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Dramatic Literature. Understanding dramatic literature and the art of theatre. Masks of the Italian Renaissance Commedia dell ‘Arte. California English Language Arts Standard for Reading

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dramatic literature

Dramatic Literature

Understanding dramatic literature and the art of theatre

Masks of the Italian Renaissance Commedia dell ‘Arte

California English Language Arts Standard for Reading

3.1 Articulate the relationship between the expressed purposes and the characteristic of different forms of dramatic literature.

what are plays anyway
What are plays anyway?

Stories acted out!

On stage!


how do plays differ from stories
How do plays differ from stories?
  • Stories are prose narratives
  • Stories utilize narrators to describe characters, actions, and setting
  • Plays consist entirely of characters’ words and actions
  • Playwrights describe setting and actions in italics, but the audience never “hears” the descriptions
  • Directors and actors interpret the literature
structure of drama
Structure of Drama
  • Plot of play follows the rise-and-fall structure similar to stories
  • Plot of play is set in motion by an inciting incident
  • The inciting incident causes conflict
  • Internal and external conflict create tension
  • Conflicts grow more complicated
  • Tension reaches a climax
  • Conflict resolves and action winds down
features of tragedy
Features of Tragedy
  • Roots of tragedy lie in Ancient Greece as part of religious festivals
  • Tragedy presents serious and important actions that typically end unhappily (tragically, that is)
  • Central character is a noble figure, known as the tragic hero/heroine
  • Tragic hero/heroine possesses a tragic flaw, or hubris
  • Hubris, a personal flaw such as excessive pride, passion or rebellion, lead the tragic character to make choices that lead to doom
  • Catharsis, a cleansing of emotions

Greek tragic mask in terracotta

features of comedy
Features of Comedy
  • Comedies do more than make us laugh
  • Comedies also make us think and help us question issues of relevance
  • Central characters are from any social class- princes, towns people, servants
  • Characters possess flaws
  • Flawed characters see error of their ways
  • Order is restored

Greek Comic Mask depicted in tile mosaic

tragedy vs comedy
Tragedy vs. Comedy
  • Tragedy and comedy BOTH rooted in conflict
  • Conflict in COMEDIES typically related to romance and layered with confusion and complication
  • Complications involve misunderstandings, mistaken identity, disguises, and transformations

Traditional Comedy and Tragedy masks

modern dramatic literature
Modern Dramatic Literature
  • No clear distinctions between tragedy and comedy
  • Comic moments are mixed with tragic moments
  • Modern drama focuses on the personal and domestic issues
  • Characters are easily identified with

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

movies theatre
Movies & Theatre
  • Two completely different art forms
  • Theatre is a verbal medium
  • Movies are a visual medium
  • Theatre offers concentration, intensity, and involvement
  • Movies rely on images
  • Film versions of theatre miss a major aspect of the performance- the audience
theatre arts brings dramatic literature to life

Theatre Arts Brings Dramatic Literature to Life

California English Language Arts Standard for Reading

3.10 Identify and describe the function of dialogue, scene designs, soliloquies, asides, and character foils in dramatic literature.

theatre as art
Theatre as Art
  • Dramatic literature is meant for performance
  • Directors, designers, and actors translate playwright’s intentions
  • Performance take place on various styles of stages, from grand or intimate spaces
  • Audiences become part of the live action of the play, unlike any other artistic medium
interpreting the drama the director s task
Interpreting the Drama: The Director’s Task
  • Studies the play for meaning
  • Forms a vision and concept
  • Communicates to designers who will carry out the production’s concept
  • Helps the actor discover how to interpret the lines- what the words mean, why the character says them, and what the character feels
  • Is willing to step back and let the artists create a piece of living, breathing art on stage
  • Does NOT play all-controlling God-like figure as is commonly thought

Kenneth Branaugh as Hamlet

set design
Set Design
  • Set design driven by play’s theme, setting, and/or mood
  • In Shakespeare’s time, t he set was simply the backdrop of the theatrical building
  • Today, set design transforms space using realistic, abstract, or minimalist concepts
  • Spaces are altered using turntables, hydraulic lifts, conveyer belts

