FORMS OF DRAMA - Literature Notes
(i) Comedy. Generally, comedies are associated with humour, but this has only been the case since the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Comedy was originally (www.bulbsoup.com) a genre of drama during the Dyonesia festivals of ancient Athens. Later, during the Medieval and Renaissance periods, it came to mean any play or narrative poem in which the main character manages to avert an impending disaster and have a happy ending.
In modern times it is most commonly applied to a fictional work in which the plot exists to interest and amuse us. Some types of comedy include:
- Romantic comedy
- Satiric comedy
- Comedy of Manners
- Restoration comedy
- Comedy of Humours
- Commedia dell'Arte
(ii) History. When we see this term, we think of the recreation of a factual event in a literary context, however, this term does not necessarily have a connection with factual events. In fact, in ancient times, the word historia meant the same thing as the modern term story. Therefore, history refers to literary works that have a veneer of factuality, but is actually grounded in legends, mythology and folklore.
(iii) Tragedy. This term is used to describe serious actions that end disastrously for the protagonist and it usually brings about feelings of pity and fear. Aristotle believed that catharsis - an emotional discharge that brings about a state of moral or physical renewal, or relief from anxiety or stress - was the result of tragedy. The general format of the tragedy is:
- Act one introduces the protagonist at the height of his/her's power, influence, fame or happiness.
- Act two sees the protagonist experiencing a problem or dilemma.
- Act three characterizes the dilemma reaching the point of crises, but tragic results can still, at this point, be averted.
- Act four is where the protagonist fails to avoid the dilemma, and catastrophe strikes.
- Act five highlights the consequences of the protagonist's failure.
(iv) Romance. There are many different types of romance. Here are a few:
- Modern Romance, and the one that you are most familiar with, is based on a formula. The formula entails a boy meeting a girl (they are usually teenagers, or in their early to late 20's), they have an undeniable attraction which they succumb to, but, inevitably, they encounter an overbearing issue that seems insurmountable. However, love conquers all, and the couple usually work out the issue, then profess their undying love for each other. They usually end up building a life together.
- Romantic Comedy is based on the adventures of young lovers, and their attempt to overcome obstacles, be they psychological or social, in order to create a happy union.
- Renaissance Romance did not denote young lovers, but rather, wild adventures involving supernatural events.
- Medieval Romance/ Chivalric Romance is closer, in meaning, to Modern Romance. It involves the adventures of knights, during a period of war, when they have adventures whilst they attempt to achieve their primary task, rescuing a fair maiden. It is also, usually, episodic. This means (www.bulbsoup.com) that the author could stretch, or contract, the plot in order to include, or remove, any number of adventures that the knight could possibly become embroiled in on his way to rescuing the fair maiden.
- Historical Romance takes a group of episodes, or a small episode, from an ancient, or famous chronicle. The writer then develops these events in greater detail.
(v) Tragic Comedy. This type of play contains elements of tragedy and comedy in one package. The early stages of this type of play usually starts out with tragic elements, but there is a reversal of circumstances that usual prevents the tragedy from occurring.
(vi) Theatre of the Absurd. This term refers to literary works that highlight the idea that the human condition is, essentially, absurd, and that 'this condition can only be adequately represented in works of literature that are themselves absurd.' (Abrahams, 1). The current movement of Literature of the Absurd evolved in France, after the horrors of World War II. Initially, it held the belief that human beings were fairly rational and lived in a fairly intelligible universe, where they shared an ordered social structure and were capable of brave acts. However, it evolved to the view that 'a human being is an isolated existent who is cast into an alien universe, to conceive the universe as possessing no inherent truth, value, or meaning, and to represent human life - in its fruitless search for purpose and meaning, as it moves from the nothingness whence it came toward the nothingness where it must end' (Abrahams, 1).
(vi) Satire. This is a literary work that deliberately diminishes a subject by making it ridiculous, or evoking attitudes of scorn, indignation or contempt towards the subject. This type of literature is often seen as an attempt to correct human vice or folly.
Contributor: Leisa Samuels-Thomas
Abrahams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. (Orlando: FL). Haracourt Brace College Publisher, 1999.