts facts not actually stated or clearly implied by the story.
E. There is no one way of stating the theme of a story.
F. Any statement that reduces a theme to some familiar saying, aphorism, or clich
should be avoided. Do not use A stitch in time saves nine, You cant judge a book
by its cover, Fish and guests smell in three days, and so on.
4. Points Of View
A. Omniscient a story told by the author, using the third person; her/his knowledge,
control, and prerogatives are unlimited; authorial subjectivity.
B. Limited Omniscient a story in which the author associates with a major or minor
character; this character serves as the authors spokesperson or mouthpiece.
C. First Person the author identifies with or disappears in a major or minor
character; the story is told using the first person I.
D. Objective or Dramatic the opposite of the omniscient; displays authorial
objectivity; compared a roving sound camera. Very little of the past or the future is
given; the story is set in the present.
5. Symbol a literary symbol means more than what it is. It has layers of meanings. Whereas an
image has one meaning, a symbol has many.
A. Names used as symbols. B. Use of objects as symbols. C. Use of actions as
symbols.

Note: The ability to recognize and interpret symbols requires experience in literary
readings, perception, and tact. It is easy to run wild with symbols to find symbols
everywhere. The ability to interpret symbols is essential to the full understanding and
enjoyment of literature. Given below are helpful suggestions for identifying literary
symbols:
1. The story itself must furnish a clue that a detail is to be taken symbolically
symbols nearly always signal their existence by emphasis, repetition, or
position. 2. The meaning of a literary symbol must be established and supported by
the entire context of the story. A symbol has its meaning inside not outside a
story. 3. To be called a symbol, an item must suggest a meaning different in kind
from its literal meaning. 4. A symbol has a cluster of meanings.
6. Irony a term with a range of meanings, all of them involving some sort of discrepancy or
incongruity. It should not be confused with sarcasm which is simply language designed to cause pain.
Irony is used to suggest the difference between appearance and reality, between expectation and
fulfillment, the complexity of experience, to furnish indirectly an evaluation of the authors material,
and at the same time to achieve compression.
A. Verbal irony the opposite is said from what is intended.
B. Dramatic irony the contrast between what a character says and what the reader
knows to true.
C. Irony of situation discrepancy between appearance and reality, or between
expectation and fulfillment, or between what is and what would seem appropriate.
Drama has one characteristic peculiar to itself it is written primarily to be performed, not read. It
is a presentation of action a. through actors (the impact is direct and immediate), b. on
a stage (a captive audience), and c. before an audience (suggesting a communal experience).
Of the four major points of view, the dramatist is limited to only one the objective or dramatic. The
playwright cannot directly comment on the action or the character and cannot directly enter the minds
of characters and tell us what is going on there. But there are ways to get around this limitation
through the use of 1. soliloquy(a character speaking directly to the audience), 2. chorus ( a
group on stage commenting on characters and actions), and 3. one character commenting on
another.
Tragedy
Aristotles definition of tragedy: A tragedy is the imitation in dramatic form of an action that is
serious and complete, with incidents arousing pity and fear wherewith it effects a catharsis of such
emotions. The language used is pleasurable and throughout appropriate to the situation in which it is
used. The chief characters are noble personages (better than ourselves, says Aristotle) and the
actions they perform are noble actions.
Central features of the Aristotelian archetype:
1. The tragic hero is a character of noble stature and has greatness. If the heros fall
is to arouse in us the emotions of pity and fear, it must be a fall from a great height.
2. Though the tragic hero is pre-eminently great, he/she is not perfect. Tragic flaw,
hubris (excessive pride or passion), and hamartia (some error) lead to the heros
downfall.
3. The heros downfall, therefore, is partially her/his own fault, the result of ones own
free choice, not the result of pure accident or villainy, or some overriding malignant
fate.
4. Nevertheless, the heros misfortune is not wholly deserved. The punishment
exceeds the crime. The hero remains admirable.
5. Yet the tragic fall is not pure loss though it may result in the heros death,
before it, there is some increase in awareness, some gain in self-knowledge or, as
Aristotle puts it, some discovery.
6. Though it arouses solemn emotion pity and fear, says Aristotle, but compassion
and awe might be better terms tragedy, when well performed, does not leave its
audience in a state of depression. It produces a catharsis or an emotional release
at the end, one shared as a common experience by the audience.
Comedy, Northrop Frye has said, lies between satire and romance. Is the comic mask laughing or
smiling? We usually laugh at someone, but smile with someone. Laughter expresses recognition of
some absurdity in human behavior; smile expresses pleasure in ones company or good fortune. The

