Elements of Drama Notes

What is Drama?
• A play is a story acted out, live and
Structure of a Drama
• Like the plot of a story, the plot of a drama
follows a rising-and-falling structure
Kinds of Plays
• A play may be a tragedy, a
comedy, or, in modern
drama, a mixture of the
– A tragedy depicts serious
and important events that
end unhappily.
– A comedy ends happily.
Although most comedies
are funny, they may also
make us think and
• Most classical tragedies deal with serious
subjects—fate, life, and death—and center
on a tragic hero.
Tragic Heroes
• Are usually noble
• Have a tragic flaw, a
personal failing that
leads to their downfall
• Examples:
ambition, passion,
excessive pride
Innocent Heroes
• Some tragedies, such
as Romeo and Juliet,
portray the suffering
of innocent
characters who are
not responsible for
their own downfall.
• In a comedy, the characters usually face
humorous obstacles and problems that are
resolved by the end of the play.
Comedic Heroes
• May be ordinary people instead of nobility
• Eventually overcome their flaws and
achieve happiness
• The conflict in comedies is usually
– Someone wants to marry but faces an
obstacle—opposing parents or rival suitors.
– Complications can involve
misunderstandings, mistaken identities,
disguises, or transformation.
– The obstacle is always overcome.
Modern Drama
• Many of today’s dramas can’t be
neatly defined as either comedy
and tragedy.
• Modern plays:
– Often mix the serious with the
– Focus on characters that audiences
will identify with rather than look
up to
Performance of a Play
• Plays are meant to
be performed. A
play comes to life in
each unique
Performance of a Play
Stage Directions
Playwright describes setting and actions
Actors, directors, and designers interpret
these directions creatively
Audience experiences the story through
the actor’s speech and actions
The Stage
• A stage is like a
small world unto
itself. A stage
– Can be grand or
stage right
– Has its own
stage left
The Stage
• The stage’s set might be:
realistic and
abstract or
• A set can be changed from scene to scene—
sometimes with machinery and sometimes
with just a change in lighting.
The Stage
• Other important elements of set
design are costumes and props.
– Costumes tell us about the characters
and the time and place. They can be
elaborate or minimal.
– Props are items that the characters
carry or handle onstage.
“Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford
No better term than this: thou art a villain”
“Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford
No better term than this: thou art a villain”
The Characters
• The actors and director
bring characters to life by
– Deciding how to interpret
and speak the lines of the
– Building on the
playwright’s stage
directions for actions and
The Characters
• Characters’ speech takes
the form of
– Dialogue: conversation
between characters
– Monologue: a long speech
by one character to one or
more other characters
– Soliloquy: a speech by a
character alone onstage,
speaking to himself or herself
or to the audience
• Sometimes a character
speaks to the audience or to
another character in an aside,
dialogue that is not supposed
to be heard by the other
characters onstage.
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
• Tragedy: a narrative about serious
and important events that lead to a
disastrous outcome
– A tragedy usually ends with the deaths of
the main characters
– Their downfall may be the result of
• Character flaws that lead to unwise actions
• Fate (events beyond the characters’ control)
• A little bit of both
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
• Shakespeare’s tragic plays usually follow a
five-part sequence:
Crisis, or turning
Act II
Rising action, or
Act I
Act IV
Falling action
Act V
Climax and
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
• Exposition
– Establishes setting
– Introduces
– Explains
– Introduces
characters’ main
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
• Rising action consists of a series of
complications that occur when the main
characters take action to resolve their
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
• The crisis, or turning point, is the
moment when a choice made by
the main characters determines the
direction of the action.
– In a tragedy, the action heads
downward, toward disaster.
– In a comedy, the action heads
upward, toward a happy ending.
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
• The crisis is the point when all the forces
of conflict come together to create the
greatest drama and tension of the play.
– Look for the turning point as you read Act III
of Romeo and Juliet.
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
• Falling action
presents events that
result from the action
taken at the turning
– With each event, we
see the characters
falling deeper into
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
• Climax is the
moment of greatest
emotional intensity
in the plot
– In a tragedy, the
final and greatest
climax occurs near
the end of the play
and usually consists
of the deaths of the
main characters.
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
• Resolution (or denouement) is the final
part of the play
– All the loose ends are tied up, and the play is
• A foil is another character in a story who
contrasts with the main character, usually
to highlight one of their attributes
Shakespeare’s use of Language
• Prose: normal written/spoken language
that does not rhyme or have rhythm; the
type of language the lower class typically
speaks in Shakespeare’s plays
• Verse: writing that has a rhythm and may
rhyme; the type of language the upper
class typically speaks in Shakespeare’s