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7 Different Types of Drama in Literature!

Drama , popularly understood as a performing art, is one of the major modes of representation of  fiction . Alternatively, drama is also a genre of visual and written media, used for comparatively serious  narrative   fiction . However, drama in literature is characterized by a narrative with dialogues and performance. Whether enacted in theatres, radio shows or incorporated into written media, drama is all around us. In this article, let’s learn briefly about the  history , significance and different types of drama in literature!

What is Drama?

  • History of Drama in Literature

Dramatic Expression

Drama of literature or closet drama.

  • Drama Type – Comedy
  • Drama Type – Tragedy


  • Drama Type – Melodrama
  • Drama Type – Musical

Interesting Facts About Greek Drama and Theater

Parting thoughts.

literature type drama

Etymologically, the word drama comes from the Greek word “ draō ” which means “to do/ to act”. Have you ever noticed two marks representing drama? These masks identified with drama illustrate the classic conventional distinction between  comedy  and tragedy.

Drama, to this day, remains a precious art of collaborative production and reception, performed at a  theatre  for an audience. You might have enjoyed one yourself. However, it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that this art is slowly fading off. We have neglected the art too much but there’s still  time .  The importance of theatre art  should be inculcated in everyone, whether children or adult.

There are many different forms of drama, including mime, closet drama, improvisations, musicals, opera and others. Some of these forms have found their way into a dramatic literary corpus. For example, a closet drama refers exactly to what was written for reading, not performance. Others are specifically performative drama such as mime. It refers to a theatrical performance of gestures and suggestions of  emotions  and actions without the use of  dialogues .

In simple words, hence, drama in  literature  is a performance of a narrative with dialogues, performed sometimes with  dance  and music according to a script. This script in a written form is widely read and enjoyed.

History of Drama  in Literature

Ancient greeks.

literature type drama

As you can already guess, we can trace drama straight back to Ancient Greece, where Western drama originated. The cultural city of Athens mainly produced three  types of drama – tragedy, comedy and satyr play. The exact origin of drama, or plays is obscure, as is the custom for so many cultural traditions.

However, drama as a  mode  of celebration was institutionalised in Athens in the 5th century BC through competitions to honour the God Dionysus. From the ancient period, only the works of a few dramatists remain to this day.

Some of them are:

  • Aristophanes

Ancient Romans

literature type drama

Next comes, yes, you guessed it right, Rome!

The Romans came across Greek drama when they captured several territories of the Ancient Greece in the 3rd century BC. By means of the Roman Empire, the art of drama spread far and wide. However, few works survive of the Roman dramatists.

Medieval Period

Medieval theatre - Wikipedia

  • In the medieval period, churches took it upon themselves to popularize drama by encouraging enactments of biblical events.
  • These  types  of drama would require two groups to sing in Latin and by the 11th century, this type of drama spread through the whole of Europe and even Russia.
  • In the middle ages, plays were generally religious in thematic contexts because they served as important means of disseminating religious codes and education. However, secular and morality plays were also popular.

Elizabethan Period

The 16th and 17th century England was perhaps the most important period for drama. At this time, most plays were written in verses in  iambic pentameter . It is a type of metric line used in  poetry  and verse drama. It specifies the  rhythm  or meter in a particular line. In addition to William  Shakespeare , Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Middleton and Ben Jonson are important playwrights of this period. The themes of such plays were largely drawn from the mythology of Ancient Greece or Roman mythology.

literature type drama

English  Restoration Comedies in the period of the 17th and 18th centuries were also popular, bringing on the  renaissance  of English drama in literature. Stealing from Greeks, Romans and other European counterparts, sexual explicitness, urbane, cosmopolitan wit, current topical literature, and dense, busy storylines marked English Restoration Comedies.

During the second wave of Restoration comedy in the 1690s, William Congreve and John Vanbrugh’s “softer” plays sought to appeal to a more socially diversified audience with a large middle-class element, as well as female viewers.

Modern and Post-Modern Period

Innovative branches of drama led by Norwegian Henrik Ibsen and German Bertolt Brecht marked the 19th and 20th centuries. These plays were marked by realist and modern, experimental themes, social critique. Some important playwrights of this period are George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Miller, Antonin Artaud and others.

Expression of drama, or the language of drama stems from the understanding and context of the text depicted. Different types of drama in literature have different expressions. It can be ritualistic and exaggerated or parallel the motion pictures.  Britannica  mentions the authors of ancient Greek ceremonial theatre who wrote in verses, and it is thought that their performers delivered this in an incantatory manner midway between  speech  and  song . The result of such rhythmic word delivery was to raise the tone of the entire theatre to that of religious adoration.

A poem accompaniment makes the performers’ highly stylized system of symbolic movements of head and eyes, arms and fingers a harmonic totality in  Indian  play. The tragic soliloquy in Shakespeare allowed the hero, alone on stage with the audience, to evaluate his thoughts aloud in the persuasive terms of poetry. 

What is  Drama in Literature ?

Drama is strongly linked to literature, so much so that the two are practically inseparable. For an instance, the play Hamlet has both dramatic and literary value.

Drama can reach an audience in two ways

  • by way of hearing
  • by way of sight.

Consequently, drama is broadly of two types:

  • the drama of action
  • the drama of literature.
  • Dialogues and scenes are written particularly to appeal to the reader.
  • In this, dramatists follow the narrative via written performance and build tension around the  plot .
  • For an instance, let’s take Hamlet. We keep on wondering whether Prince Hamlet will ever revenge his father’s death and free himself of his bothersome ghosts and visions of floating daggers by slaying the play’s  antagonist  Claudius.

Types of Drama in Literature

There are 7 types of drama in literature to bring out the narrative. These are:

Let’s look at each of them!

literature type drama

Drama Type –  Comedy

Comedy is a type or genre of drama that is intended to make people laugh. However, humour is not the only quality that signifies a comedy. The main themes of a comedy are-

  • The tone is lighthearted.
  • Ingenious wordplay or twists of phrases.
  • Serious issues are addressed in a lighthearted manner.
  • Misunderstandings are amusing.
  • A happy ending.
  • Characters who are silly and out of the ordinary.
  • Usually concludes with a wedding, especially in romantic comedies.

The sub- genres  of comedy include romantic comedies, sentimental comedies and others.  William Shakespeare ’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is one of the most famous instances of comedy. With smart banter and more  than  a few stupid misunderstandings, Beatrice and Benedick go from enemies to lovers. And, as is customary in Shakespearean comedies, it concludes with a wedding!

Another Shakespearean comedy is “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. This romantic comedy addresses one of his favourite themes, “love conquers all,” with a funny twist. Young couples continually fall in and out of love as a result of a sequence of humorous and surprising events. Their equally humorous real-world problems are magically solved by a mischievous sprite named Puck as they tackle the flaws of love. Old enemies will soon become friends, and truly loved ones will meet again to live happily at Shakespeare’s happy ending.

literature type drama

Farce is another type of drama in literature which is, broadly humorous, however, there are significant differences between a comedy and a farce. The main themes of farce are-

  • Exaggerated wit
  • Jokes that are slapstick
  • The plot is illogical.
  • Unexpected occurrences
  • Humor is frequently coarse and inappropriate.

The play “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett is a case on point. But, The plot revolves around two guys, Vladimir and Estragon. The men wait beneath a  tree  for Godot, a mystery figure. We do discover, though, that Godot continually sends word that he would arrive the next day, but this never happens. In other words, nothing happens with any surety in this drama.

literature type drama

Drama Type  – Tragedy

Therefore, tragedies are one of the most common and popular types of drama. As you can probably guess, tragedies tend to be sad. However, there is more to tragedies than that. The main themes are-

  • A fatal fault in the  protagonist
  • Situations that easily spiral out of control — and not in a good way
  • Human agony, hate, or poverty are frequent topics. These are darker topics than in a melodrama.
  • Describes the demise of a once heroic or well-liked persona.
  • An unredeemable conclusion in which one or more characters die
  • Arrives at a terrible catharsis

Shakespeare offers a plethora of tragedies from which to pick. Few, however, can compare to “Othello” in terms of its vicious villain, tragic demise of its hero, and heartbreaking denouement. Because he doesn’t believe he deserves the life he has, Othello loses everything he has ever loved or desired.

