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Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" (Classical Greek: δρᾶμα, drama), which is derived from the verb meaning "to do" or "to act" (Classical Greek: δράω, draō). 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. 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. A modern example is Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill (1956).
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. Thalia was the Muse of comedy (the laughing face), while Melpomene was the Muse of tragedy (the weeping face). 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.
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. "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.
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). In certain periods of history (the ancient Roman and modern Romantic) some dramas have been written to be read rather than performed. In improvisation, the drama does not pre-exist the moment of performance; performers devise a dramatic script spontaneously before an audience.
Western drama originates in classical Greece. The theatrical culture of the city-state of Athens produced three genres of drama: tragedy, comedy, and the satyr play. Their origins remain obscure, though by the 5th century BC they were institutionalised in competitions held as part of festivities celebrating the god Dionysus. Historians know the names of many ancient Greek dramatists, not least Thespis, who is credited with the innovation of an actor ("hypokrites") who speaks (rather than sings) and impersonates a character (rather than speaking in his own person), while interacting with the chorus and its leader ("coryphaeus"), who were a traditional part of the performance of non-dramatic poetry (dithyrambic, lyric and epic).
Only a small fraction of the work of five dramatists, however, has survived to this day: we have a small number of complete texts by the tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and the comic writers Aristophanes and, from the late 4th century, Menander. Aeschylus' historical tragedy The Persians is the oldest surviving drama, although when it won first prize at the City Dionysia competition in 472 BC, he had been writing plays for more than 25 years. The competition ("agon") for tragedies may have begun as early as 534 BC; official records ("didaskaliai") begin from 501 BC, when the satyr play was introduced. Tragic dramatists were required to present a tetralogy of plays (though the individual works were not necessarily connected by story or theme), which usually consisted of three tragedies and one satyr play (though exceptions were made, as with Euripides' Alcestis in 438 BC). Comedy was officially recognised with a prize in the competition from 487 to 486 BC.
Five comic dramatists competed at the City Dionysia (though during the Peloponnesian War this may have been reduced to three), each offering a single comedy. Ancient Greek comedy is traditionally divided between "old comedy" (5th century BC), "middle comedy" (4th century BC) and "new comedy" (late 4th century to 2nd BC).
Following the expansion of the Roman Republic (509–27 BC) into several Greek territories between 270–240 BC, Rome encountered Greek drama. From the later years of the republic and by means of the Roman Empire (27 BC-476 AD), theatre spread west across Europe, around the Mediterranean and reached England; Roman theatre was more varied, extensive and sophisticated than that of any culture before it.
While Greek drama continued to be performed throughout the Roman period, the year 240 BC marks the beginning of regular Roman drama. From the beginning of the empire, however, interest in full-length drama declined in favour of a broader variety of theatrical entertainments. The first important works of Roman literature were the tragedies and comedies that Livius Andronicus wrote from 240 BC. Five years later, Gnaeus Naevius also began to write drama. No plays from either writer have survived. While both dramatists composed in both genres, Andronicus was most appreciated for his tragedies and Naevius for his comedies; their successors tended to specialise in one or the other, which led to a separation of the subsequent development of each type of drama.
By the beginning of the 2nd century BC, drama was firmly established in Rome and a guild of writers (collegium poetarum) had been formed. The Roman comedies that have survived are all fabula palliata (comedies based on Greek subjects) and come from two dramatists: Titus Maccius Plautus (Plautus) and Publius Terentius Afer (Terence). In re-working the Greek originals, the Roman comic dramatists abolished the role of the chorus in dividing the drama into episodes and introduced musical accompaniment to its dialogue (between one-third of the dialogue in the comedies of Plautus and two-thirds in those of Terence). The action of all scenes is set in the exterior location of a street and its complications often follow from eavesdropping.
Plautus, the more popular of the two, wrote between 205 and 184 BC and twenty of his comedies survive, of which his farces are best known; he was admired for the wit of his dialogue and his use of a variety of poetic meters. All of the six comedies that Terence wrote between 166 and 160 BC have survived; the complexity of his plots, in which he often combined several Greek originals, was sometimes denounced, but his double-plots enabled a sophisticated presentation of contrasting human behaviour. No early Roman tragedy survives, though it was highly regarded in its day; historians know of three early tragedians—Quintus Ennius, Marcus Pacuvius and Lucius Accius.
