AskDefine | Define drama

Dictionary Definition



1 a dramatic work intended for performance by actors on a stage; "he wrote several plays but only one was produced on Broadway" [syn: play, dramatic play]
2 an episode that is turbulent or highly emotional [syn: dramatic event]
3 the literary genre of works intended for the theater
4 the quality of being arresting or highly emotional

User Contributed Dictionary

see Drama



From Ancient Greek δράμα (drama) "an act, a theatrical act, a play", from δράω (drao) "to act, to take action, to achieve".


  1. A composition, normally in prose, telling a story and intended to be represented by actors impersonating the characters and speaking the dialogue
  2. Such a work for television, radio or the cinema (usually one that is not a comedy)
  3. Theatrical plays in general
  4. A dramatic situation in real life
  5. Slang for rumor or lying. Created to "spice up life."


Brought through the media
Theatrical play
Dramatic situation
  • Dutch: drama
  • Japanese: [どらま]
  • Polish: dramat



  1. drama (composition intended for actors)



  1. drama

Extensive Definition

Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. It is derived from a Greek word meaning "action" (Classical Greek / dráma), derived from "to do" (Classical Greek / dráō).
Dramas are performed in various media: theatre, radio, film, and television. Drama is often combined with music and dance: the drama in opera is sung throughout; musicals include spoken dialogue and songs; and some forms of drama have regular musical accompaniment (melodrama and Japanese , for example). In improvisation, the drama does not pre-exist the moment of performance; performers devise a dramatic script spontaneously before an audience.

History of drama


The three types of drama composed in the city of Athens were tragedy, comedy, and satire. The origins of Athenian tragedy and comedy are far from clear, but they began (and continued to be) as a part of the celebrations of the god Dionysus, which were held once a year. Every year three authors were chosen to write three dramas, and one satire play each. Similarly, five authors were also chosen to write three comedies and a satire play each. Each tragedy tetralogy was then performed in 3 successive days, and on the last day the 5 comedies competed. All the plays were played in the Dionysos theatre in Athens, and the best author for both tragedy and comedy was chosen.
The chorus seems to have originated during 534 BC with a chorus singing a song about some legendary hero. Later the leader Thespis, rather than singing about the hero, began to think about the hero while impersonating him. Spoken dialogue between several actors was added, and the result was "tragedy" in the Greek form. The very first prize for tragedy went to Thespis in 534 BC.
In fact, the two masks associated with drama with the smiling and frowning faces are both symbols of the Muses Thalia and Melpomene. Thalia is the Muse of comedy (the smiling face), and Melpomene is the Muse of tragedy (the frowning face).


In the Middle Ages, drama in the vernacular languages of Europe emerged from religious enactments of the liturgy. Mystery plays were presented on the porch of the cathedrals or by strolling players on feast days. These again evolved into tragic and comic forms, depending on the theme. The first truly secular plays in Europe were historical plays, celebrating the lives of historical or legendary kings, these combined the functions of entertainment and propaganda. Some scholars today believe that Shakespeare's Richard III, for instance, served to propagate the Tudor myth.
Miracle and mystery plays (such as Everyman) later evolved into more elaborate forms of drama, such as was seen on the Elizabethan stages.

Elizabethan and Jacobean

One of the great flowerings of drama in England occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries. Many of these plays were written in verse, particularly iambic pentameter. In addition to Shakespeare, such authors as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Middleton, and Ben Jonson were prominent playwrights during this period. As in the medieval period, historical plays celebrated the lives of past kings, enhancing the image of the Tudor monarchy. Authors of this period drew some of their storylines from Greek mythology and Roman mythology or from the plays of eminent Roman playwrights such as Plautus and Terence.


Western opera is a dramatic art form, which arose during the Renaissance in an attempt to revive the classical Greek drama tradition in which both music and theatre were combined. Being strongly intertwined with western classical music, the opera has undergone enormous changes in the past four centuries and it is an important form of theatre until this day. Noteworthy is the huge influence of the German 19th century composer Richard Wagner on the opera tradition. In his view, there was no proper balance between music and theatre in the operas of his time, because the music seemed to be more important than the dramatic aspects in these works. To restore the connection with the traditional Greek drama, he entirely renewed the operatic format, and to emphasize the equally importance of music and drama in these new works, he called them "music dramas".


Korean dramas are famous all over Asia. The dramas are being sold to China, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, and they are to be aired on TV for those countries. Korean dramas follow the Hallyu wave from Korea. Many people feel that Korean dramas are very sad. Some famous Korean dramas are: Stairway to Heaven, Winter Sonata, Something Happened in Bali, Autumn Fairy Tale, Summer Scent, Goong (aka Palace), Coffee Prince, and many more.


Japanese Nō drama is a serious dramatic form that combines drama, music, and dance into a complete aesthetic performance experience. It developed in the 14th and 15th centuries and has its own musical instruments and performance techniques, which were often handed down from father to son. The performers were generally male (for both male and female roles), although female amateurs also perform Nō dramas. Nō drama was supported by the government, and particularly the military, with many military commanders having their own troupes and sometimes performing themselves. It is still performed in Japan today.
Kyogen is the comic counterpart to Nō drama. It concentrates more on dialogue and less on music, although Nō instrumentalists sometimes appear also in Kyogen.