These complex among the types of drama in literature. They are more than just tragedy and comedy blended together. The main themes are-

  • A serious plot delivered in a funny, sarcastic, or snarky manner.
  • Characters with tragic flaws whose acts do not result in death
  • A confusing subject
  • Characters with broad personalities that act in stereotypically humorous ways
  • There is no joyful or funny conclusion.

Classic plays were primarily concerned with clear-cut comedy, tragedy, or melodramatic genres. Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” contains enough comedic aspects to keep it from being classified as a tragedy – yet no one can argue that Blanche DuBois is anything other than a terribly broken character. It is the epitome of modern tragicomedy.

Drama Type –  Melodrama

Melodramas are an exaggerated kind of drama in literature, in which conventional one-dimensional characters such as heroes, heroines, and villains contend with exciting, passionate, and frequently deadly situations. The main themes of melodrama are-

  • Character clichés include heroes, heroines, villains, mentors, and so on.
  • Romantic or sombre stories with sweeping arcs
  • Plots and events that are larger-than-life (or very small stories told in big ways)
  • Character reactions are exaggerated
  • Clearly defined literary topics
  • Character flaws must be overcome in order to attain a resolution
  • Ending that is sometimes cheerful and sometimes sad

When referring to melodrama, take Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”. Nora’s exaggerated emotions place the piece squarely in the category of melodrama. WOW!! The finale is a blend of Nora’s delight and hope and Torvald’s melancholy and despair. Sometimes called “tear-jerkers”, another example of such melodramas is the play “The  Glass  Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams.

Many a time, people don’t understand the difference between opera and musicals. An opera is a type of drama where the  actors  sing the lines or dialogues instead of speaking them. Also, the main themes of an opera are-

  • Arias, which are actually musical soliloquies.
  • Plot-driving sequences that may or may not be melodious
  • A libretto (text) that has been turned to music.
  • Tragic, comic, or melodramatic subject matter
  • May have a dancing aspect, but mostly depends upon vocal performances
  • Set design, costume design, and production

Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme” is one of the most famous operas of all time. It portrays the sad narrative of Rodolfo and Mimi, as well as the world of French Bohemia. The drama unfolds over the course of a year, set to one of opera’s most unforgettable compositions.

Drama Type –  Musical

Musicals are different from opera. While lines in opera are sung, dialogues in musicals are infused with music and performances. The main themes of musicals are-

  • Firstly Songs break up periods of conventional plot.
  • Characters frequently sing in unison to express their emotions.
  • Songs as plot-altering devices
  • Storylines that be dramatic or hilarious
  • A  memorable  and unique musical score
  • Frequently a lot of singing and dancing.

Many musicals, such as “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera” are based on larger literary works. Both of these musical dramas communicate their topics directly via song and use musical sequences to advance the story. They simplify their original material by focusing on the most vital characters and plot components.

  • The term “theatre” is derived from the Greek word “theatron,” which means “seeing place.”
  • The masks allowed a single actor to play multiple roles in the same play.
  • The skene was a structure behind the orchestra. The skene was where actors changed their costumes. To create the background, pictures were sometimes hung from the skene. This is the origin of the term “scene.”
  • The chorus would occasionally comment on the characters in the play or warn the hero of impending danger.
  • A man named Thespis was the first actor. Actors are sometimes referred to as “Thespians” nowadays.
  • Ancient Greece is where the drama masks that have come to symbolise theatre first appeared. The two masks represent the two main genres of Greek theatre, Comedy and Tragedy.
  • In ancient Greece, tragedy, a genre that focuses on human suffering, was the most popular theatrical form. Thespis, a playwright and actor, is credited with the first performance of tragedy at the Dionysia.

Drama in literature is an ancient art, that we should preserve. Not only is it enjoyable to read, but also is delightful to perform. However, Theatre is a very subtle  art form , and these actors deserve our respect and reverence. Also, Immerse yourself in reading more and more drama to enjoy this ancient art.

Drama allows children to explore, discuss, and deal with difficult issues, as well as express their emotions in a safe environment. It allows them to investigate their own cultural values as well as those of others, both  past  and present.

For more such informative and exciting articles keep visiting our  blog !

What exactly is drama in literature?

A drama is a form of literature that is created to be performed in front of an audience. This sort of  writing  takes the form of a script, and the tale is told through the lines of the actors who play the characters. People can view dramas on stage, on the radio, or on film. 

What are some  examples  of drama in literature?

Here are three famous examples of drama in literature: 1. A tragedy is depicted in William Shakespeare’s famous play Romeo and Juliet. Due to their bickering families, two young children in this drama fall in love and feel compelled to keep their feelings hidden from their parents. Their hasty decisions, however, lead to their deaths. 2. Jean Cocteau’s play  Les parents terribles  is an example of a melodrama that has numerous layers of overdramatic scenarios such as infidelity and suicide. 3. The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Weber is a well-known example of a musical play that portrays the story of obsession.

What is the significance of drama in literature?

Dramas serve the purpose of entertaining the audience. While reading a narrative might be powerful, seeing it performed by actors adds a sense of realism to the work. Many individuals prefer spending their spare time watching dramas, specifically in the form of movies or television, in this day and age of binge-watching.

What are the four primary types of drama?

Tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, and melodrama are the four main types of drama. Although these genres emerged at separate times, each has its own distinct qualities. All of them, however, play important roles in contemporary culture and should be recognised.

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Different Types of Drama in Literature

Hamlet drama in literature example

  • DESCRIPTION Hamlet drama in literature example
  • SOURCE sabelskaya / iStock / Getty Images Plus

When you hear the word drama , you probably think of your favorite dramatic television show or movie. But literary drama has less to do with a serious storyline and more to do with stage performances. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of drama in literature, and what they look like on the stage.

Different Types of Literary Drama

Drama in literature refers to the performance of written dialogue and stage action. It’s a literary genre that allows actors to act out a writer’s words directly to an audience. But there’s more than one type of literary genre – and chances are, you’ve seen examples of them all. Here are some explanations and examples of different types of drama in literature.

Comedies are usually humorous plays. But being funny isn’t the only way to define a comedy! The elements of a comedy include:

  • Lighthearted tone
  • Clever wordplay or turns of phrase
  • Serious topics addressed in a humorous way
  • Comical misunderstandings
  • Happy ending
  • Silly, offbeat characters
  • Often ends with a wedding, especially in romantic comedies

One of the most famous examples of a comedy is William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing . Beatrice and Benedick transition from foes to lovers with clever banter and more than a few silly misunderstandings. And, like all proper Shakespearean comedies, it ends with a wedding!

A farce is a type of broad comedy. It depends less on a narrative storyline and more on physical humor, sight gags, silly jokes. Here are the parts of a farcical comedy:

  • Exaggerated humor
  • Slapstick gags
  • Nonsensical storyline
  • Improbable events
  • One or two settings
  • Humor is often crude and inappropriate

example of farce Waiting for Godot

  • DESCRIPTION example of farce Waiting for Godot
  • SOURCE Robbie Jack / Contributor / Corbis Entertainment - June 05, 2015

For a film reference, think of anything by Monty Python or National Lampoon . On the stage, the absurd humor in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (pictured above) is a farcical commentary on life, religion, and human relationships.

Operas are dramas in which the characters sing each line rather than speaking. The entire production is set to a musical score. You can tell you’re watching an opera if it includes these attributes:

  • Musical soliloquies known as arias
  • Plot-driving passages that can be non-melodic
  • A libretto (text) set to a musical score
  • Subject matter that is tragic, comic, or melodramatic
  • Can incorporate an element of dance, but typically relies on singing performances
  • Elaborate sets, costume design, and production

One of the most famous operas of all time is Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme . It tells the tragic story of Rodolfo, Mimi, and the world of French Bohemia. Set to one of opera’s most memorable scores, the story reveals itself over the course of a year.

