Drama is the act of portraying a story in front of an audience. It involves the characters
and events of the story being brought to life on a stage by actors and their interactions
(verbal and non-verbal) through its events. Of various forms of drama plays are the
most popular. Some other formats are dance performances, radio shows, puppet shows
The history of drama goes back to Aristotle and his treatise ‘Poetics’ which gives a
critical analysis of Sophocles’ Greek play, ‘Oedipus Rex’.
Plays aim to show through action and dialogues what the written text of the story
delineates. It has a written blueprint called script which has all the information
regarding the characters, their dialogues, and the stage setting like mise-en-scene etc.
The various characteristics of drama are:
Thought or Theme
It represents the basic idea of the text. It can be as direct as the title of the drama to
very obscure and needs careful thought and analysis. The action and its plot makes the
audiences immerse in the drama and try to extract the theme behind it.
The sequence of events or actions in a play is called its plot. It represents what happens
in the drama. The clarity and coherence of the plot is essential to give the drama a
logical and undisturbed flow.
The various characters follow a pattern of interactions and movements through various
stages of the plot. These stages are initial disturbance or conflict, rising action, climax,
falling action and finally the resolution of the conflict.
The way in which the characters are portrayed and developed is known as
The characters act out the story in front of the audience. They are the agents of
movement and progression in a drama. They are responsible for perusing and traversing
the plotlines. A character has its distinctive appearance, beliefs, thoughts, flaws,
personality, age, and dialogues.
Actors in the play have the responsibility of bringing the characters to life. The various
characters in any drama are the protagonist (represents the theme), the antagonist
(villain of the drama), anti-hero (the object of sympathy) etc. Characters may include
the narrator who introduces other character and informs about the various interactions
and happenings in the drama.
Setting, Spectacle and Descriptions
Setting represents when and where the drama unfolds. It can have multiple places or
confined to as single space. The historical and social context, time period and the
location of the story is set are all included in the design of the setting of any drama.
Example: Merchant of Venice is set in the 16th century Venice.
Spectacle involves the complete range of aspects of dramatic production from the
setting, make-up, costumes to special effects.
The visual elements add more information for the audience to register and help create a
unique world or atmosphere and bring to life the playwright’s ideas. Direction is an
essential constituent of effective stagecraft. Stage directions are provided to the actors to
follow and ensure a unity of movement on stage. The organization of props and lighting
are also crucial in any performance.
Descriptions provide a wealth of information about various things from the setting and
its elements, characters and their thoughts, plot and its web of action etc. The coherence
of details is important to keep the audience engaged and richness is important to keep
The word choices made by the playwright and the enunciation of the actors of the
language. The dialogues are the lines that the characters speak and often represent their
feelings and emotions.
Language and dialogues delivered by the characters moves the plot and action along,
provides exposition, and defines the distinct characters. Each playwright can create
their own specific style in relationship to language choices they use in establishing
character and dialogue.
Monologues and soliloquies help are speeches that incorporate information difficult to
be extracted through dialogues. Example:"To be, or not to be", a soliloquy from Hamlet.
It provides the cadence to the dialogues and adds an element of theatrical presentation.
Though not indispensible in a drama, music provides sounds to the action in the drama.
It creates patterns and rhythm of those patterns.
It is used to enhance the experience of the audience and provide heightened sensorial
stimulation for the audience. It also adds more power to the ideas presented in the play
like tragedy, heroism, optimism, loss etc. Even the thoughts and desires of the
characters are depicted through various musical elements and compositions.
The right kind of sound effects or music greatly supplements to the ebb and flow of
emotions in the play.