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

lighting design
Lighting Design
  • Natural light used during Ancient Greece, Medieval, and Renaissance period (300 B.C.- 1500 A.D.)
  • Candle lighting used during Neoclassical period through the Romantic period (late 1600’s up though the late 1800’s)
  • Electric lighting debuted at the turn of the century and is still being refined (1900-present day)

Romeo and Juliet

costume design
Costume Design
  • Costumes must reflect the character’s social position, profession, and historical context
  • Costumes can become symbolic through color, design, style, or motif
  • Designers will pay attention to the play’s theme and listen to the director’s concept
  • Designs can be realistic, minimalist, or even mix time periods for an effect of timelessness
make up design
Make-Up Design
  • Reveals all aspects of character from age, status, health, and even mood
  • Hides an actor’s flaws (corrective)
  • Plays up an actor’s best qualities (glamorize)
  • Works with director’s vision
  • Realistic, fantastical, character, symbolic


  • Items on stage carried or handled by actors
  • Props include swords, food items, letter, books, scepters, goblets, umbrellas
  • Props must work with set, costumes, lighting to create a unified effect
  • Unity sustains the audiences’ belief in the play’s “reality”


the actor s tasks
The Actor’s Tasks
  • Analyzes the play from the point of view of their character
  • Understands what motivates their character
  • Fills out the emotional and physical life of the part on stage
  • Lives the life of the character on stage

King Lear

characters onstage
Characters Onstage
  • Conversation is called dialogue
  • Monologues are spoken by one character to one or more characters onstage
  • Soliloquies are speeches given by one character on stage, alone
  • Asides are spoken directly to the audience
  • Stage directions are written into the script in italics, and suggest action and movement
  • Character foils are characters who are used in contrast to another character (cynical Mercutio is a foil to the romantic Romeo)

Richard III

features of plays
Features of Plays
  • Sex
  • Drugs
  • Gratuitous violence
no really
No, really…
  • Wit and puns laced with multiple meanings
  • Drinking, parties, and mind-altering substances
  • Action, duels, murders, and suicides
william shakespeare

William Shakespeare

California English Language Arts Standard for Reading

Literary Criticism

3.12 Analyze the way in which a work of literature is related to the themes and issues of the historical period.

sources of information
Sources of Information
  • Church documents
  • Legal documents
  • Real estate transactions
  • First-hand accounts

Billy Boy

shakespeare s childhood
Shakespeare’s Childhood
  • Born April 23, 1564
  • Birthplace in Stratford, a market town 100 miles northwest of London
  • Father was a shopkeeper, served as glover, justice and bailiff
  • William attended grammar school until age 15
  • Studied Latin grammar, literature, rhetoric (uses of language)
  • Both sisters died of bubonic plague
getting established
Getting Established
  • Married Anne Hathaway when he was 18 on November 27, 1582
  • Woops baby (Susanna)
  • William moved to London after his third child was born
  • 1592 he was established as an actor, playwright, and poet in London
  • 1594, was a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later The King’s Men)
an active theatrical career
An Active Theatrical Career
  • Established actor by age 28
  • Prolific playwright and poet
  • Wrote 37 plays, including masterpieces such as Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and King Lear
  • Retired in Stratford
  • Died on April 23, 1616, at age 52
  • Home burned by the Reverend Francis Gastrell, who was banished as a result
  • Plays still widely produced and loved world-wide

Romeo and Juliet

shakespeare s style
Shakespeare’s Style
  • Puns
  • Blank verse (iambic pentameter)
  • Metaphors
  • Conceits (whimsical ideas)
  • Soliloquies
  • Asides
  • Invented words
shakespeare s inspirations
Shakespeare’s Inspirations
  • Other plays of the Italian Renaissance
  • Christopher Marlowe’s plays featuring lives of kings
  • Poetry such as “The Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet”
  • Ancient Greek and Roman writers Seneca, Plautus, Ovid, Plutarch
  • English history
the first folio
The First Folio
  • The first 18 of Shakespeare’s plays were published as Quartos
  • Seven years after death, 36 of Shakespeare’s plays appeared in a Folio
  • First Folio had an introduction by Ben Jonson
  • Folio was published by John Heminges and Henry Condell
renaissance playwrights