When you hear drama , you probably think of melodrama . Melodramas tell a serious story in serious ways. Not sure if a drama is a melodrama? Check if it includes the following:

  • Character tropes such as heroes, heroines, villains, mentors, etc.
  • Sweeping stories of romance or serious topics
  • Larger-than-life plots and circumstances (or very small stories told in big ways)
  • Exaggerated character reactions
  • Clear literary themes
  • Flawed characters who must overcome their faults in order to reach their resolution
  • Ending that is sometimes happy, sometimes unhappy

Consider Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House when referring to a melodrama. Nora’s over-the-top reactions place the play right into the definition of melodrama. The ending is a mix of both happiness and hope for Nora, and sadness and despair for Torvald.

Musical Drama

It’s tempting to put opera and musical drama into the same category. However, their production proves that there are significant differences between the two. But how can you tell a musical drama apart from an opera? Use this checklist:

  • Periods of standard storyline interrupted by songs
  • Characters often singing in unison to express feelings
  • Songs as plot-changing devices
  • Dramatic or comedic storylines
  • Catchy, distinctive musical score

Often lots of singing and dancing

Many musicals, such as Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera , (pictured above) are adapted from longer literary works. Both of these musical dramas express their themes directly through song and progress the plot with musical numbers. They simplify their source material by putting the most important characters and story elements on the stage.

Just from the word tragedy , you can assume that the ending will be sad. But there is more to a tragedy than a play with no happy ending. You can tell if a play is a tragedy if it includes:

  • A protagonist with a tragic flaw
  • Circumstances that quickly get out of control – and not in a funny way
  • Darker themes than a melodrama, such as human suffering, hatred, or poverty
  • Features the downfall of a previously heroic or well-liked character
  • An irredeemable ending that results in one or more characters’ deaths
  • Reaches a tragic catharsis

Shakespeare has any number of tragedies to choose from. But few can rival Othello for its cruel villain, its hero’s tragic downfall, and its desperately sad ending. Othello loses everything he has ever loved or wanted because he can’t trust that he deserves the life he has.


When you combine the elements of a comedy and a tragedy, you get a tragicomedy ! Tragicomedies are more complex than a drama with a few jokes, or a comedy with a serious scene. Some ways to tell if you’re watching a tragicomedy are if it has:

  • A serious storyline told in a humorous, sardonic, or snide way
  • Tragically flawed characters whose actions don’t result in death
  • An ambiguous theme
  • Broad characters who act in classically comical ways
  • Neither a happy nor a comic ending

Classic dramas mainly dealt in clear-cut comedy, tragedy, or melodramatic styles. But many modern dramas are considered complex enough to be tragicomedies. Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire has enough elements of a comedy to keep it out of the tragedy genre – but no one can claim than Blanche DuBois is anything but a tragically flawed character. It is the quintessential modern tragicomedy.

History of Drama

The word drama means “action” in Greek. Greek drama began with the work of Aristotle’s Poetics (335 B.C.), which is the oldest recorded work of dramatic theory. The tradition continued throughout Greek culture, marked by the famous laughing/crying masks of drama (Thalia, Muse of comedy, and Melpomene, Muse of tragedy).

The Roman Empire adapted drama into their literary tradition, where it spread into Europe and became known as theater in France and England. The Elizabethan era in particular was a flourishing time for European theater, which set the stage (so to speak) for theater around the world.

Drama Demonstrates the Human Condition

When you read a play or see performances on stage, you’re seeing a dramatization of the human condition. Being human involves laughter, tears, music, and tragedy – and no one knew that more than the Bard himself. For more resources on drama, check out a complete list of the plays by William Shakespeare.

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7 types of drama in literature explained (with examples)

What comes to your mind when the word drama is mentioned? Most people think of something created for theatre, television, or radio. They are correct. There are multiple types of drama, each with unique elements or characteristics. All have a place in modern culture and should be appreciated.

Types of drama in literature

Understanding the various types of drama is important for people who enjoy literature, acting, and other forms of artistic creation. Usually, drama is performed rather than read. Discover more below.

Types of drama: all you need to know

Dramas are normally called plays. Their creators are known as dramatists or playwrights. They have been performed since the days of Aristotle, i.e. around 335 BCE.

What is drama in English literature?

The word drama was derived from the Greek words δρᾶμα and δράω. The first means an act or play, while the latter means to act or take action.

In literature, drama encompasses the portrayal of fictional or non-fictional events through the performance of written dialogue. Through it, stories and events are brought to life by actors on a stage.

literature type drama

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Aristotle, a famous Greek philosopher, defined it as a poetic composition acted in front of audiences in a theatre. Its purpose is to arouse the audience's feelings and purge these emotions, thus making people stronger emotionally. It combines performance, dance, music , and props.

Types of drama in literature

Below is an exploration of the various forms of drama in literature. The elements of drama are scenery and costume, musical score, libretto, characterisation, plot, and thought content. These elements are seen in all types.

Comedy is one of the most popular forms of drama in literature. It aims to make the audience laugh.

Its tone is light, and it almost always has a happy ending. The form started with Aristotle in ancient Greece in the 4th century BCE.

Examples of drama are Noises Off by Michael Frayn and The Simpsons. The latter had a 26-year run. Most characters on the show had hilarious characters.

literature type drama

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what is drama

In tragedy, the protagonist or hero is brought down by his/her flaws. Murders, pain, deaths, and insanity are among the most common ideas in tragedies. In tragic stories , the main character usually has some weakness or defect that causes their downfall.

The aim of tragedy is to release of certain emotions from the audience. It arouses sensations of pity and fear. Actors leave the theatre with an understanding of the ways of gods and men.

The audience's catharsis comes through witnessing disastrous and moving changes in the fortunes of the protagonist. Examples are Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, Romeo and Juliet , and Julius Caesar .

3. Tragicomedy

Tragicomedy combines the features of tragedy and comedy, e.g., a play can have a sad plot and a happy ending or be serious, with some elements of humour emerging throughout the play.

literature type drama

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Unlike comedy and tragedy, tragicomedy emerged a bit later, in the times of the Roman Empire. Roman dramatist Plautus was the first person to write a tragicomedy .

In his play Amphitryon, he used the lightheartedness of comedy but chose gods and kings as the main characters. He noted that every human being's life features some tragedy and comedy. An example is The Merchant of Venice .

4. Melodrama

Melodrama is a kind of drama in which everything is hyperbolised. Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech.

Usually, themes depicted in melodramas are simple and without any unpredictable plot twists. There are quite a lot of stereotypes in such dramas.

The primary goal of a melodrama is to awaken feelings in the audience. Melodramas are mostly love stories with charming heroes, scary villains, and beautiful heroines.

literature type drama

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Melodrama originated much later than comedy, tragedy, and tragicomedy. It first appeared in France at the end of the 18th century. Examples are All That Heaven Allows by Douglas Sirk and Now Voyager by Olive Higgins Prouty.

Farce is a form of drama that uses absurd forms of comedy, also known as dark humour. Its humour depends more on the character's physical appearance and silly jokes rather than the storyline.

Farce differs from a comedy in that the plot is primarily illogical, and the occurring events are impossible. Examples are Airplane! by Jim Abrahams and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.

Opera is a staged drama entirely set to music . It is made up of vocal pieces with instrumental accompaniment and usually with orchestral overtures and interludes.

In some operas, the music is continuous throughout an act. In others, it is broken up into discrete pieces separated by spoken dialogue or recitative. Examples are La traviata by Verdi, Carmen by Bizet, and Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) by Mozart.

literature type drama

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examples of drama

Musicals combine songs , spoken dialogue, dance, and acting. It is pretty easy to confuse them with operas. In an opera, the lines are sung, but a musical employs dialogues infused with music performances. Examples are The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady .

What are the elements of drama?

The elements of drama are plot, musical score, scenery and costume, libretto, thought content, and characterisation.

What are the different types of costume in drama?

The main types of costumes in theatre are historical, fantastical, dance, and modern.

How many types of drama are there?

There are seven forms of drama, as explored above.

