Drama is the specific mode of narrative, typically fictional, represented in performance.〔Elam (1980, 98).〕 The term comes from the Greek word , ''drama'', meaning ''action'', which is derived from the verb , ''draō'', meaning ''to do'' or ''to act''. The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a collective form of reception. The structure of dramatic texts, unlike other forms of literature, is directly influenced by this collaborative production and collective reception.〔Pfister (1977, 11).〕 The early modern tragedy ''Hamlet'' (1601) by Shakespeare and the classical Athenian tragedy ''Oedipus the King'' (c. 429 BC) by Sophocles are among the masterpieces of the art of drama.〔Fergusson (1949, 2–3).〕 A modern example is ''Long Day's Journey into Night'' (1956) by Eugene O’Neill.〔Burt, Daniel S. ''The Drama 100: A Ranking of the Greatest Plays of All Time'' (2008) Facts on File ISBN 978-0-8160-6073-3〕
The two masks associated with drama represent the traditional generic division between comedy and tragedy. They are symbols of the ancient Greek Muses, Thalia and Melpomene, the Muse of comedy represented by the laughing face, and the Muse of tragedy represented by the weeping face, respectively. Considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic and the lyrical modes ever since Aristotle's ''Poetics'' (c. 335 BC)—the earliest work of dramatic theory.〔Francis Fergusson writes that "a drama, as distinguished from a lyric, is not primarily a composition in the verbal medium; the words result, as one might put it, from the underlying structure of incident and character. As Aristotle remarks, 'the poet, or "maker" should be the maker of plots rather than of verses; since he is a poet because he imiates, and what he imitates are actions'" (1949, 8).〕
The use of "drama" in the narrow sense to designate a specific ''type'' of play dates from the 19th century. Drama in this sense refers to a play that is ''neither'' a comedy nor a tragedy—for example, Zola's ''Thérèse Raquin'' (1873) or Chekhov's ''Ivanov'' (1887). It is this narrow sense that the film and television industry and film studies adopted to describe "drama" as a genre within their respective media.〔See also Wikipedia's List of drama films.〕 "Radio drama" has been used in both senses—originally transmitted in a live performance, it has also been used to describe the more high-brow and serious end of the dramatic output of radio.〔Banham (1998, 894–900).〕
Drama is often combined with music and dance: the drama in opera is generally sung throughout; musicals generally include both spoken dialogue and songs; and some forms of drama have incidental music or musical accompaniment underscoring the dialogue (melodrama and Japanese Nō, for example).〔See the entries for "opera", "musical theatre, American", "melodrama" and "Nō" in Banham (1998).〕 In certain periods of history (the ancient Roman and modern Romantic) some dramas have been written to be read rather than performed.〔While there is some dispute among theatre historians, it is probable that the plays by the Roman Seneca were not intended to be performed. ''Manfred'' by Byron is a good example of a "dramatic poem." See the entries on "Seneca" and "Byron (George George)" in Banham (1998).〕 In improvisation, the drama does not pre-exist the moment of performance; performers devise a dramatic script spontaneously before an audience.〔Some forms of improvisation, notably the Commedia dell'arte, improvise on the basis of 'lazzi' or rough outlines of scenic action (see Gordon (1983) and Duchartre (1929)). All forms of improvisation take their cue from their immediate response to one another, their characters' situations (which are sometimes established in advance), and, often, their interaction with the audience. The classic formulations of improvisation in the theatre originated with Joan Littlewood and Keith Johnstone in the UK and Viola Spolin in the USA; see Johnstone (1981) and Spolin (1963).〕
==History of Western drama==
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