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Drama. Feature Menu. What Is Drama? Dramatic Structure Tragedy Comedy Modern Drama Performance of a Play Setting the Stage The Characters The Audience Practice. What Is Drama?. A drama is a story enacted onstage for a live audience. [End of Section]. Origins of Drama.

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Feature Menu

  • What Is Drama?

  • Dramatic Structure

  • Tragedy

  • Comedy

  • Modern Drama

  • Performance of a Play

    • Setting the Stage

    • The Characters

    • The Audience

  • Practice

What is drama
What Is Drama?

A drama is a story enacted onstage for a live audience.

[End of Section]

Origins of Drama

Dramatic structure
Dramatic Structure

Like the plot of a story, the plot of a play involves characters who face a problem or conflict.


point of highest tension;action determines how the conflict will be resolved


tension builds


conflict is resolved;

play ends

Expositioncharacters and conflictare introduced

[End of Section]


A tragedy is a play that ends unhappily.

  • Most classic Greek tragedies deal with serious, universal themes such as

right and wrong

justice and injustice

life and death

  • Tragedies pit human limitations against the larger forces of destiny.


The protagonist of most classical tragedies is a tragic hero. This hero


  • is noble and in many ways admirable


  • has a tragic flaw, a personal failing that leads to a tragic end


[End of Section]


A comedy is a play that ends happily. The plot usually centers on a romantic conflict.

boy wins girl

boy loses girl

boy meets girl

Modern comedies


The main characters in a comedy could be anyone:





  • Comic complications always occur before the conflict is resolved.

  • In most cases, the play ends with a wedding.


Quick Check

How can you tell this play is a comedy? What is the most likely outcome?

[End of Section]

Modern drama
Modern Drama

A modern play

  • may be tragedy, comedy, or a mixture of the two

  • usually focuses on personal issues

  • usually is about ordinary people

Modern drama1
Modern Drama

Modern playwrights often experiment with unconventional plot structures.

long flashbacks


visual projections of a character’s private thoughts

[End of Section]

Performance of a play
Performance of a Play

When you read a play, remember that it is meant to be performed for an audience.

[End of Section]

Setting the stage
Setting the Stage

Stages can have many different sizes and layouts.

  • “Thrust” stage

  • The stage extends into the viewing area.

  • The audience surrounds the stage on three sides.

Stages in Shakespeare’s time

Setting the stage1
Setting the Stage

“In the round” stage is surrounded by an audience on all sides.

Setting the stage2
Setting the Stage

Proscenium stage

  • The playing area extends behind an opening called a “proscenium arch.”

  • The audience sits on one side looking into the action.


stage right

stage left


Setting the stage3
Setting the Stage

Scene design transforms a bare stage into the world of the play. Scene design consists of

  • sets

  • lighting

  • costumes

  • props

Setting the stage4
Setting the Stage

A stage’s set might be

realistic and detailed

abstract and minimal

Setting the stage5
Setting the Stage

A lighting director skillfully uses light to change the mood and appearance of the set.

Setting the stage6
Setting the Stage

The costume director works with the director to design the actors’ costumes.

  • Like sets, costumes can be



Setting the stage7
Setting the Stage

Props (short for properties) are items that the characters carry or handle onstage.

  • The person in charge of props must make sure that the right props are available to the actors at the right moments.

[End of Section]

The characters
The Characters

The characters’ speech may take any of the following forms.

The characters1
The Characters

Quick Check

What are the stage directions in this passage?

What does the characters’ dialogue tell you about them?

[End of Section]

The audience
The Audience

Finally, a play needs an audience to

experience the performance

understand the story

respond to the characters

[End of Section]


Choose a play or movie that you remember seeing, and discuss its dramatic elements.

[End of Section]