Question Ciaran Art, Media & Literature

Plays/Drama

What are plays?

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Answer Internal Staff

Plays (also falling under the term drama) tend to be designed for the performance on the stage or screen, and usually consist of scripted dialogue between different characters as well as directions for movement and action (some plays, like several notable ones by Samuel Beckett, may consist purely of the latter, with no dialogue). Though all cultures have traditions of performance, plays from certain distinct historical contexts have proved predominantly popular for study: notably classical Greek drama, where generic divisions like tragedy and comedy originate; and early modern drama from the European Renaissance by playwrights such as William Shakespeare. Contemporary forms of drama have been mostly influenced by the example of the well-made play which arose in 19th century Europe, but ultimately there has been a great diffusion of dramatic forms throughout the 20th century to the present, all of which may be the subject of literary study in addition to both canonical historical cases and previously neglected performance genres from around the world like Chinese Jingju and the Kabuki and Noh of Japan. Study of drama on English Literature courses usually involves plays in their printed form, but they may also be studied as performance objects, such as in the theatre or in cinematic adaptations.