Understanding the different types of drama is important for all lovers of literature, theatre, and film productions. Drama started as a form of entertainment with the ancient Greeks and has evolved and split into different forms and types.

literature type drama

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Dramas Video

The word drama tends to get casually thrown around describing something as sensational or wild. But when it comes to literature, what does it really mean? From William Shakespeare to Sophocles, dramas have been pieces of literature that have moved readers and audiences for centuries. Today, we’ll go into detail about what a drama is, where dramas came from, and look at the different types of dramas. Let’s get started!

What is a Drama?

First, what is a drama? A drama is a type of narrative writing that is meant to be performed in front of an audience. Dramas are most notably performed as plays in a theatre though many dramas have been recreated and adapted for film, TV, or radio. Nowadays, drama is commonly used to describe a genre of storytelling in film and television like The Godfather or The Expanse . Despite what the name implies, dramas are not always serious. There are 5 types of classic dramas that are all unique from each other: comedy, tragedy, farce, melodrama, and musical drama.

History of Dramas

Ancient rome and greece.

Before we delve deeper into the different types, it’s important to know how they started. Dramas can be traced back to the 5th century in Ancient Rome and Greece. Playwrights made productions that started with just one actor and a chorus that sang to help tell the story. Back then most dramas were usually religious in nature and only written and performed by adult men, with the exception of younger boys who would perform women’s roles until after the renaissance. There were only three prominent genres at that time: comedy, tragedy, and satire.

The Middle Ages

Moving forward to the Middle Ages, dramas reemerged through the church as a new method to teach the people about the Bible since services were in Latin and most people couldn’t speak Latin and were illiterate. These dramas were known as mystery plays . Around the 16th and 17th centuries, the Renaissance period caused a renewed interest in art—plays were becoming popular in England as a means of entertainment, socializing, and social critique. Plays about the ruling class like Henry V , or tragedies like Othello were popular around this time. They were performed by acting companies that traveled all over the country. Playwrights like William Shakespeare began to make a name for themselves and permanent public theatres were being built. Thus, theatre began to take root and become the classic English drama we know today.

English drama plays during this time were originally performed in or around local inns or open courts until permanent theaters were constructed outside the city. The most popular, The Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare plays were performed was built in 1599. Theatres were 3 stories tall and were typically polygonal. In other words, the theatre and seating were angled to basically surround the stage so that onlookers could see the performance from three sides – front, left, and right. Dramas also took place during the day because artificial light hadn’t been created yet; at best candles were lit in the evening and the scenery was virtually nonexistent. The settings were mostly described by the characters’ dialogue, leaving the audience’s imagination to do the rest.

Types of Dramas

Today, dramas can be separated into 5 types .

Comedies are narratives with the intent of making the audience laugh. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedic drama about a turbulent marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta and the hi-jinx that ensues with them and 4 young actors.

Just like the name suggests, tragedies were indeed tragic. The subjects they dealt with were dark, like war and death, and protagonists were always burdened with a tragic flaw that kept them from their happy ending.

This type of drama is similar to a comedy but aims at entertaining through highly exaggerated and improbable situations. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is made up of dozens of characters with their own unique and sometimes extravagant stories, leaving the “plot” to be lost to some readers and audiences.

This type of drama is meant to appeal to the audience’s emotions. The story is meant to be passionate and sensational, with characters portrayed using stereotypes and one-dimensional personalities.

Musical Drama

This is a form of drama where music, especially singing or dancing, is used along with dialogue and acting to tell the story.

Drama vs. Fiction

Denoting the difference between drama and fiction can be a bit tricky. Both narratives are fueled by the imagination to tell stories, but dramas are written to be acted out in front of an audience, whereas fiction is meant to be read. Drama is also based in dialogue, meaning that the story is driven through conversations, “speeches,” and interactions between characters. Fiction, on the other hand, may use a narrator to move the story forward outside of dialogue from the characters.

Dramatic Elements

Dramas may use something called an aside to express a thought or information during a play that only the audience can hear. The character will break the 4th wall and address the audience directly about whatever is on their mind or that they feel we should know. It could be thought of as a “time freeze” where everyone else on stage is frozen and the only people who can hear the character giving the aside is the audience. Once it’s over, the drama continues as if nothing happened.


Soliloquies are similar to asides but are presented more like a speech than a passing thought or remark. If there are other characters present on stage, they completely ignore the person giving the soliloquy. Soliloquies are usually meant to share a character’s inner thoughts the audience would otherwise have no way of knowing. Time isn’t frozen during a soliloquy, instead we’re putting a metaphorical spotlight on a character for a few seconds and continue with the play as usual.

Before we go, let’s look at a couple of review questions to see what you remember:

1. Which of the following describes a farce?

  • A play that appeals to the audience’s emotions through sensational and passionate storytelling.
  • A play that aims to entertain the audience through highly-exaggerated situations.
  • A play that deals with dark subjects, such as war or death.
  • A play that involves both dialogue and music to tell the story.

2. A soliloquy is…

  • A character expressing their thoughts aloud, regardless of who is around them.
  • A character expressing a passing thought or remark in such a way that time freezes around them and only the audience can hear them.

Answer B is describing an aside.

I hope this review was helpful! Thanks for watching, and happy studying!

  • “The Greeks – the Origins of Theatre – the First Actor.” Pbs.org
  • “Mystery Play.” Wikipedia
  • “Explain the Chronological Development of Drama from Greek to the Modern English Period. – ENotes.com.” n.d. ENotes
  • “English Renaissance Theatre | English Literature I.” n.d. Courses.lumenlearning.com

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: July 26, 2023

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What is Drama? What is Drama in Literature? Features, Types & Details Students Must Know

Drama English Literature Study Guide Alok Mishra Tips Study Students Best ways analysis

Life is a drama… written by God (some say) and realised by us (we all know). However, when it comes to understanding drama as a concept – in literary terms or otherwise – it is a drama of mess and absurdity, at times, if you are new to the world of drama as a subject matter of study. Otherwise, we all may love to watch a nice drama being enacted by our favourite stage actors. Who would not?

Now, coming to the point, I have tried to Drama as a literary concept as simple as possible. As a genre and an artistic expression, and also from the point of view of the audience, there are many things about Drama one must know as a student of literature. In this article, you will learn what is Drama. Also, with its definition, you will know different types of drama, vital components of drama and a few other essential features of it. So, without any delay, let’s get straight into the subject at hand. Let us begin right with the definition of drama.

What is Drama?

Drama, both as a standalone concept and within the realm of literature, holds significant importance as artistic expression. It is a genre that presents a narrative through the enactment of characters on a stage, often involving dialogue , actions, and conflicts that unfold in front of an audience. In the domain of literature, drama often refers to written works intended for performance, encompassing plays and theatrical scripts that are designed to be enacted by actors on a stage.

It is remarkable to note that in literature, drama differs from other forms of storytelling in its focus on dialogue and the interaction between characters to convey the narrative, themes, and emotions. The structure of a dramatic work typically includes acts and scenes , which guide the progression of the storyline and offer distinct moments of tension, climax, and resolution . Through dialogue and actions, characters reveal their motivations, conflicts, and growth, making drama a dynamic medium for exploring the human experience.

Great dramatic works (or plays) in literature often reflect the societal, cultural, and psychological aspects of the time in which they were written. Playwrights utilise their creations to delve into complex themes, highlight moral dilemmas, challenge social norms, and provoke thought and emotional engagement among their audiences. The power of drama lies not only in its ability to entertain but also in its capacity to engage with issues that resonate deeply with the human condition.

Hint for Literature Students: before you start studying drama:

Students of English literature (or literature in any other language) should mark that understanding the nuances of drama in literature is crucial for analysing plays. They must take efforts to make themselves dexterous in identifying literary devices such as dramatic irony, soliloquies, and monologues, and uncovering the layers of meaning beneath the surface of characters’ interactions. By delving into the structure, themes, and character development of dramatic works, they can have a richer understanding of the complexities and artistry within this genre.

What are the Components of a Drama?