Renaissance Playwrights
lasting influences
Lasting Influences
  • English language forever changed
  • Words invented and added
  • Phrases and ideas quoted daily
  • Contributed 10 historical plays, 13 comedies, 10 tragedies, 5 tragi-comedies
  • Challenging acting roles coveted by actors world-wide
getting into the lingo

Getting into the Lingo

California English Language Arts Standard for Vocabulary

1.1 Identify and use the literal and figurative meanings of words and word derivations.

features of shakespeare s language
Features of Shakespeare’s Language
  • Early Modern English (sometimes called archaic language)
  • Iambic pentameter
  • Emphasis on vowel sounds to communicate emotion
  • Use of consonants to define harder sounds
  • Lots of spit!
archaic language
Archaic Language
  • Old words have new meanings
  • Old words have disappeared from use
  • Non-standard spelling
  • Think creatively about archaic words
  • Examine word roots
  • Play with the way words sound
  • Use your imagination
what do you think this means literally
What do you think this means – literally?

“The bawdy hand of the dial

is now upon the prick of noon.”

… and figuratively?

iambic pentameter
Iambic Pentameter
  • Ten syllables per line
  • Five feet per line
  • Unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable
  • Functions to identify key words and phrases
  • Aids in expressive interpretations
shakespearean sayings
Shakespearean Sayings
  • All that glitters is not gold. (Merchant of Venice)
  • All’s well that ends well. (title)
  • Break the ice. (Taming of the Shrew)
  • Fool’s paradise. (Romeo and Juliet)
  • It was greek to me. (Julius Caesar)
  • Knock, knock! Who’s there? (Macbeth)
  • Naked truth. (Love’s Labours Lost)
shakespearean insults
Shakespearean Insults
  • (let’s invent a few!!!)
the renaissance

The Renaissance

History, Society, Culture in Context

Literary Criticism

3.12 Analyze the way in which a work of literature is related to the themes and issues of the historical period.

1485 1625

Renaissance- re-birth and re-discovery of classical texts, and the creation of new arts forms and literature

Reformation-King Henry VIII split from Roman catholic Church

Age of Exploration- new geographical discoveries and expansion of trade and commerce

Age of Discovery- science (telescope, plantary motion)

Elizabethan Era- Named for Queen Elizabeth I, great ruler and patron of the arts

elements of culture
Social organization

Customs and traditions


Arts and literature


Forms of government

Economic systems

Elements of Culture
historical context
Historical Context
  • Renaissance begins in Italy
    • Role of geography in trade
    • Re-birth
    • Humanism
  • War delayed England’s entrance into the Renaissance era
    • England and France at war (100 years!)
    • England’s own Henry V crowned King of France
  • The royal Tudor family encouraged the arts to flourish in England
  • Elizabeth I was on the English throne during the time of Shakespeare
social organiztion
Social Organiztion
  • Cosmology
    • World view shaped by Ptolemy (2nd century A.D.) who believed earth was center of universe
    • Copernicus (1610) proved that sun is center of universe
  • Universal hierarchy/chain of being
    • God, angels, men, women, animals, plants, rocks
    • Four Earthly elements (earth, air, water, fire)
    • Family structure (father first, primogeniture – oldest male offspring favored, females last)
  • City vs. country life
    • 1563 London had 93,000
    • 1605 London grew to 224,000
    • No sanitation; ditches as public toilets; carcasses in streets
  • Health
    • Plague, smallpox, tuberculosis, open sores
    • Hunger and constant stomach pain
    • Dental health (no toothbrushes for 100 more years!)
  • Education
    • Latin and Greek in grammar school; school was from 7am to 5pm; few holidays
  • Marriage
    • Maintained social order through arranged marriages for aritocracy; later marriages (25-29) limited children
    • Marriage for political alliance, not love
customs and traditions
Customs and Traditions
  • Bear and bull baiting
  • Cockfighting
  • Beer brawls and riots
  • Witch burning
  • Public executions
  • Severed heads on stakes
  • Early modern English
  • Mixed up words
  • Casual misspellings
arts and literature
Arts and Literature
  • Printing press
  • Theatre the “den of sins”
  • Puritan clergy objections
  • Reformation
  • Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary)
  • Elizabeth I
  • James I
forms of government
Forms of Government
  • Absolute monarchy
  • Divine Right of Kings
  • Artistrocrats
  • Merchants
  • Lower classes
renaissance theatres

Renaissance Theatres

California English Language Arts Standard for Reading

Literary Criticism

3.12 Analyze the way in which a work of literature is related to the themes and issues of the historical period.

that s entertainment
Bear baiting

Bull baiting

Cock fighting






“..whipping a blinded bear, which is performed by five or six men, standing in a circle of whips, which they exercise upon him without mercy. Although he cannot escape from them because of his chain, he nevertheless defends himself, vigorously throwing down all who come within his reach and are not active enough to get out of it, tearing the whips out of their hands and breaking them.”

