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Types of Plays. Dramatic Genres. Genres.

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types of plays

Types of Plays

Dramatic Genres


This concept of genre originated from the classification systems created byAristotle and Plato. Plato divided literature into the three classic genres accepted in Ancient Greece: poetry, drama, and prose. Poetry is further subdivided into epic, lyric, and drama. The divisions are recognized as being set by Aristotle and Plato; however, they were not alone. Many genre theorists contributed to these universally accepted forms of poetry. Similarly many theorists continued to philosophize about genre and its uses, which caused genre as Plato and Aristotle knew it to evolve and further expand.


“Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis of such emotions. . . .


According to Aristotle, ancient comedy originated with the komos, a curious and improbable spectacle in which a company of festive males apparently sang, danced, and cavorted rollickingly around the image of a large phallus (…giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "stand-up routine.")

Accurate or not, the linking of the origins of comedy to some sort of phallic ritual or festival of mirth seems both plausible and appropriate, since for most of its history--from Aristophanes to Seinfeld--comedy has involved a high-spirited celebration of human sexuality and the triumph of eros. As a rule, tragedies occur on the battlefield or in a palace's great hall; a more likely setting for comedy is the bedroom or bathroom.

On the other hand, it's not true that a film or literary work must involve sexual humor or even be funny in order to qualify as a comedy. A happy ending is all that's required. In fact, since at least as far back as Aristotle, the basic formula for comedy has had more to do with conventions and expectations of plot and character than with a requirement for lewd jokes or cartoonish pratfalls. In essence: A comedy is a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character.


…a play or other literary work combining tragic and comic elements

…since the early 17th century, serious plays have been called tragicomedy when they do not adhere strictly to the structure of tragedy…and is sometimes referred to as a tragedy with a happy ending.

…modern plays often rely on the mix of comic and tragic elements

In the 17th century, the neoclassicists called for a return to the two

basic forms of tragedy and comedy, other “mixed” forms like

tragicomedy were considered mixed and inferior…

all s well that ends well
All’s Well That Ends Well

Sometimes described as a “problem play,” this play has elements of comedy and tragedy and romance. The story shows how Helena, a doctor’s daughter, comes to the French court with a prescription to heal the King. He promises that he will enable her to marry the man of her choosing. She chooses Bertram who does not want to marry a commoner. In a “bed trick,” she takes him as a lover and takes his ring, conditions he has made to avoid her hand. When he returns from the war, she reveals her deceit and they are reconciled.

  • “There are two kinds of communication…

1) The domain of science or philosophy describes phenomena one part at a time…like dictionary definitions or isolated element by isolated element. This type of communication specifies and limits.

2) The second kind does not deal with a single element of time, but rather, expresses a collection of multiple, simultaneous elements…the domain of art. This form of communication expands and evokes.

other genres
Other Genres

Although most editors and theorists agree that there are numerous types of genres of drama, they do not agree on a set list of common types. Is comedy distinct from farce or satire, for example…

some examples
Some examples…

History Play

Shakespeare’s HENRY V

Moises Kauffman’s LARAMIE PROJECT

some examples1
Some examples…


Peter Barnes’ RED NOSES 

Jules Feiffer’s LITTLE MURDERS

some examples2
Some examples…


Rodgers and Hammerstein’s OKLAHOMA

Frank Loesser’s GUYS AND DOLLSSondheim’s COMPANY

ONCE (pictured)

from theatre by robert cohen
From THEATRE by Robert Cohen

Genre (from the French meaning “kind”)and is a highly subjective form of classification

TragedyOedipus Rex, Hamlet, Death of a SalesmanComedy Lysistrata, The Cherry OrchardHistory Play Henry VTragicomedy Amphytrion (Plautus)Dark comedy The Tempest, EndgameMelodrama The Octoroon, Dracula, TriflesFarce The Importance of Being EarnestMusical Oklahoma, The Rocky Horror ShowDocumentary The Laramie Project

gwynn drama a pocket anthology
  • TragedySatyr play
  • Folk dramaLiturgical dramaMystery playsPassion playsMiracle plays
  • Comedy Comedy of manners Comedy of humours Drawing room comedy Comedy of ideas Black comedy
  • MelodramaTragicomedyProblem plays
another opening another show by markus and sarver

ComedyTartuffe, The Importance of Being Earnest (high, domestic, low, manners)Farce A Flea in Her Ear, Servant of Two Masters, Road runner cartoonsDramaGhosts, The Glass MenagerieTragedyOedipus the King, Antigone, ElectraMelodramaInherit the WindTragicomedyThe Bald Soprano, Waiting for Godot