Indian drama is traced back to certain dramatic episodes described in the Rigveda. The dramas dealt with human concerns as well as the gods. The earliest theoretical account of Indian drama is the Natya Shastra of Bharata that may be as old as the 3rd century BC. Drama was patronized by the kings as well as village assemblies. Famous early playwrights include Bhasa and Kalidasa.
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata stories have often been used for plots in Indian drama and this practice continues today.


Except the sacred classical Indian musical theatre, the usual purpose of drama is as entertainment. However drama can also be used as an educational activity or for therapeutic purposes. It is even used for religious ministry.
It has a unique ability to allow us to play, allowing us to be another person or in a situation that we would not normally encounter such as, being a general in a war. This is what makes drama a useful way of teaching, learning, and growing as a person.
Drama has a holistic way of teaching people. Whether it be in a play or by partaking in a role-play situation, participants learn through interactions with others -- this allows participants to not only learn facts as they would from a book or in a classroom, but to enter the world of another person, to be allowed to explore how they feel about this situation or person, whether it be a war-torn town or the wolf in the Three Little Pigs. Every interaction with another character or situation gives a greater understanding of what is happening around us.
If you look at a small child when they are playing, they are enthralled with their own world, and through their actions, thoughts and the way they play they learn about themselves, others, and the world around them. Play allows them to act out new situations, try out new ways of doing things and by doing so learn. (see Nativity Play)
When people grow up, the idea of play becomes less important and entering into the imagination becomes more difficult. However this is where drama has the unique and undeniable ability to help others learn and grow as individuals, as it allows them to play. Through playing we can once again try out situations, whether it be for a job interview by live action role-playing (aka. LARP), or just to think about new ideas, we can also gain confidence in ourselves and learn to trust others.
Role-play can also play an important part in therapy, again entering the imagination and allowing ourselves to pretend and to think of things in other ways. Drama therapy is often considered an effective treatment for people who have had severe emotional and psychological problems, although it is important to note that the evidence to support therapeutic efficacy of Drama therapy is anecdotal rather than scientific.
In the theater, drama is a living, breathing art form. Actors are placed on stage, so that they can breathe life into the characters that have been created by the playwrights. In theater, the two main things to consider are: a) drama is driven by conflict and b) that drama is action. Action can be loosely defined as anything a character does with an objective behind it, whereas conflict can be briefly summarized as a clash between the motives of one or more characters.

Tool for education

There are many forms of educational drama these all share one common goal, to create awareness or an understanding of an idea or issue. The following is a few examples of the main forms in which drama is used as a tool for education.
Theatre in education (TIE) is the typical image of drama, seen since the 1960s. Usually performed for youth groups, or schools by a drama group this form of theatre was usually a devised piece which used abstract ideas to communicate a message, it follows in the tradition of plays seen throughout history such as morality plays like Everyman. This form of theatre could also be compared to commedia del arte, and other such travelling forms of theatre.


These stories follow in the tradition of fables and folk tales, usually there is a lesson learned, and with some help from the audience the hero/heroine saves the day. This kind of play uses stock characters seen in masque and again commedia del arte, these characters include the villain (doctore), the clown/servant(Arlechino/Harlequin/buttons), the lovers etc. These plays usually have an emphasis on moral dilemmas, and good always triumphs over evil, this kind of play is also very entertaining making it a very effective way of reaching many people.

Drama in education

Unlike theatre in education, Drama in Education (DIE) is workshop-based, with groups creating their own scenarios, ideas and even subject matter through the use of drama and drama workshops. Sometimes this kind of work may lead to the creation of a play, or a piece of TIE or some other kind of means to show a result from the work. Drama in Education utilises skills used across the spectrum of dramatic activity, everything from teacher in role to normal theatrical conventions of audience and spectator. DIE is usually run in youth clubs, schools, community centres etc. DIE involves a high amount of participation by the group, and is therefore aimed for smaller groups of individuals.


A workshop is a situation where a group is allowed to explore and think about an issue, a book, a thought, a play, anything. Within drama terms it is an active situation with a lot of learning and experiencing. Drama workshops have many different styles and approaches much like any group activity, this style and approach is determined by the group's willingness to participate, the frame and distance that they are from the drama is usually the holding form for the session, in the example shown through teacher in role we see the group are "framed" as social workers and because of their role in the drama they are at a very close distance, if the group were older at age 14-17 say then they would be less likely to enter into the drama and a more suitable frame would have to be chosen. For example, instead of social workers they could become reporters, which would allow them to remain at the spectator end of the drama and give them a chance to reflect on the conditions surrounding events. However, this does not mean that the group always has to have a frame. they can remain themselves and still participate in the drama, allowing them to think about how they feel about the situation. In this case, the group may enter the drama as themselves and how they would act in a situation, or explore being characters in a situation and what is making them act the way they are.