essential difference between tragedy and comedy is in the depiction of human nature: tragedy shows
greatness in human nature and human freedom whereas comedy shows human weakness and
human limitation. The norms of comedy are primarily social; the protagonist is always in a group or
emphasizes commonness. A tragic hero possesses overpowering individuality so that the play is
often named after her/him (Antigone, Othello); the comic protagonist tends to be a type and the
play is often named for the type (The Misanthrope, The Alchemist, The Brute). Comic plots
do not exhibit the high degree of organic unity as tragic plots do. Plausibility is not usually the central
characteristic (cause-effect progression) but coincidences, improbable disguises, mistaken identities
make up the plot. The purpose of comedy is to make us laugh and at the same time, help to illuminate
human nature and human weaknesses. Conventionally comedies have a happy ending. Accidental
discovery, act of divine intervention (deus ex machina), sudden reform are common comedic
devises. Comedy is the thinking persons response to experience; tragedy records the reactions of
the person with feeling. Charles B. Hands
Melodrama arouses pity and fear through cruder means. Good and evil are clearly depicted in white
and black motifs. Plot is emphasized over character development.
Farce aimed at arousing explosive laughter using crude means. Conflicts are violent, practical jokes
are common, and the wit is coarse. Psychologically farce may boost the readers spirit and purge
hostility and aggression.

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TYPES OF DRAMA / PLAYS: COMEDY
Posted by reniermedia in Types of Drama / Plays: ComedySeptember 5, 2008

Types of Drama /
Plays: Comedy

Komos Greek revelry at end of comedies based on some deviation from normality
in action, character, thought, or speech in fun (tho can still have serious purpose)
Henri Bergson (1917) On Laughter. anesthesia of the heart audiences view
objectively the banana peel fall is funny, as long as it is not us and if not hurt (cartoons).
Aristotles book of comedy, if there was one ever, is not extant. In tragedy, people are better
than they really are; in comedy, people are worse that they really are.
Often: if a happy ending, therefore a comedy. A kind of catharsis through laughter and
amusement helps remind us of our frailties and helps keep us sane.
Wilson, p. 200 Characteristics of comedy a way of looking at the world in
which basic values are asserted but natural laws suspended to underscore human follies
and foolishness sometimes wry, rueful, hilarious.

suspension of natural laws

contrast between social order and individual

comic premise:
the idea or concept that turns the accepted notion of things
upside down and makes it the basis of the play provides
structural and thematic unity and can be a springboard for
comic dialog, characters, and situations.
involves exaggeration and incongruity and contradictions
Incongruity illogical, out of place surprise.
{Top of Page}

Comic techniques
verbal humor

puns

malapropismsLINK to malaprop
page orhere misusing wrong words in
such a way that they sound similar but
usually are strikingly different from the
word intended.

The Rugrats, for example, use a number of


malapropisms: Angelica said once that there was
a whole world to deplore out there (the best
are like thisthe word sounds similar but means
something strikingly different).
Justin Wilson, the cajun cook, was famous for
his malapropisms: he called himself a halfbleed cajun who granulated high school.
(Wilson, pp. 204-205, has some nice examples).
epigrams (or go here)
Characterizations
incongruity between the way characters see
themselves or pretend to be, as opposed to the
way they really are
lot complications especially in farce
coincidences
mistaken identities Comedy of Errors,
The School for Scandal

Shakespeare uses comedy in tragedy and tragedy in comedy and


different kinds of comedies difficult to categorize.{Top of Page}

Kinds of Comedy: High and Low


1. Farce: often considered a separate form (Plautus, Charleys Aunt).
often considered to be low comedy (versus high comedy).
physical comedy : slapstick physical action provokes the thought.
Very high incongruity (surprise, something out of place or unexpected).
Comedy of situation, but extreme incongruity buffoonery, accidents,
mistaken identities, ludicrous situations.
[H., P., &L: the average human being as an undeserving, universal victim of
circumstance]
Often stylized: aside take `mugging
2. Burlesques lampooning other works of art, including theatre pieces.
3. Satire ridicule of public institutions and figures.
4. Domestic Comedy home and hearth.
5. Comedy of Manners / Wit: similar to character and situation aristocratic and witty
characters .
6. Comedy of Ideas