Below, you will find a list of components of a drama. I have tried to keep the sequence open, as open as I could, and it does not necessarily mean any order. You can understand the importance of each component and use your intellect to identify which ones are indispensable and which ones may be left alone when the need arises.

1. Characters: Characters are the heart of any dramatic work. They drive the plot, convey themes, and engage the audience emotionally. Characters can be protagonists, antagonists, foils, or supporting roles. Each character has distinct traits, motivations, and relationships that shape their interactions and influence the story’s development.

Example: In William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet,” the titular character Hamlet, driven by his quest for revenge and internal conflicts, interacts with other characters like Ophelia, Polonius, and Claudius, each contributing to the unfolding drama.

2. Plot: The plot is the sequence of events that constitute the storyline. It includes the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The plot structure creates tension and intrigue, guiding the audience through the narrative journey.

Example: The plot of Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible” follows the escalation of accusations and trials during the Salem witch trials, building tension until the climactic courtroom scene.

3. Conflict: Conflict is the driving force behind the drama. It can be internal (within a character’s mind) or external (between characters or circumstances). Conflict propels the story forward and illuminates the characters’ struggles and growth. Conflict makes a drama engaging, reflective and consuming. A drama without conflict may seldom exist.

Example: In Sophocles’ tragedy “Oedipus Rex,” the protagonist’s quest to uncover the truth about his past and his role in his father’s murder leads to a profound internal conflict as well as clashes with other characters.

4. Dialogue: Dialogue is the spoken communication between characters. It reveals their personalities, intentions, emotions, and relationships. Effective dialogue captures the essence of the characters and advances the plot.

Example: The witty and engaging dialogue between Beatrice and Benedick in Shakespeare’s comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” not only entertains but also showcases their evolving romantic relationship.

5. Setting: The setting establishes the time, place, and environment in which the drama unfolds. It influences the mood, atmosphere, and context of the story.

Example: Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” is set in the bustling city of New Orleans, with its distinct ambience and cultural backdrop contributing to the characters’ experiences.

6. Theme: Themes are the underlying ideas or messages conveyed through the drama. They address universal truths, societal issues, and philosophical concepts. Themes enrich the narrative and provoke thought.

Example: In Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” the theme of women’s societal roles and the pursuit of self-identity is explored through the character of Nora Helmer.

7. Stage Directions: Stage directions provide guidance for actors, directors, and designers. They describe actions, gestures, emotions, and technical elements that enhance the performance and visualization of the drama.

Example: In Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” the sparse stage directions contribute to the existential atmosphere and emphasize the characters’ sense of aimlessness.

8. Symbolism: Symbolism involves the use of objects, actions, or characters to represent abstract ideas or concepts. Symbolic elements add depth and layers of meaning to the drama.

Example: In Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” the plant that Mama nurtures symbolizes her dreams of a better future for her family.

What are the types of Drama? 

There are several major types of drama, each with its own distinctive characteristics and purposes. Here is a list of some of the major types, along with examples and detailed descriptions:

1. Tragedy: Tragedy is a genre that explores the downfall of a protagonist due to tragic flaws, external circumstances, or a combination of both. Tragedies evoke emotions such as pity and fear and often end in catastrophe or death for the central character.

Example: William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” follows the tragic journey of Macbeth’s ambition leading to his ultimate downfall and demise.

2. Comedy: Comedy is characterised by humour, wit, and lightheartedness. It often involves misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and humorous situations. Comedies aim to entertain and uplift the audience.

Example: Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a classic comedy that employs wit and satire to explore themes of social conventions and identity.

3. Tragicomedy (Dramedy): Tragicomedy combines elements of tragedy and comedy, often blending serious themes with humorous moments. These plays explore the complexities of life, encompassing both light and dark aspects.

Example: Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” reimagines the story of “Hamlet” from the perspective of two minor characters, balancing existential reflections with comedic exchanges.

4. Historical Drama: Historical dramas are set in a specific historical period and often involve real historical figures and events. They provide insight into the past while addressing universal themes.

Example: Friedrich Schiller’s “Mary Stuart” dramatizes the conflict between Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Elizabeth I, exploring power dynamics and personal struggles.

5. Musical Drama: Musical dramas combine theatrical performance with music, including songs and often dance routines. They can cover a wide range of themes and emotions, utilizing music to enhance storytelling.

Example: “Les Misérables” by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil adapts Victor Hugo’s novel into a musical drama that portrays the struggles of various characters against the backdrop of 19th-century France.

6. Absurdist Drama: Absurdist dramas challenge traditional narrative structures and explore the absurdity of human existence. They often feature illogical situations, disjointed dialogue, and existential themes.

Example: Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” is a quintessential absurdist play where two characters engage in nonsensical conversations while waiting for someone named Godot.

7. Political Drama: Political dramas centre around political conflicts, ideologies, and power struggles. They can focus on individuals, groups, or entire societies dealing with political issues.

Example: George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” uses allegory to portray the rise of totalitarianism and the corruption of political ideals through the actions of farm animals.

8. Melodrama: Melodramas emphasize heightened emotions and moral contrasts. They often feature clearly defined heroes and villains, and their plots revolve around intense emotional situations.

Example: Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts” is a melodrama that tackles taboo subjects like venereal disease and societal expectations within a family.

How to Study a Drama the Best Way?

Studying a drama effectively requires a systematic approach that delves into its various components and layers. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process:

1. Preliminary Reading: Begin by reading the drama thoroughly. Read it once to grasp the overall plot and storyline. Take note of initial impressions, emotions, and questions that arise as you read.

2. Contextual Research: Research the playwright’s background, the historical period, and cultural influences at the time the drama was written. Understanding the context enhances your interpretation of the work.

3. Character Analysis: Analyse the characters’ personalities, motivations, and relationships. Take note of how they evolve throughout the drama. Pay attention to their roles in advancing the plot and conveying themes.

4. Plot Structure: Break down the drama’s plot into acts and scenes. Identify the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Map out the progression of conflicts and events.

5. Theme Exploration: Identify the central themes and underlying messages of the drama. Consider how characters, dialogue, and events contribute to the exploration of these themes.

6. Dialogue Examination: Analyse the dialogue between characters. Identify key speeches, monologues, and dialogues that reveal character traits, emotions, and thematic elements. Look for literary devices such as metaphors, similes, and symbolism.

7. Stage Directions and Setting: Study the stage directions and setting descriptions. Visualise how the playwright intended the scenes to be staged and how the environment contributes to the mood and themes.

8. Conflict Identification: Identify the primary conflicts within the drama. Distinguish between internal conflicts (within characters) and external conflicts (between characters or external forces).

9. Symbolism and Imagery: Identify symbolic elements and recurring imagery throughout the drama. Consider how these symbols enhance the meaning and depth of the story.

10. Comparative Analysis: Compare the drama with other works by the same playwright or within the same genre. Identify similarities and differences in themes, characters, and techniques.

11. Cultural and Societal Analysis: Consider how the drama reflects the cultural and societal values of its time. Explore how it addresses relevant issues and challenges norms.

12. Critical Interpretation: Read critical analyses, reviews, and scholarly articles about the drama. Engaging with different perspectives can enrich your understanding and help you form your own interpretation.

13. Personal Response: Reflect on your emotional and intellectual responses to the drama. What aspects resonated with you? How did the drama affect your thoughts and emotions?

14. Discussion and Interaction: Engage in discussions with peers, classmates, or online communities. Sharing insights and perspectives can lead to deeper understanding.

15. Writing and Presentation: Summarise your analysis in a well-structured essay, presentation, or discussion. Support your points with evidence from the text and external research.

16. Revisiting and Reflecting: After completing your analysis, revisit the drama with fresh insights. Reflect on how your understanding has evolved and consider new interpretations.

By following this comprehensive guide, you’ll be able to delve deeply into the layers of the drama, uncovering its nuances and appreciating the artistry and messages woven into the narrative. This methodical approach will enable you to attempt a comprehensive and insightful analysis of the drama you’re studying.


So, in this article, we have understood the definition of Drama, the major types of Drama with examples and also the chief components that form a good drama. Moreover, we also tried to form a list of actions or activities that we can execute to study and understand a play better and comprehensively. I am sure if you go through this study guide carefully, you will have a better approach to studying drama. All the best! Do well and keep learning!