From the time of the empire, the work of two tragedians survives—one is an unknown author, while the other is the Stoic philosopher Seneca. Nine of Seneca's tragedies survive, all of which are fabula crepidata (tragedies adapted from Greek originals); his Phaedra, for example, was based on Euripides' Hippolytus. Historians do not know who wrote the only extant example of the fabula praetexta (tragedies based on Roman subjects), Octavia, but in former times it was mistakenly attributed to Seneca due to his appearance as a character in the tragedy.
In the Middle Ages, drama in the vernacular languages of Europe may have emerged from religious enactments of the liturgy. Mystery plays were presented on the porch of the cathedrals or by strolling players on feast days. Miracle and mystery plays, along with moralities and interludes, later evolved into more elaborate forms of drama, such as was seen on the Elizabethan stages.
One of the great flowerings of drama in England occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries. Many of these plays were written in verse, particularly iambic pentameter. In addition to Shakespeare, such authors as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Middleton, and Ben Jonson were prominent playwrights during this period. As in the medieval period, historical plays celebrated the lives of past kings, enhancing the image of the Tudor monarchy. Authors of this period drew some of their storylines from Greek mythology and Roman mythology or from the plays of eminent Roman playwrights such as Plautus and Terence.lala
The pivotal and innovative contributions of the 19th-century Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen and the 20th-century German theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht dominate modern drama; each inspired a tradition of imitators, which include many of the greatest playwrights of the modern era. The works of both playwrights are, in their different ways, both modernist and realist, incorporating formal experimentation, meta-theatricality, and social critique. In terms of the traditional theoretical discourse of genre, Ibsen's work has been described as the culmination of "liberal tragedy", while Brecht's has been aligned with an historicised comedy.
Other important playwrights of the modern era include Antonin Artaud, August Strindberg, Anton Chekhov, Frank Wedekind, Maurice Maeterlinck, Federico García Lorca, Eugene O'Neill, Luigi Pirandello, George Bernard Shaw, Ernst Toller, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Jean Genet, Eugène Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Dario Fo, Heiner Müller, and Caryl Churchill.
The earliest form of Indian drama was the Sanskrit drama that is said to have its framework directly given by Lord Shiva who used these techniques to pray to Lord Vishnu. Between the 1st century AD and the 10th was a period of relative peace in the history of India during which hundreds of modern plays were written. With the Islamic conquests that began in the 10th and 11th centuries, theatre was discouraged or forbidden entirely. Later, in an attempt to re-assert indigenous values and ideas, village theatre was encouraged across the subcontinent, developing in a large number of regional languages from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Modern Indian theatre developed during the period of colonial rule under the British Empire, from the mid-19th century until the mid-20th.
The earliest-surviving fragments of Sanskrit drama date from the 1st century AD. The wealth of archeological evidence from earlier periods offers no indication of the existence of a tradition of theatre. The ancient Vedas (hymns from between 1500 to 1000 BC that are among the earliest examples of literature in the world) contain no hint of it (although a small number are composed in a form of dialogue) and the rituals of the Vedic period do not appear to have developed into theatre. The Mahābhāṣya by Patañjali contains the earliest reference to what may have been the seeds of Sanskrit drama. This treatise on grammar from 140 BC provides a feasible date for the beginnings of theatre in India.
The major source of evidence for Sanskrit theatre is A Treatise on Theatre (Nātyaśāstra), a compendium whose date of composition is uncertain (estimates range from 200 BC to 200 AD) and whose authorship is attributed to Bharata Muni. The Treatise is the most complete work of dramaturgy in the ancient world. It addresses acting, dance, music, dramatic construction, architecture, costuming, make-up, props, the organisation of companies, the audience, competitions, and offers a mythological account of the origin of theatre.
Its drama is regarded as the highest achievement of Sanskrit literature. It utilised stock characters, such as the hero (nayaka), heroine (nayika), or clown (vidusaka). Actors may have specialised in a particular type. It was patronized by the kings as well as village assemblies. Famous early playwrights include Bhasa, Kalidasa (famous for Vikrama and Urvashi, Malavika and Agnimitra, and The Recognition of Shakuntala), Śudraka (famous for The Little Clay Cart), Asvaghosa, Daṇḍin, and Emperor Harsha (famous for Nagananda, Ratnavali and Priyadarsika). Śakuntalā (in English translation) influenced Goethe's Faust (1808–1832).
Rabindranath Tagore, was a pioneering modern playwright who wrote plays noted for their exploration and questioning of nationalism, identity, spiritualism and material greed . His plays are written in Bengali and include Chitra (Chitrangada, 1892), The King of the Dark Chamber (Raja, 1910), The Post Office (Dakghar, 1913), and Red Oleander (Raktakarabi, 1924). Girish Karnad is a noted playwright, who has written a number of plays that use history and mythology, to critique and problematize ideas and ideals that are of contemporary relevance. Karnad's numerous plays such as Tughlaq, Hayavadana, Taledanda and Naga-Mandala are significant contributions to Indian drama.
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Urdu Drama evolved from the prevailing dramatic traditions of North India shaping Rahas or Raas as practiced by exponents like Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh. His dramatic experiments led to the famous Inder Sabha of Amanat and later this tradition took the shape of Parsi Theatre. Agha Hashr Kashmiri is the culmination of this tradition.
In some way or other, Urdu theatre tradition has greatly influenced modern Indian theatre. Among all the languages Urdu (which was called Hindi by early writers), along with Gujrati, Marathi and Bengali theatres have kept flourishing and demand for its writers and artists has not subsided by the drama aficionados. For Urdu drama, no place is better than Bombay Film industry otherwise known as Hindi film industry. All the early gems of Urdu Theatre (performed by Parsi Companies) were made into films. Urdu Dramatic tradition has been a spectator’s delight since 100 years and counting.
Drama as a theme is made up of several elements. It focuses on life and different aspects of it. The thing to be noticed here is that drama on stage imitates drama in life. It has been said that, there has always been a mutual relationship between theatre and real life. Great historical personalities like Shakespeare have influenced Modern Urdu tradition to a large extent when Indian, Iranian, Turkish stories and folk was adapted for stage with heavy doses of Urdu poetry. In modern times writers like Imtiaz Ali Taj, Rafi Peer, Krishan Chander, Manto, Upender Nath Ashk, Ghulam Rabbani, Prof. Mujeeb and many others shaped this tradition.
While Prof Hasan, Ghulam Jeelani, J.N,Kaushal, Shameem Hanfi, Jameel Shaidayi, etc. belong to the old generation, contemporary writers like Danish Iqbal, Sayeed Alam, Shahid Anwar, Iqbal Niyazi, and Anwar are a few postmodern playwrights actively contributing in the field of Urdu Drama.
Sayeed Alam is known for his wit and humour and more particularly for Plays like 'Ghalib in New Delhi', 'Big B' and many other gems which are regularly staged for massive turn out of theatre lovers. Maulana Azad is his magnum opus both for its content and style.
Danish Iqbal's play about 'Dara Shikoh' directed by M. S. Sathyu is considered a modern classic for the use of newer theatre techniques and contemporary perspective. His other plays are 'Sahir' on the famous lyricist and revolutionary poet. 'Kuchh Ishq kiya Kuchh Kaam' is another play written by Danish which is basically a Celebration of the Faiz's poetry, featuring events from the early part of his life, particularly the events and incidents of pre-partition days which shaped his life and ideals. 'Chand Roz Aur Meri Jaan' - another play inspired from Faiz's letters written from various jails during the Rawalpindi Conspiracy days. He has written 14 other plays including 'Dilli Jo Ek Shehr Thaa' and 'Main Gaya Waqt Nahin hoon'. Shahid's 'Three B' is also a significant play. He has been associated with many groups like 'Natwa' and others. Zaheer Anwar has kept the flag of Urdu theatre flying in Kolkata. Unlike the writers of previous generation Sayeed, Shahid, Danish Iqbal and Zaheer do not write bookish plays but their work is a product of vigorous performing tradition. Iqbal Niyazi of Mumbai has written several plays in Urdu, his play "AUR KITNE JALYANWALA BAUGH?" won a National award other awards. Hence this is the only generation after Amanat and Agha Hashr who actually write for stage and not for libraries.
Chinese theatre has a long and complex history. Today it is often called Chinese opera although this normally refers specifically to the popular form known as Beijing opera and Kunqu; there have been many other forms of theatre in China, such as zaju.
Japanese Nō drama is a serious dramatic form that combines drama, music, and dance into a complete aesthetic performance experience. It developed in the 14th and 15th centuries and has its own musical instruments and performance techniques, which were often handed down from father to son. The performers were generally male (for both male and female roles), although female amateurs also perform Nō dramas. Nō drama was supported by the government, and particularly the military, with many military commanders having their own troupes and sometimes performing themselves. It is still performed in Japan today.
Kyōgen is the comic counterpart to Nō drama. It concentrates more on dialogue and less on music, although Nō instrumentalists sometimes appear also in Kyōgen. