Understanding Drama: Definition & Practical Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


Ever sat down to watch a play and felt your heart race with anticipation? That's the magic of drama, a form of art that brings stories to life right before your eyes. It's a genre that takes us on emotional roller-coaster rides, leaving us thrilled, moved, and deeply touched. But what exactly is drama? Let's peel back the curtain and find out. This blog will provide you with a clear definition of drama and guide you through its various types, elements, and the ways to analyze it. We'll also explore drama as a literary genre and provide practical tips to enjoy it. So, let's get started!

What is Drama?

At its core, the definition of drama is a work of art, which is performed in front of an audience. Traditionally, these performances take place on a stage, but they can also be for radio or television. Drama is a Greek word that means "action," which perfectly encapsulates what this genre is all about: performing actions, not just narrating them.

Here's a simple breakdown of what drama is:

  • It's a performance: Unlike a novel that you read or a painting that you observe, drama is enacted. It involves actors who take on roles and perform actions.
  • It tells a story: Every drama, whether it's a tragedy, comedy, or historical play, has a narrative. It's not just random actions, but a series of events that make up a plot.
  • It's meant to engage the audience: Drama isn't a passive experience. It's designed to draw you in, to make you feel emotions, think about ideas, or even challenge your beliefs.

So, when you next watch a play or a dramatic series, remember, you're not just being entertained. You're participating in an ancient art form that seeks to tell human stories in the most engaging way possible. That's the beauty of drama!

Types of Drama

Now that we've nailed down the definition of drama, let's dive into the different types of drama. Just like ice cream comes in various flavors, drama comes in various types, each with its unique characteristics and appeal.

  1. Tragedy: Ever watched a play that left you teary-eyed or filled with a sense of profound sadness? You probably experienced a tragedy. This type of drama revolves around a heroic figure who faces a downfall due to a tragic flaw or circumstance.
  2. Comedy: If a play leaves you laughing and feeling light-hearted, it's likely a comedy. Comedies are designed to amuse the audience, often featuring humorous situations, witty dialogues, and happy endings.
  3. Melodrama: Melodrama amplifies emotions to the extreme. If you're watching a play where the love, sorrow, or anger feels larger than life, you're watching a melodrama.
  4. Farce: Farce takes comedy to the next level with exaggerated characters, absurd situations, and physical humor. Think of it as the slapstick cousin of comedy.
  5. Historical Drama: These plays take you back in time, portraying events and figures from history. If a play makes you feel like you've stepped into a time machine, it's probably a historical drama.

So, next time you watch a play, see if you can identify what type of drama it is. Understanding the type will deepen your appreciation of the work and enhance your viewing experience.

Elements of Drama

Have you ever wondered what makes a drama tick? Just like a watch, a drama consists of several elements working together to tell a story. Let's take a look at these elements that form the backbone of any drama.

  1. Plot: The plot is the storyline. It's the sequence of events that unfold, leading the characters from the beginning to the end of the drama.
  2. Characters: Characters are the individuals in the story. They can be people, animals, or even inanimate objects. It's through their actions and interactions that the plot develops.
  3. Setting: The setting is where and when the drama takes place. It could be anything from a small town in the 19th century to a spaceship in the future.
  4. Theme: The theme is the main idea or message of the drama. It's what the drama is trying to say about life, society, or human nature.
  5. Dialogue: Dialogue is the conversation between characters. It's through dialogue that we learn about the characters, their relationships, and their thoughts and feelings.
  6. Conflict: Conflict is the struggle or problem that drives the plot. It's what the characters must face and overcome to reach the end of the drama.

Each of these elements plays a key role in defining the drama and shaping the audience's experience. So the next time you watch a play or read a script, pay attention to these elements. You'll find that understanding them not only enhances your enjoyment but also deepens your understanding of the definition of drama.

How to Analyze a Drama

So, you've watched a play or read a script. You've seen the plot unfold, met the characters, and felt the tension of the conflict. But how do you go about analyzing it? Here's a simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Start with the Plot: What is the story about? How does it start and end? How does the conflict come about, and how is it resolved? Identifying the main events will help you understand the structure of the drama.
  2. Identify the Characters: Who are the main characters? What are their personalities, motivations, and relationships? Understanding the characters will help you understand their actions and the choices they make.
  3. Examine the Setting: Where and when does the drama take place? How does the setting influence the characters and the plot? Looking at the setting can provide insights into the mood and atmosphere of the drama.
  4. Look for Themes: What ideas or messages is the drama trying to convey? Are there any recurring symbols or motifs? Identifying the themes can help you understand the deeper meaning of the drama.
  5. Analyze the Dialogue: What do the characters say to each other? How do they say it? Analyzing the dialogue can help you understand the characters' thoughts and feelings, as well as the dynamics between them.
  6. Consider the Conflict: What problems do the characters face? How do they deal with them? Understanding the conflict can help you understand the plot and the characters' motivations.