Additional forms not mentioned in Wilson:


a. Comedy of situation:
character and ideas are minor hidden identities, discoveries, reversals, etc.
similar to farce, but less unrealistic
b. Comedy of character: eccentricities of the protagonist (Moliere)

c. Romantic comedy struggles of love, sympathetic characters, ludicrous devices lovers use
(Sh.Midsummer, 12th Night)
Restoration Drama (School for Scandal)
Concept or thought is essential.
Shaw (prostitution, English class system), Aristophanes (Birds,
Lysistrata) {Top of Page}

Ladder of Comedy:
Satire biting humor
criticism of life

Pure Comedy High Comedy


[Sporre, 100] highly complex, embracing a
wide range of approachesfrom intellectual Incongruity surprise, out of
wit to slapstick
place
Verbal Wit
Plot devices
misunderstandings, mistaken
Low Comedy
identities

comedy that depends on action and


situation, usually involving trivial
theme [Sporre, 100]
in all farce

inopportune arrivals
embarrassing occurrences

Lightness of touch
elements of story can be serious, but most is funny, or humor plays a significant part.
Leave a comment
TYPES OF DRAMA / PLAYS: COMEDY

Posted by reniermedia in Types of Drama / Plays: ComedySeptember 5, 2008

Types of Drama / Plays: Comedy

Komos Greek revelry at end of comedies based on some deviation from


normality in action, character, thought, or speech in fun (though can still have
serious purpose)
Henri Bergson (1917) On Laughter. anaesthesia of the heart audiences
view objectively the banana peel fall is funny, as long as it is not us and if not
hurt (cartoons).
Aristotles book of comedy, if there was one ever, is not extant. In tragedy,
people are better than they really are; in comedy, people are worse that they
really are.
Often: if a happy ending, therefore a comedy. A kind of catharsis through
laughter and amusement helps remind us of our frailties and helps keep us
sane.
Characteristics of comedy a way of looking at the world in which basic values are asserted but
natural laws suspended to underscore human follies and foolishness sometimes wry, rueful,
hilarious.

suspension of natural laws

contrast between social order and individual

comic premise:
The idea or concept that turns the accepted notion of things upside
down and makes it the basis of the play provides structural and
thematic unity and can be a springboard for comic dialog, characters,
and situations.

involves exaggeration and incongruity and


contradictions

Incongruity illogical, out of place surprise.


Comic techniques
verbal humour

puns

malapropisms misusing wrong words in such a


way that they sound similar but usually are strikingly
different from the word intended.

The Rugrats, for example, use a number


of malapropisms: Angelica said once that
there was a whole world to deplore out
there (the best are like thisthe word
sounds similar but means something
strikingly different).
Justin Wilson, the Cajun cook, was
famous for his malapropisms: he called
himself a half-bleed Cajun who
granulated high school.

Characterizations
Incongruity between the way characters see
themselves or pretend to be, as opposed to the way
they really are
lot complications especially in farce
coincidences

mistaken identities Comedy of


Errors, The School for Scandal

Shakespeare uses comedy in tragedy and tragedy in comedy and different


kinds of comedies difficult to categorize.
Kinds of Comedy: High and Low

1. Farce: often considered a separate form (Plautus, Charleys Aunt).


often considered to be low comedy (versus high comedy).

physical comedy: slapstick physical action provokes the


thought.
Very high incongruity (surprise, something out of place or
unexpected).
Comedy of situation, but extreme incongruity buffoonery,
accidents, mistaken identities, ludicrous situations.
[H., P., &L: the average human being as an undeserving, universal
victim of circumstance]
Often stylised: aside take `mugging
2. Burlesques lampooning other works of art, including theatre pieces.
3. Satire ridicule of public institutions and figures.
4. Domestic Comedy home and hearth.
5. Comedy of Manners / Wit: similar to character and situation aristocratic and
witty characters.
6. Comedy of Ideas
Additional forms not mentioned in Wilson:
a. Comedy of situation:
character and ideas are minor hidden identities, discoveries, reversals, etc. similar to
farce, but less unrealistic

b. Comedy of character: eccentricities of the protagonist (Moliere)


c. Romantic comedy struggles of love, sympathetic characters, ludicrous devices
lovers use (Sh. Midsummer, 12th Night)

Restoration Drama (School for Scandal)


