DRAMAWHAT IS DRAMA?
Drama is the English word for a theatrical performance. It comes from a Greek word that means ‘action’ – or ‘play’ in the sense of action, movement. It is thus associated with a group of people doing things and another group watching them, and also with great tension deriving deriving from:
a) a sense of loss and fear;
b) a sense of joy.
Thus, unlike in Italian, the English word ‘drama’ generically means any theatrical performance, whether tragic or comic.
WHAT IS A PLAY?
Central to an understanding of drama is the notion of a play. This is the term used to indicate any work written to be performed on the stage: so ‘Hamlet’ is a play. In English, though, the word ‘play’ has a wider range of meanings. As in French or German – but not in Italian – it is also used to indicate an activity linked to sports, game, music, reproduction of sounds and pictures. The list on the right gives you an idea of this variety.
To become a play, a text written for the theatre needs an audience: we cannot conceive of drama without an audience. Thus, a play differs from a poem or narrative prose, both of which generically presuppose individual readers or listeners. Each time text is performed it is also interpreted: the stage may be set differently, actors may move differently on stage, words may be spoken differently. Drama is thus the art from concerned with the staging, or performing, of plays. As such, it is a cooperative effort between playwright, director, actors and audience, renewed at every performance and subject to great variations.
VERSE DRAMA AND PROSE DRAMA
As an art form, drama has been written both in verse and prose. Ancient drama was usually in verse, while Shakespeare’s plays are often a mixture of verse and prose. Since the 18th century, on the other hand, prose has been the favorite medium of the theatre –a trend that has coincided with the gradual development of the novel.