I. Origins of Drama A. Many say drama originated in Greece over 2,500 years ago as an outgrowth of the worship of the god Dionysus. B. During Dionysian festivals, a group of 50 citizens of Athens, known as a chorus, would perform hymns of praise to the god. These were known as dithyrambic poetry. Theatre built into the side of a hill and could seat almost 17,000 people.
II. Two main types of Greek drama A. Tragedy = drama treating a serious subject and involving persons of significance. According to Aristotle, when the audience sees a tragedy, they should feel both pity and fear. B. Comedy = Treats themes and characters with humor and typically has a happy ending.
Greek Tragedy Trilogy Chorus = a group of singers that comments on the play, often from the point of view of public opinion of the actions taking place Prologue = an introductory scene that tells the audience important information about the play’s setting, characters, and events immediately preceding the opening of the drama. Episode (episodos)= a passage of dialogue between two or more actors or between actors and chorus
Greek Tragedy Choral ode = the chorus is alone on stage, singing Éxodos = the final scene of the play Epilogue = after the main characters leave, this is where the chorus comes back on stage to sum up the play’s meaning
A. Components of plot 1. exposition = provides the audience with essential information — who, what, when, where — that it needs to know before it can continue 2. complication = the interjection of some circumstance or event that shakes up the stable situation that has existed before the play’s opening 3. rising action = the period in which the audience’s tension and expectations become tightly intertwined and involved with the characters and the events they experience
A. Components of plot 4. conflict = usually a problem that the characters cannot avoid 5. climax = the moment of greatest tension 6. falling action = beginning of the lessening of tension 7. dénouement (resolution) = the “untying of the knot,” in which the tension built up during the play is released
IV. Characterization A. Character motivation = why does a character behave in this manner? What does he/she hope to gain from these actions? B. Two conventions a playwright might employ in revealing motivation are soliloquy (a speech made by a single character on stage alone) and aside (a brief remark made directly to the audience).
V. Theme = the central idea or ideas that a play discusses A. Didactic = plays written to instruct the audience in ethical, religious, or political areas B. Morality play = a sermon on sin and redemption rendered in dramatic terms C. Problem play = uses the theater as a forum for the serious debate of social issues like industrial pollution or women’s rights D. Drama of ideas = goes further than simply presenting social problems; it advances a program of reform E. Social drama = radical social and political programs are openly propagandized
Medieval Drama Folk drama = plays performed by wandering troupes of actors Liturgical drama = plays put on by the Roman Catholic church Mystery Plays = derived from holy scripture Passion plays = focused on the crucifixion of Christ Miracle plays = dramatized the lives of the saints Morality plays = dramatized sermons with allegorical characters
VI. Spectacle = sometimes called mise en scène, or “setting of the scene.” This is the purely visual dimension of a play: the costumes, the props, the set.
Elizabethan Drama Raised stage = relied very little on set, but heavily on author’s ability to tell the tale Female parts were played by young boys Originality, as we use the term, meant little at the time Designed to appeal to a wide audience, not the elite.
The Comic Genres Commedia dell’arte = a cast of masked stock characters (the miserly old man, the young wife, the ardent seducer)
Realistic Drama, the Modern Stage, and Beyond Realism =Mid 19 th Century, brought settings that were accurate down to the smallest details. Replaced painted backdrops with the box set Surrealistic = stage settings used color & scenery that mirrored images of dreams Expressionism = settings, costumes and scenery reflected troubled, unbalanced mind
Theater of the absurd = depicts a world without meaning where everything seems ridiculous Melodramas = sensational plays that appealed mainly to emotions Satire = biting humor that diminishes a person, idea, or institution Black or dark comedies = rely on the morbid and the absurd
Defining Drama Monologues = extended speeches by one character Soliloquies = monologues in which a character expresses private thoughts while alone on stage Asides = brief comments by a character who reveals thoughts by speaking directly to the audience