Drama (from the Greek δρᾶμα, “drama” = action, history) is literature intended for performance. The form is often combined with music and dance, as in opera and musical theatre, or on radio or television.

In the broadest sense it is a narrative plot completed and intended for theatrical performance. It can be in written verbal form (any literary work that includes recited or sung parts) or improvised by an actor, or even in the form of non-verbal narration, through gestures or dance. The term drama, when understood narrowly, applies only to written plays. In opera, the term libretto is generally used.

A drama can have a tragic or comic subject, depending on the situations described. In the meaning of common use, however, tends to designate with this term painful events or existential problems, or other events of tragic scope.

In the theater, the drama has retained the meaning in use in Ancient Greece, where it indicated any composition intended for the stage, whether a tragedy or a comedy, and coming to be synonymous with the theater (theatron). Generally the derived words have kept the original sense, related to a theatrical writing: dramatization, dramaturgy. For the adjective dramatic, however, there are different customs of use: more related to the theatrical roots for those involved in this discipline, related to the concept of drama in its tragic sense in the common sense. To make an example, in the theater it is indicated as a good dramatic actor the one who generally masters the dramatic art, while it is usual to define dramatic an actor of cinema or television only in relation to the tragic or conflictual content of his acting.

The concept of drama and drama is more related to a dialogue than to a monologue or a lyric (although it can be etymologically referred to any literary form intended for the stage). It is with the presence of at least one other dialoguing actor that the main characteristic of drama can best be expressed: the contrast between at least two different elements. Bernard Shaw, introducing his first volume of plays, states, “There is no play without conflict.” A contrast can occur even in a light text, and it forms its backbone.

The binomial drama-conflict is also often expressed in fields other than the strictly theatrical one: we often refer to literary works not intended for the stage, talking about their dramatic nature, or similarly with musical works or works of other arts.

  • Classical Greek drama
  • Classical Roman drama
  • Medieval drama
  • Satiresque drama
  • Liturgical drama
  • Pastoral drama
  • Musical drama
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