Drama is the specific mode of narrative, typically fictional, represented in performance. The term comes from the Greek word δρᾶμα, drama, meaning action, which is derived from the verb δράω, draō, meaning to do or to act.
The term "the drama" refers to "the dramatic branch of literature; the dramatic art". The term "drama" can refer to any kind of dramatic performance, including film, radio play, television play, and closet drama, however, this article is concerned solely with the enactment of a play in a theatre, performed by actors, on a stage, before an audience. Unlike other forms of literature the structure of dramatic texts is directly influenced by this collaborative mode of production and a collective form of reception.
Two symbolic masks are traditionally associated with drama to represent the generic division between comedy and tragedy. They are symbols of the ancient Greek Muses, Thalia and Melpomene, the Muse of comedy represented by the laughing face, and the Muse of tragedy represented by the weeping face, respectively. Considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic and the lyrical modes ever since Aristotle's Poetics (c. 335 BC)—the earliest work of dramatic theory.
Since the 19th century, the word "drama" has also been used in a more narrow sense to designate a specific type of play. Drama is defined in this modern usage as "a genre of narrative fiction (or semi-fiction) intended to be more serious than humorous in tone" which focuses on in-depth development of realistic characters who must deal with realistic emotional struggles. A drama is commonly considered the opposite of a comedy, but may also be considered separate from other works of some broad genre, such as a fantasy.
It is this narrow sense that the film and television industry and film studies adopted to describe "drama" as a genre within their respective media. "Radio drama" has been used in both senses, and it was originally used to described a play transmitted as a live performance; but it is also used to describe the more serious end of the dramatic output on the radio.
A dramatic work can include music and dance. Opera is generally sung throughout, and can include ballet; musicals generally include both spoken dialogue, and songs, and may also include dancing; and some plays, melodrama and Japanese Nō, for example, have incidental music, or musical accompaniment underscoring the dialogue. In certain periods of history, including ancient Rome and the nineteenth century, some dramas were written to be read rather than performed. In improvisation there is no script and performers devise their performance spontaneously before an audience.
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