Remember, analyzing a drama isn't just about dissecting it into its parts. It's also about putting it back together to see how those parts interact and create a whole. It's like solving a puzzle — each piece adds to the overall picture. And when you finally see that picture, you'll have a deeper understanding of the definition of drama.

Drama as a Literary Genre

Drama, you might be surprised to know, isn't just something you experience when your favorite TV show leaves you on a cliffhanger. No, drama is actually a rich, historic genre in literature. But what exactly does the term mean? Let's explore the definition of drama as a literary genre.

At its core, the definition of drama in literature is a work of fiction that is meant to be performed in front of an audience. It's not just about the words on the page, but the way those words come alive through the performers and the production. The beauty of drama is that it's an immersive experience. It's not just something you read or watch — it's something you feel.

There are many different types of drama, from tragedy to comedy, farce to melodrama. Each type has its own features and conventions, but they all share a common purpose: to tell a story through characters in conflict. This conflict can be internal (a character struggling with their own feelings or desires) or external (a character clashing with others or their environment).

But what makes drama unique as a literary genre? Unlike novels or short stories, where the author's voice and description guide us, in drama, it's all about the dialogue and action. The characters' words and deeds reveal who they are and what they want, creating a sense of immediacy and intimacy. It's like we're right there, living the story with them.

So the next time you watch a play or a movie, remember: you're not just being entertained. You're participating in a rich tradition of storytelling that stretches back thousands of years. And who knows? Maybe you'll be inspired to write your own drama one day. After all, we all have stories to tell, and drama is one of the most powerful ways to tell them.

Practical Guide to Enjoying Drama

Alright, now that we have the definition of drama down pat, how can you truly enjoy it? Well, it's not as hard as it might seem. Here are some practical tips for getting the most out of any drama you encounter.

Firstly, remember that drama is about more than just the words on a page. It's about the performance, the emotion, the atmosphere. When you watch a play or a movie, pay attention to everything – the actors’ expressions, the staging, the music, even the lighting. All of these elements work together to create the overall mood of the drama.

Next, try to understand the characters. What are their motivations? What problems are they facing? Why do they act the way they do? Looking beyond their actions to understand their inner lives can make the drama much more engaging and meaningful.

Don’t forget about the historical and cultural context. Many dramas reflect the time and place in which they were written. Understanding this context can give you a deeper appreciation of the themes and issues the drama explores.

Lastly, don't be afraid to engage with the drama. Discuss it with others. Write about it. Even try acting it out! The more you engage with the drama, the more you'll understand it, and the more you'll enjoy it.

Remember, drama is a living, breathing art form. It's meant to be experienced, not just observed. So don't just sit back and watch – dive in and let the drama sweep you away!

Famous Dramatists You Should Know

Now, let's put faces to the definition of drama by looking at some of the world's most famous dramatists. These are the folks who've shaped drama's history and continue to influence it today.

First off, we have William Shakespeare, a name synonymous with drama. This 16th century English playwright has given us classics such as "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet," and "Macbeth," all filled with timeless themes and unforgettable characters.

Moving forward in time, Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright, is another must-know. Often referred to as "the father of realism," Ibsen's dramas like "A Doll's House" and "Hedda Gabler" focused on everyday people and their struggles, breaking away from the grandeur and romanticism of earlier plays.

Then we have Tennessee Williams, an American playwright famous for his poetic style and powerful dramas about troubled families. His works, such as "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," remain some of the most performed plays worldwide.

Lastly, but definitely not least, we have August Wilson, known for his profound explorations of the African-American experience in his 10-play series, The Pittsburgh Cycle. Each play represents a different decade of the 20th century, providing a unique and insightful look into American history.

These are just some of the many dramatists who've made significant contributions to the world of drama. By exploring their works, you can gain a richer understanding of what drama truly is and how it has evolved over time.

If you're captivated by the world of drama and want to explore more about storytelling and filmmaking, check out the 'Documentary Treatment: The Last Act' workshop by Reshelshah. Although focused on documentary filmmaking, this workshop will provide you with valuable insights and techniques that can be applied to various forms of storytelling, including drama. Don't miss this opportunity to enhance your understanding of the creative process and bring your stories to life.