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A Brief History of Drama. Major Developments. Drama – To be, or not to be, that is the question .

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A brief history of drama

A Brief History of Drama

Major Developments

Drama to be or not to be that is the question
Drama – To be, or not to be, that is the question

Drama – a literary composition involving conflict, action crisis and atmosphere designed to be acted by players on a stage before an audience. This definition may be applied to motion picture drama as well as to the traditional stage.

Drama had it’s origin in the country of Greece around 500 B.C.

Drama, as a literary genre, is an art form that is meant to be performed!

Greek theatre
Greek Theatre

The Greek Theatre or Greek Drama is a theatrical tradition that flourished in ancient Greece between c. 550 and c. 220 B.C. in Athens. Athens was the centre of ancient Greek theatre. Tragedy (late 6th century B.C.), comedy (~486 B.C.) and satyr plays were some of the theatrical forms to emerge in the world. Greek theatre and plays have had a lasting impact on Western drama and culture.

Greek theatre continued
Greek Theatre continued

The earliest dramas were designed to worship to gods and goddesses, specifically Bacchus and Dionysus

The Greek tragedies of Aeschychus, Sophocles and Euripides were performed annually at the spring festival of Dionysus, god of wine and inspiration.

The greeks
The Greeks

  • In 534 B.C a contest was won by Thespis in Athens.

  • He is the first recorded winner of this contest. Tragedy (the group word “tragoidia” began with the introduction of an actor, who played various roles by changing masks, whose actions the chorus commented on in song.

  • Thespis according to Themistius’s account, was the first “actor” and usually credited with “inventing” drama as we know it (actors speaking lines) –thus actors are know known as Thespians

Decline of drama
Decline of Drama

Drama went into a period of decline around A.D. 400 (Roman Empire)

Due to the Power of Christians

Acting has been deemed at times to be unchristian, idolatrous and depraved or, worse, boring. Actors themselves have frequently been seen to be one of the humbler classes, and only towards the end of the 19th century did their status start to improve

Revival of drama
Revival of Drama

A. D. 900-1500

Medieval Drama, when it emerged hundreds of years later, was a new creation rather than a rebirth. The drama of earlier times having almost no influence on it. The reason for this creation came from a quarter that had traditionally opposed any form of theatre: The Christian church

Medieval drama
Medieval Drama

Purpose: Teach religion

Types of acceptable drama:

1. )Miracle plays – lives of saints.

2.) Morality plays – being good/ moral

3.) Mystery plays – life of Christ

Middle ages theatre
Middle Ages Theatre

During the Middle Ages, most plays were about the lives of saints and/or Bible stories.

Renaissance drama
Renaissance Drama

Ruler: Elizabeth I

Renaissance Drama is English drama written before the Reformation and the closure of theatres in 1642. It may also be called early modern English theatre or (misaccurately) Elizabethan theatre. It includes the drama of William Shakespeare, the most notable playwright during this period.

One distinctive feature of the companies that put on Elizabethan plays was that they included only males.

Elizabethan drama
Elizabethan Drama

  • Shakespeare

  • Christopher Marlowe

  • Thomas Kyd

  • John Lyly

Victorian modern english drama
Victorian/Modern English drama

  • Oscar Wilde

  • George Bernard Shaw

  • The Abbey Theatre: key figures were W.B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory; opened in Dublin in 1903 and helped to produce new Irish plays (J.M. Synge)

Modern drama
Modern Drama

  • Primary characteristic – realism

  • Some of the major forms of drama are:

  • Tragedy

  • Comedy

  • Melodrama

  • Most importantly, drama, as a literary genre, is an art form that is meant to be performed.

Dramatic terminology

Dramatic Terminology

Literary Terms

Acts and scenes
Acts and Scenes


Act IV

Act II

Act I

Subdivisions in the play when the time or place usually changes

Acts – big breaks (in Shakespeare plays usually 5 Acts)

Scenes – smaller breaks within acts (usually one or two per act)

Act V


A dramatic device in which a private thought is spoken aloud. It is intended for the audience alone – not other characters in the play

Contributes to dramatic irony –

(the audience knows something

other characters in the play

do not)


Comedy Mask

A type of drama in which the characters experience reversals of fortune, usually for the better. In comedy, things work out happily in the end, usually in marriage.



A type of drama in which the characters experience reversals of fortune, usually for the worse


Conversations among characters


One of the three main types of literature; it tells a story through the words and actions of a character .




A break in the performance of the play


A speech delivered by one person


The author of a drama


Articles or objects that appear on stage during a play


The written version of the play

Stage directions
Stage directions

Instructions to the performer and the director; usually written in italics or parentheses


The effect the play has on its audience – including the position of actors, the scenic background, the props and costumes, and the lighting and sound effects


An additional or minor or parallel plot in a play or story that coexists with the main plot


Actors and actresses