Concept or thought is essential.
Shaw (prostitution, English class system), Aristophanes (Birds, Lysistrata)
Ladder of Comedy:
Satire biting humour
Pure Comedy High Comedy
criticism of life
[Sporre, 100] highly complex, embracing a
wide range of approachesfrom intellectual Incongruity surprise, out of
wit to slapstick
place
Verbal Wit
Plot devices
misunderstandings, mistaken
Low Comedy
identities

comedy that depends on action


and situation, usually involving
trivial theme [Sporre, 100]
in all farce

inopportune arrivals
embarrassing occurrences

What is Literature?
Literature springs from our inborn love of telling a story, of arranging words in pleasing
patterns, of expressing in words some special aspect of our human experience. It is usually
set down in printed characters for us to read, though some forms of it are performed on
certain social occasions. There are a number of different branches such as drama, poetry, the
novel, the short story; all these are works of the imagination arising from mans capacity for
invention. The primary aim of literature is to give pleasure, to entertain those who voluntarily
attend to it. There are, of course, many different ways of giving pleasure or entertainment,
ranging from the most philosophical and profound. It is important to note that the writer of
literature is not tied to fact in quite the same way as the historian, the economist or the
scientist, whose studies are absolutely based on what has actually happened, or on what
actually does happen, in the world of reality.
Why is Literature Important?
We soon discover, however that the literature which entertains us best does not keep us for
long in the other-world of fantasy or unreality. The greatest pleasure and satisfaction to be
found in literature occurs where (as it so often does) it brings us back to the realities of
human situations, problems, feelings and relationships. The writers of literature, being less
tied to fact than the historian or the scientist, have more scope to comment on the facts, to
arrange them in unusual ways to speculate not only on what is, but on what ought to be, or
what might be. Writers are sometimes, therefore people with visionary or prophetic insights
into human life.
Literature is an imaginative art which expresses thoughts and feelings of the artist on events
around him. In most cases, it deals with life experiences. The author/artist uses words in a
powerful, effective and captivating manner to paint his picture of human experience.
Literature is a form of recreation. The three genres of literature are fiction, drama and poetry.
You have seen that drama is a genre of literature. A person who writes a novel is called a
novelist, the person who writes a play is a playwright while the poet writes poetry. All of us
who read literature will find our knowledge of human affairs broadened and deepened,
whether in the individual, the social, the racial or the international sphere; we shall
understand the possibilities of human life, both for good and evil; we shall understand how
we came to live at a particular time and place, with all its pleasures and vexations and

problems; and we shall perhaps be able to make right rather than wrong choices. Literature
can be in written or oral form. It could also be presented in form of performance.
3.2 What is Drama
Drama as a literary genre is realized in performance, which is why Robert Di Yanni (quoted
in Dukore) describes it as staged art (867). As a literary form, it is designed for the theatre
because characters are assigned roles and they act out their roles as the action is enacted on
stage. These characters can be human beings, dead or spiritual beings, animals, or abstract
qualities. Drama is an adaptation, recreation and reflection of reality on stage. Generally, the
word, dramatist is used for any artist who is involved in any dramatic composition either in
writing or in performance.
Drama is different from other genres of literature. It has unique characteristics that have come
about in response to its peculiar nature. Really, it is difficult to separate drama from
performance because during the stage performance of a play, drama brings life experiences
realistically to the audience. It is the most concrete of all genres of literature. When you are
reading a novel, you read a story as told by the novelist. The poems message in most cases is
not direct because it is presented in a compact form or in a condensed language. The
playwright does not tell the story instead you get the story as the characters interact and live
out their experiences on stage. In drama, the characters/actors talk to themselves and react to
issues according to the impulse of the moment. Drama is therefore presented in dialogue.
The dramatic is used for any situation or action which creates a sense of an abnormality or
the unexpected. Sometimes we use it to describe an action that is demonstrated or
exaggerated. For instance, if you are at a bus stop, a well-dressed young girl passes and catwalks across the road, her high-healed shoes breaks and she slips, the immediate reaction will
be laughter from almost everybody there. For some people, this is drama. Although she was
walking in an abnormal way and unexpectedly her shoe breaks, her action could be called
dramatic but it is not dramatic action. Again, the action of a teacher who demonstrates, by
injecting life into his teaching as he acts out certain situations, is dramatic but it is not drama.
What then is drama? Drama is an imitation of life. Drama is different from other forms of
literature because of its unique characteristics. It is read, but basically, it is composed to be
performed, so the ultimate aim of dramatic composition is for it to be presented on stage
before an audience. This implies that it a medium of communication. It has a message to
communicate to the audience. It uses actors to convey this message. This brings us to the
issue of mimesis or imitation. We say that drama is mimetic which means that it imitates life.
You may have heard people say that drama mirrors life. Yes, it is the only branch of literature
which tries to imitate life and presents it realistically to the people. It is this mimetic
impulse of drama that makes it appeal to people. Drama thrives on action.
Types of Drama
Some plays elicit laughter, others evoke tears. Some are comic, others tragic, still others a
mixture of both. The comic view celebrates life, and affirms it; it is typically joyous and
festive. The tragic view highlights lifes sorrows; it is typically brooding and solemn. Tragic
plays end unhappily, often with the death of the hero; comedies usually end happily, often
with a celebration such as a marriage. Both comedy and tragedy contain changes of fortunate,
with the fortunes of conic characters from good to bad.
The two major dramatic modes, tragedy and comedy, have been represented traditionally by
contrasting masks, one sorrowful, the other joyful. Actors once wore such masks. The mask
represent more than different types of plays: they also stand for contrasting ways of looking
at the world, aptly summarized in Horace Walpoes remark, the world is a comedy to those