By Alok Mishra for the English Literature Education Platform

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3 Comments . Leave new

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Great article I give most benefits This is easier way for learning, reading, understanding

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Sir, You should also bring an article on Indian classical literature. Above article is fantastic about drama.

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Thanks for reading, and this comment, Sanjana! I will write that article soon. I intend to keep writing articles about whatever I have to teach first-semester students of the new CBCS course, with an English major.

Keep exploring! All the best!

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Lerne mit deinen Freunden und bleibe auf dem richtigen Kurs mit deinen persönlichen Lernstatistiken

Nie wieder prokastinieren mit unseren Lernerinnerungen.

To be dramatic means to be theatrical, over-the-top and sensational. But what does it mean to be dramatic in literature? Let us look at the meaning, elements, history and examples of dramas in literature for a better understanding of this popular form.

Drama meaning

The meaning of drama is that it is a mode of representing fictional or non-fictional narratives through a performance before an audience. They are meant to be seen and heard, not read.

In most cases, dramas contain dialogues that are meant to be repeated before an audience and stage directions that are acted out.

In most cases, dramas take the form of plays, where a written script by a playwright is performed at a theatre in front of a live audience. A drama could also refer to any other performance that may be either live or recorded, such as mime theatre, ballets, musicals, operas, films, television shows, or even radio programmes.

Drama, a performance of Romeo and Juliet, StudySmarter

Elements of drama in literature

Although dramas can take various shapes and forms, here are a few common elements that bind all dramas together as a genre.

Plot and action

All dramas must contain some sort of narrative, or a storyline, regardless of whether it is fiction or non-fiction . This is done by making sure the drama has a strong Plot .

P lot: the chain of interconnected events that occur from beginning to end in a story.

A drama should contain the highs and lows of any engaging Plot . A plot usually features the physical or emotional journey of the main character(s), which begins with a moment of internal or external conflict followed by some Action that builds up to a climax and resolution.

A drama lacking plot would have no momentum and no Action for the characters to act out.

While writing the plot for a drama, there must be an awareness of the fact that the plot is meant to be performed before an audience. Therefore, no aspect of the character's thoughts should be presented in a way that is not performable or meant for private reading, such as a book or a poem.

This means that dramas should not contain elaborate imagery but instead include stage directions and stage setup. A character's stream of consciousness should be presented as a soliloquy . Thoughts and feelings should be expressed through conversation or Dialogue . Abstract themes and symbols should have a physical form or be personified . All the action that takes place in the plot should be either visualisable or audible.

Soliloquy : A literary device where a character reveals their personal thoughts and feelings directly in front of an audience alone, that is, without the presence of another character.

Personification: A literary device where abstract ideas or inanimate objects are given human-like emotions and behaviours.

If the plot of a drama should be performable and presentable in front of an audience , who enacts the actions in a drama's plot? Who repeats the dialogues scripted by the dramatist? The characters, of course!

Characters form a key part of a drama, as everything in the drama is conveyed by the movements and dialogues of the characters. Hence, dramas are essentially character-driven narratives.

Therefore, all figures in a drama should possess recognizable human-like qualities so that they can be acted out by actors onstage. This may include mythical creatures, supernatural beings, and even abstract symbols and ideas that are personified — they must be able to walk, talk and move like a human.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream (1600), Shakespeare (1564-1616) gives human-like qualities to Puck, a fairy or sprite that is mischievous, witty and humorous.

I’ll follow you. I’ll lead you about a round,

Through a bog, through bush, through brake, through brier.

Sometime a horse I’ll be, sometime a hound,

A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire,

And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn,

Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn."

(Act 3, Scene 1)

While dialogues are a non-essential part of dramas, as can be seen in ballets and mime theatre, they are a part of most dramas. Dialogues ensure that all the thoughts and feelings of characters are out in the open for the audience to interpret.

Dialogues make dramas more engaging and immersive than plain text, as it establishes a direct connection between the plot , characters and audience.

In William Shakespeare 's Othello (1622), the antagonist Iago is known for his delivery of soliloquies where he reveals his schemes to bring about the downfall of the protagonist Othello.

Cassio’s a proper man: let me see now;

To get his place and to plume up my will

In double knavery. How? How? Let’s see.

After some time, to abuse Othello’s ear

That he is too familiar with his wife;

He hath a person and a smooth dispose

To be suspected, framed to make women false.

The Moor is of a free and open nature,

That thinks men honest that but seem to be so,

And will as tenderly be led by the nose

As asses are.

I have’t. It is engendered. Hell and night

Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light."

(Act 1, Scene 3)

Drama, Shakespeare's Iago, StudySmarter

Another part of ensuring that a drama is presentable is a focus on staging. This refers to a focus on stage directions and setting to properly recreate the visual themes and aspects of the drama.

Stage directions: instructions in the script of a drama that indicates the movement, setting, position, voice and tone of the characters, alongside instructions on lighting and sound effects.

Here is an example of the opening stage directions from Arther Miller's (1915-2005) Play The Death of a Salesman (1949), which has been commended for having immensely descriptive and precise stage directions :

A melody is heard, played upon a flute. It is small and fine, telling of grass and trees and the horizon. The curtain rises. Before us is the Salesman’s house. We are aware of towering, angular shapes behind it, surrounding it on all sides. Only the blue light of the sky falls upon the house and forestage; the surrounding area shows an angry glow of orange."

(Act 1, Scene 1)

History of drama

The history of dramas dates back over 2000 years! Let us look at the origin of drama, its rise to popularity and how dramas became what they are today.

Ancient Greece and Rome

Western drama originated in Ancient Greece , where greek playwrights were known for writing tragedies, comedies and satirical plays to compete in festivals arranged in honour of the god Dionysus . These plays narrated mythologies and the lives and experiences of Greek gods.

The earliest playwrights to exist on record are Aeschylus (c. 525 - 456 BC), who wrote Oresteia ( 458 BC) and Prometheus Bound (c. 430 BC ) ; Euripides (c. 484 BC - 406 BC), who wrote Medea ( 431 BC) and Trojan Women ( 415 BC) ; and Sophocles (c. 496 BC - 406), who is best known for Oedipus Rex (c. 430 BC) and Electra (c. 420 BC ).

This trend gradually spread to Rome around 240 BC, following the expansion of the Roman empire into Greek territories ( 270–240 BC). Roman playwrights made modifications to the Greek drama by eliminating the Chorus and replacing it with musical accompaniment that ran alongside dialogues.

Chorus : a group of performers who speak directly to the audience and provide a commentary on the actions, morals, themes and characters in the drama. This is often done in the form of a song, dance or recitation.

Medieval theatre

In the early middle ages (500 - 1500), dramas reached England, where the clergy produced mystery plays to preach religion and spirituality. These were among the earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe .

Mystery plays: plays produced by the churches in England that dramatised biblical narratives.

The early Tudor period (1485 to 1603) in England saw the rise of Morality Plays such as Everyman (1510) and John Bunyan 's Pilgrim's Progress (1678).

Tudor period: The period between 1485 and 1603 was characterised by the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England with five monarchs: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.

Morality Plays : An allegorical drama form popular during the 15th and 16th centuries where the characters in the play personify certain virtues or vices.

The dramatic form gained full maturity during the English Renaissance period ( 1500–1660), a period that saw the flourishing of drama and the arts.

Prominent playwrights during this time include Christopher Marlowe , Thomas Dekker , John Fletcher , Francis Beaumont and, of course, William Shakespeare .

Examples of drama

Here are a few notable examples of dramas, each showcasing the different forms and types a drama can take.

Macbeth (1623) by William Shakespeare

Macbeth is perhaps one of the most famous tragedies by William Shakespeare . It is the story of a Scottish general Macbeth, who received a prophecy from the Three Witches telling him that he is destined to be the King of Scotland. Fuelled by his greed, ambition and power-hungry wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and crowns himself the new king of Scotland. He lies to everyone, telling them that King Duncan was killed by his servants. However, Macbeth's paranoia and guilt force him on a path of death and destruction, where he commits more murders to defeat his opponents and maintain his secret. This results in the outbreak of a civil war, which ends with him being beheaded and replaced by Macduff, a former favourite of King Duncan.

Les Misérables (1985), the musical

Les Misérables is one of the longest-running musicals in the world, having been performed in London since October 1985. It is the sung-through musical adaptation of Victor Hugo 's (1802-1885) French novel Les Misérables ( 1862) and is set against the backdrop of the French Revolution (1789-1799). The musical follows the life of Jean Valjean, a French peasant who was imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. The musical traces his rise from poverty and his road towards redemption as he raises Cosette, the daughter of a struggling French sex worker.

Drama, Les Miserables marquee, StudySmarter

The Crown (2016), the Netflix show

The Crown is a popular historical drama series based on the writer Peter Morgan's (1963- present) stage play The Audience (2013). The television series dramatises the lives and events surrounding the royal family of England, beginning with Queen Elizabeth II's marriage to Prince Philip in 1947 and ending with Prince Charles' divorce from Princess Diana in 1996 . The sixth season, which has not been released, concludes the series with the life and death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Drama - Key takeaways

  • Drama is a mode of representing fictional or non-fictional narratives through a performance before an audience.
  • A drama refers to any performance that may be either live or recorded, such as mime theatre, ballets, musicals, operas, films, television shows, or even radio programmes.

Elements of drama in literature:

Western drama originated in Ancient Greece, where greek playwrights were known for writing tragedies, comedies and satirical plays.

Notable examples of dramas include:

  • Fig. 1 - “ Romeo and Juliet “, Ballet of the SNT, Novi Sad, 2013/14, ensemble (Romeo i Julija, Balet SNP, 2013-14, ansambl, foto M. Polzović.jpg https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Romeo_i_Julija, _Balet_SNP,_2013-14,_ansambl,_foto_M._Polzovi%C4%87.jpg) by Miomir Polzović is licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
  • Fig. 3 - Les Misérables at Queen’s Theatre in London (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Les_Mis%C3%A9rables_at_Queen%27s_Theatre_in_London.jpg) by BroadwaySpain is licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (https: //creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)

Frequently Asked Questions about Drama

--> what is drama.

Drama is a mode of representing fictional or non-fictional narratives through a performance before an audience. They are meant to be seen and heard, not read. 

--> What is an example of drama in literature?

A notable example of a drama in literature is Macbeth (1606) by William Shakespeare.

--> What are the elements of drama? 

--> what are the types of literary drama.

In literature, dramas have 5 types:

  • History 

--> What is the origin of dramas? 

Western drama originated in Ancient Greece, where greek playwrights were known for writing tragedies, comedies and satirical plays. 

Final Drama Quiz

Drama quiz - teste dein wissen.

What is a drama?

Show answer

Drama is a mode of representing fictional or non-fictional narratives through a performance before an audience. They are meant to be seen and heard, not read. 

Show question

What is an example of drama in literature?

A notable example of a drama in literature is Macbeth (1623) by William Shakespeare.

What are the elements of drama? 

What are the five types of dramatic literature? 

In literature, the five types of drama include:

While writing a drama, what should dramatists be aware of?

While writing the plot for a drama, there must be an awareness of the fact that the plot is meant to be performed before an audience. Therefore, no aspect of the characters' thoughts should be presented in a way that is not performable or meant for private reading, such as a book or a poem. 

What makes dramas more engaging and immersive, and why?

Dialogues make dramas more engaging and immersive than plain text, as it establishes a direct connection between the plot, characters and audience. 

What does 'staging' refer to in a drama?

Staging refers to a focus on stage directions and setting, to properly recreate the visual themes and aspects of the drama. 

Where was the origin of dramas?

Western   drama originated in  Ancient  Greece , where greek playwrights were known for writing tragedies, comedies and satirical plays to compete in festivals arranged in honour of god Dionysus .  These plays narrated mythologies and the lives and experiences of Greek gods.

Give an example of a morality play from medieval England.

An example of morality plays include:

  • Everyman (1510)
  • John Bunyan 's  Pilgrim's Progress  (1678) 

Name prominent Renaissance playwrights.

  • Thomas Dekker
  • John Fletcher
  • Francis Beaumont

Which musical has been  one of the longest-running musicals in the world?

Les Misérables is one of the longest-running musicals in the world, having been performed in  London since  October 1985.

Which play is The Crown   (2016), the Netflix show, based on?

The Crown  is a popular historical drama series based on the writer Peter Morgan's stage   play   The Audience   (2013).

Flashcards in Drama 12


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7 different types of drama: What are their meanings and best examples

Drama is a written and visual media genre employed for comparatively narrative fiction. It is majorly identified as a performing art used as one of the primary modes for fiction representation. Drama can be found everywhere in the environment. However, the different types of drama have similar characteristics, including a narrative comprising dialogues and performances.

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types of drama in literature

What is drama? Drama originates from Greek and means to do or act. In drama literature, it is more of a performance by actors and actresses on stage before an audience than the storyline being acted out. Instead, the actors display the writer's words and plots to entertain specific spectators, especially in a theatre. The drama genre is further divided into many types combined into one plot to obtain a different type of drama.

literature type drama

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Kinds of drama and their meanings

There are many forms of drama that one can think of. However, the basic types are seven, which are explained with examples below.

Comedy is a genre that always has a happy ending , and the plot is crafted humorously. Its qualities and attributes may include lighthearted tones, clever wordplay or turns of phrase, and humorous undertones to address rather serious issues.

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Comedy also uses characters that may appear undone or silly while acting comical squabbles. However, when comedy involves romance, a happy ending, such as a wedding , ensues. Examples of comedic drama literature include the two Shakespearean works of comedy, Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Farce in drama is also often humorous, but its humour depends more on the character's physical appearance and silly jokes rather than on the storyline. Farce differs from a comedy in that the plot is primarily illogical, and the occurring events are impossible.

literature type drama

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What are the 9 types of drama?

Also, the jokes and humour are often crude and inappropriate for the events where they are employed. For example, Samuel Beckett's theatre drama Waiting for Godot is a farce performance. Others include the films Monty Python and National Lampoon.

A tragedy drama is a performance that turns out to have sad events and no happy ending. Aside from the sad ending, other attributes like a protagonist with tragic flaws, events leading to the downfall of a heroic or liked character, and the death of one or more of the principal characters in unpleasant circumstances characterise a tragedy.

It also features dark themes like human agony and suffering and situations that quickly go out of control, especially in a wrong way. Shakespeare has many works that can be described as a tragedy. Examples are Othello and Romeo and Juliet .

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4. Tragicomedy

Tragicomedy, as the name depicts, is a blend of comedy and tragedy. This type of drama is so complex that the extreme ends of comedy and tragedy, which are happy endings and often death in an unpleasant way, are neither achieved.

The attributes include a serious storyline performed humorously while the actions of tragically flawed characters do not result in death. Also, the characters act comically; in the end, there is neither a happy nor comical ending. An example of a tragicomedy drama is Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire due to the complexity of the storyline.

What is Drama? Definition, Examples of Drama as a Literary Term

Home » The Writer’s Dictionary » What is Drama? Definition, Examples of Drama as a Literary Term

Drama definition in literature: A drama is defined as a piece of literature of which the intended purpose is to be performed in front of an audience.

What is Drama in Literature?

Drama meaning: A drama is a type of literature that is written for the purpose of being performed in front of an audience. This type of writing is written in the form of a script, and the story is told through the lines of the characters played by actors.

Example of Drama

The television show Grey’s Anatomy is considered to be a genre. This show is written with the intended purpose of actors performing the lines for their viewing audience.

Types of Drama in Literature

Comedy : A comedy is a type of drama that is written to be entertaining or amusing for the audience.

  • The television show Seinfeld is considered a comedy. This sitcom follows the lives of four friends and the humorous situations they encounter together.

Tragedy : A tragedy is a type of drama that can be described as serious in nature and often includes a catastrophic ending.