Paul Hentzner, Travels in England, 1598

That’s Entertainment!
elizabethan actors knew
Elizabethan Actors Knew
  • Fencing
  • Tumbling
  • Dancing
  • Elocution
  • Acting
  • Music
theatres abound
Theatres Abound!
  • The Theatre (the first)
  • The Globe
  • The Black Friar’s
  • The Swan
  • The Fortune
  • The Rose
  • The White Hall
  • The Curtain
theatre influenced shape and form of plays
Theatre Influenced Shape and Form of Plays
  • Outdoor theatres placed in outdoor courtyards of inns
  • Temporary platform stage at one end
  • Audience would stand around the raised platform or be seated in balconies
  • First permanent theatre in London built by Richard Burbage inspired by the courtyard theatres
  • The Theatre was torn down in 1599, and the timbers used to build The Globe Theatre

The Swan

architecture of the globe
Architecture of The Globe
  • “Wooden O”
  • Large, round (or polygonal) building
  • Three stories high
  • Large, raised platform stage
  • Open-air courtyard
  • Back wall featured a curtained room
  • Balcony or upper stage for acting and/or musicians
  • Trapdoors in platform used for ghosts and hell
features of the globe
Features of The Globe
  • Lit by afternoon sunlight
  • No set pieces
  • Stage “set” by language
  • Elaborate costumes
  • Multiple acting areas (forestage, inner stage, upper stage)
  • Shows lasted 2 ½ hours
writing applications

Writing Applications

California English Language Arts Standard for Writing

2.2 Write responses to literature

2.6 Write technical documents

quick write
Quick Write

Take a position on the following statement:

“Teenagers are not capable of experiencing true love. They are too young to understand what true love means and are not ready for long term relationships.”

julius caesar
Julius Caesar

History play

Roman general and dictator

Plutarch (46-120) The Parallel Lives (first appearing under the title The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans)

Elizabethans saw own culture mirrored in Greek and Roman history and culture

rome in caesar s day
Rome in Caesar’s Day
  • Continuous war
  • Powerful generals
  • Plundering of Mediterranean
  • “private armies” subdued weaker countries
  • Territories ruled by Roman governors
  • Taxes
  • Generals battled for power
    • Caesar and Pompey clash (49BC)
caesar and pompey
Caesar and Pompey

Began in friendship

Pompey married Caesar’s daughter from Caesar’s first marriage

Formed the first triumvirate along with Crassus in 60BC

Caesar departs for Gallic Wars for 8 years; amasses huge sums of money

Caesar sends his riches to Rome

growing jealousies
Growing Jealousies
  • Caesar’s daughter dies in 54bc
  • Pompey threatened by Caesar’s power
  • Pompey and Roman Senate become worried about Caesar’s growing power
  • Senate demands Caesar returns to Rome and gives up his power…but…
  • Caesar went to Rome, chased Pompey all the way to Egypt
  • Pompey is murdered before he could be captured
  • Caesar lingers in Egypt for 9 months
    • Has affair with 22 year-old Cleopatra
    • Establishes her on throne of Egypt under his protection
  • Caesar travels to Spain and defeats an army led by one of Pompey’s sons
the unconquerable god
The Unconquerable God
  • Caesar declared dictator for 10 years
  • Made his supporters senators (Brutus)
  • Obsessive desire for power
    • Built a statue in honor of himself with inscription “To The Unconquerable God”
  • Romans became wary of his ambition, arrogance and power
  • Assassination takes place March 15, 44BC
resources credits
Resources & Credits
  • HOLT Third Course, Literature & Language Arts
  • Images from Google images
  • Slide show created by Annette Taser