who think and a tragedy to those who feel. That is, when you think about the contradictions
in a situation it may seem funny, but when you feel them, it is sad.
a.
Tragedy
In the Poetics, Aristotle described tragedy as an imitation of an action that is serious,
complete in it self, and of a certain magnitude. This definition suggests that tragedies are
solemn plays concerned with grave human actions and their consequences. The action of a
tragedy is complete-it possesses a beginning, middle, and an end. Elsewhere in the Poetics,
Aristotle notes that the incidents of a tragedy must be causally connected. The events have to
be logically related, one growing naturally out of another, each leading to the inevitable
catastrophe, usually the downfall of the hero.
Some readers of tragedy have suggested that, according to Aristotle, the catastrophe results
from a flaw in the character of the hero. Others have contented that the heros tragic flaw
result from fate or coincidence, from circumstances beyond the heros control.
An essential element of the tragic heros experience is a recognition of what has happened to
him. Frequently this takes the form of the hero discovering something previously unknown or
something he knew but misconstrued. According to Aristotle, the tragic heros regognition (or
discovery) is often allied with a reversal of his expectations.
We may consider why, amid such suffering and catastrophe, tragedies are not depressing.
Aristotle suggested that the pity and fear aroued in the audience are purged or released and
the audience experiences a cleansing of those emotions and a sense of relief that the action is
over. Perhaps tragedy represents for us the ultimate downfall we will experience in death: we
watch in fascination and awe a dramatic reminder of our own inevitable mortality. Or perhaps
we are exalted in witnessing the high human aspiration and the noble conception of human
character embodies in tragic heroes. [5]
b.
Comedy
Some of the same dramatic elements we find in tragedy occur in comedy as well. Discovery
scenes and consequent reversals of fortunate, for example, occur in both. So too do
misperceptions and errors of judgment, exhibitions of human weakness and failure. But in
comedy the reversals and errors lead not to calamity as they do in tragedy, but to prosperity
and happiness. Comic heroes are usually ordinary people. Moreover, comic characters are
frequently one-dimensional to the extent that many are stereotypes: the ardent young lovers.
The happy endings of comedies are not always happy for all the characters involved. This
marks one of the significant differences between the two major types of comedy: satiric and
romantic comedy. Though much of what we have said so far about comedy applies to both
types, it applies more extensively to romantic than to satiric comedy, or satire. Satire exposes
human folly, criticizes human conduct, and aims to correct it.
Romantic comedy on the other hand, portrays characters gently, even generously; its spirit is
more tolerant and its tone more genial. Whatever adversities the heroes and heroines of
romantic comedy must overcome, the tone is typically devoid of rancor and bitterness. The
humor and romantic comedy is more sympathetic than corrective, and it intends more to
entertain than instruct, to delight than ridicule.
IV.
Conclusion
Drama is an imitation of an action. It is a branch of literature which is both literary art and
representational art. As a literary art, it deals with fiction or an imaginary story that is
presented through characters and dialogue. However, it is a special kind of fiction because it
is designed to be acted out rather than narrated. When we read a novel or a short story, we
understand and appreciate the story, through the narrator or author but in drama the characters
live out the story for us. The playwright does not comment or explain anything. So, drama

gives us a direct presentation of life experiences. That is why we say that it is a


representational art. Drama, therefore, uses language in the form of gesture or dialogue to
present or to re-present an action. Characters are used to present the story. These characters
are called actors.
V.
Summary
In this unit, we have tried to explain the meaning of drama. We have also tried to distinguish
it from other forms of literature. By now you must have been familiar with the basic elements
of drama which make drama unique. You have seen also that the term drama is used at three
different levels now. It is a performance, it is a composition to be read or performed and it is a
branch of literature.