Legal status


Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 does not define a dramatic work except to state that it includes a work of dance or mime. However, it is clear that dramatic work includes the scenario or script for films, plays (written for theatre, cinema, television or radio), and choreographic works.

Works cited

  • Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521434378.
  • Duchartre, Pierre Louis. 1929. The Italian Comedy. Unabridged republication. New York: Dover, 1966. ISBN 0486216799.
  • Durant, Will & Ariel Durant. 1963 The Story of Civilization, Volume II: The Life of Greece. 11 vols. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Elam, Keir. 1980. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. New Accents Ser. London and New York: Methuen. ISBN 0416720609.
  • Gordon, Mel. 1983. Lazzi: The Comic Routines of the Commedia dell'Arte. New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications. ISBN 0933826699.
  • Johnstone, Keith. 1981. Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre Rev. ed. London: Methuen, 2007. ISBN 0713687010.
  • Spolin, Viola. 1967. Improvisation for the Theater. Third rev. ed Evanston, Il.: Northwestern University Press, 1999. ISBN 081014008X.
drama in Afrikaans: Drama
drama in Tosk Albanian: Drama
drama in Arabic: دراما
drama in Bengali: নাটক
drama in Bulgarian: Драма (литература)
drama in Catalan: Drama
drama in Czech: Drama
drama in German: Drama
drama in Lower Sorbian: Drama
drama in Modern Greek (1453-): Δράμα
drama in Spanish: Drama
drama in Esperanto: Dramo
drama in Basque: Drama
drama in French: Drame (théâtre)
drama in Western Frisian: Toaniel
drama in Irish: Drámaíocht
drama in Korean: 드라마
drama in Hindi: नाटक
drama in Croatian: Drama
drama in Ido: Dramatiko
drama in Indonesian: Drama
drama in Icelandic: Leikrit
drama in Italian: Dramma
drama in Hebrew: דרמה
drama in Georgian: დრამა
drama in Latvian: Dramaturģija
drama in Lithuanian: Drama
drama in Hungarian: Dráma
drama in Macedonian: Драма
drama in Malayalam: നാടകം
drama in Malay (macrolanguage): Drama
drama in Dutch: Drama (kunst en cultuur)
drama in Japanese: ドラマ
drama in Norwegian: Drama
drama in Polish: Dramat
drama in Portuguese: Drama
drama in Romanian: Dramă
drama in Russian: Драма (род литературы)
drama in Sanskrit: नाट्यकला
drama in Albanian: Drama
drama in Simple English: Drama
drama in Slovak: Dráma
drama in Slovenian: Dramatika
drama in Serbian: Драма
drama in Sundanese: Drama
drama in Finnish: Draama
drama in Swedish: Drama
drama in Tagalog: Drama
drama in Thai: ดรามา
drama in Turkish: Drama (sanat)
drama in Ukrainian: Драма (рід)
drama in Yiddish: דראמא
drama in Contenese: 戲劇
drama in Chinese: 戏剧

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Broadway, Grand Guignol, Passion play, Tom show, acting, alphabet, antimasque, art, audience success, ballet, blueprint, boards, bomb, broadcast drama, burlesque, burlesque show, carnival, charactering, characterization, charade, chart, choreography, circus, cliff hanger, closet drama, comedy drama, conventional representation, critical success, dance notation, daytime serial, delineation, demonstration, depiction, depictment, diagram, dialogue, documentary drama, dramalogue, dramatic art, dramatic play, dramatic series, dramatics, dramaturgy, drawing, duodrama, duologue, entertainment industry, epic theater, exemplification, experimental theater, extravaganza, failure, figuration, flop, footlights, gasser, giveaway, happening, hieroglyphic, histrionics, hit, hit show, iconography, ideogram, illustration, imagery, imaging, improvisational drama, legit, legitimate drama, legitimate stage, letter, limning, logogram, logograph, map, masque, melodrama, minstrel show, miracle, miracle play, monodrama, monologue, morality, morality play, music drama, musical notation, musical revue, mystery, mystery play, notation, off Broadway, off-off-Broadway, opera, pageant, panel show, pantomime, pastoral, pastoral drama, photoplay, pictogram, picturization, piece, plan, play, playland, playlet, portraiture, portrayal, prefigurement, presentment, printing, problem play, projection, psychodrama, quiz show, radio drama, realization, rendering, rendition, repertory drama, representation, review, revue, scenario, schema, score, script, sensational play, serial, show, show biz, show business, sitcom, situation comedy, sketch, skit, soap, soap opera, sociodrama, spectacle, stage play, stage show, stage world, stagecraft, stagedom, stageland, stock, straight drama, strawhat, strawhat circuit, success, summer stock, suspense drama, syllabary, symbol, tablature, tableau, tableau vivant, talk show, teleplay, television drama, television play, the boards, the footlights, the scenes, the stage, the theater, theater, theater of cruelty, theater world, theatre, theatricalism, theatrics, theatromania, theatrophobia, total theater, variety, variety show, vaudeville, vaudeville show, vehicle, word-of-mouth success, work, writing
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