  • William Shakespeare’s famous play Romeo and Juliet is an example of a tragedy. In this play, two young children fall in love and feel the need to hide this from their parents due to their feuding families. However, their rash thinking leads them to their ultimate deaths.

Farce : A farce is a subcategory of comedy. Theses low comedies include ridiculous and slapstick comedic situations in order to create humor for the audience.

  • The movie Dumb and Dumber is an example of a farce. This movie follows the story of two caricatures on a mission to return a briefcase to a beautiful lady. Throughout the film the two encounter several ridiculous and crude situations.

Melodrama : While it originally referred to dramas that included accompanying music, melodramas now refer to plays that include highly emotional situations in order to play on the feelings of the audience.

  • The play Les parents terribles by Jean Cocteau is an example of a melodrama that involves several layers of over dramatic situations including cheating and suicide.

Musical Drama : Musical dramas refer to plays in which characters engage in dialogue but also include scenes in which the passion of the character is so great he expresses himself in song.

  • Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera is a well-known example of a musical drama that tells the story of obsession.

The Function of Drama

Dramas serve the function of entertainment for the audience. While reading a story is powerful, watching the story be performed by actors adds a level of realism to the work. In the age of binge watching, many people enjoy spending leisure time watching dramas specifically in the forms of movies or television.

Summary: What is a Drama in Literature?

Define drama in literature: In summation, a drama is a work of literature written for the intended purpose of being performed for an audience. Dramas are written in the form of a script and actors perform interpretations of the characters involved in order to tell the story the viewers versus reading a story in novel form.

Final Example:

The hit Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, is an example of a musical drama. In this popular play and movie, viewers are taken through the story of high school love between two teens who are completely opposite outside the love they share for each other.

What Is Drama? Literary Definition and Examples

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In literature, a drama is the portrayal of fictional or non-fictional events through the performance of written dialog (either prose or poetry). Dramas can be performed on stage, on film, or the radio. Dramas are typically called  plays , and their creators are known as “playwrights” or “dramatists.” 

Performed since the days of Aristotle (c. 335 BCE), the term “drama” comes from the Greek words δρᾶμα (an act, a play) and δράω (to act, to take action). The two iconic masks of drama—the laughing face and the crying face—are the symbols of two of the ancient Greek Muses : Thalia, the Muse of comedy and Melpomene, the Muse of tragedy.

What Makes Drama so Dramatic? 

To make their plays dramatic, playwrights strive to progressively build the audience’s feelings of tension and anticipation as the story develops. Dramatic tension builds as the audience keeps wondering “What happens next?” and anticipating the outcomes of those events. In a mystery, for example, dramatic tension builds throughout the plot until an exciting or unanticipated climax is revealed.

Dramatic tension is all about keeping the audience guessing. In the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus the King , will Oedipus ever figure out that by killing his father and sleeping with his mother he had caused the plague that destroyed his city, and what will he do about it if he does? In Shakespeare’s Hamlet , will Prince Hamlet ever avenge his father’s death and get rid of his pesky ghost and visions of floating daggers by murdering the play’s antagonist Claudius?

Dramas depend heavily on spoken dialogue to keep the audience informed about the characters’ feelings, personalities, motivations, and plans. Since the audience sees characters in a drama living out their experiences without any explanatory comments from the author, playwrights often create dramatic tension by having their characters deliver soliloquies and asides.

Types of Drama

Dramatic performances are generally classified into specific categories according to the mood, tone, and actions depicted in the plot. Some popular types of drama include:

  • Comedy: Lighter in tone, comedies are intended to make the audience laugh and usually come to a happy ending. Comedies place offbeat characters in unusual situations causing them to do and say funny things. Comedy can also be sarcastic in nature, poking fun at serious topics. There are also several sub-genres of comedy, including romantic comedy, sentimental comedy, a comedy of manners, and tragic comedy—plays in which the characters take on tragedy with humor in bringing serious situations to happy endings.
  • Tragedy: Based on darker themes, tragedies portray serious subjects like death, disaster, and human suffering in a dignified and thought-provoking way. Rarely enjoying happy endings, characters in tragedies, like Shakespeare's Hamlet , are often burdened by tragic character flaws that ultimately lead to their demise.
  • Farce: Featuring exaggerated or absurd forms of comedy, a farce is a nonsensical genre of drama in which characters intentionally overact and engage in slapstick or physical humor. Examples of farce include the play Waiting for Godot  by Samuel Beckett and the hit 1980 movie Airplane! , written by Jim Abrahams.
  • Melodrama: An exaggerated form of drama, melodramas depict classic one-dimensional characters such as heroes, heroines, and villains dealing with sensational, romantic, and often perilous situations. Sometimes called “tearjerkers,” examples of melodramas include the play The Glass Menagerie  by Tennessee Williams and the classic movie of love during the Civil War, Gone With the Wind , based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel.
  • Opera: This versatile genre of drama combines theater, dialogue, music, and dance to tell grand stories of tragedy or comedy. Since characters express their feelings and intentions through song rather than dialogue, performers must be both skilled actors and singers. The decidedly tragic La Bohème , by Giacomo Puccini, and the bawdy comedy Falstaff , by Giuseppe Verdi are classic examples of opera.
  • Docudrama: A relatively new genre, docudramas are dramatic portrayals of historic events or non-fictional situations. More often presented in movies and television than in live theater, popular examples of docudramas include the movies Apollo 13  and 12 Years a Slave , based on the autobiography written by Solomon Northup .

Classic Example of Comedy and Tragedy

Perhaps no two plays better illustrate the juxtaposition of the masks of drama—comedy and tragedy—than these two William Shakespeare classics.

Comedy: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

In his romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream , Shakespeare explores one of his favorite themes—“love conquers all”—with a humorous twist. Due to a series of comical and unpredictable situations, young couples keep falling in and out of love. As they struggle with the foibles of love, their equally amusing real-world problems are magically resolved by a mischievous sprite named Puck . In the very Shakespearian happy ending, old enemies become fast friends and the true lovers are united to live happily ever after.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is cited as an example of how playwrights utilize the ageless conflict between love and social convention as a source of humor.

Tragedy: Romeo and Juliet

Young lovers live anything but happily ever after in Shakespeare’s unforgettable tragedy Romeo and Juliet . In what is still one of the most-performed plays in history, the love between Romeo and Juliet is doomed by the raging feud between their families, the Montagues and the Capulets. The night before the star-crossed lovers are secretly married, Romeo kills Juliet's cousin in a duel, and Juliet fakes her own death to avoid being forced by her parents to marry a family friend. Unaware of Juliet’s plan, Romeo visits her grave and, believing she is dead, kills himself. When she learns of Romeo’s death, Juliet truly does kill herself.

Through the technique of switching moods between hope and despair, Shakespeare creates heartbreaking dramatic tension in  Romeo and Juliet .

Drama Key Terms

  • Drama: The portrayal of fictional or non-fictional events in theater, film, radio, or television.
  • Thalia: The Greek Muse of comedy, depicted as one of the two masks of drama.
  • Melpomene: The Greek Muse of tragedy, the other mask of drama.
  • Dramatic tension: The most basic element of drama used to stir the emotions of the audience.
  • Comedy: The humorous genre of drama intended to keep the audience laughing on the way to play’s happy ending.
  • Tragedy: The portrayal of darker subjects like death, disaster, betrayal, and human suffering.
  • Farce: An “over the top” form of purposely over-acted and exaggerated comedy.
  • Melodrama: The depiction of simple classic characters like heroes and villains dealing with sensational, romantic, and often perilous situations.
  • Opera: The artful combination of dialogue, music, and dance to tell grand stories of tragedy or comedy.
  • Docudrama: Historical or non-fictional events portrayed in a dramatic fashion.
  • Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. “The Cambridge Guide to Theatre.” Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43437-8.
  • Carlson, Marvin. 1993. “Theories of the Theatre: A Historical and Critical Survey from the Greeks to the Present.” Cornell University Press
  • Worthen, W.B. “The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama.” Heinle & Heinle, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0495903239
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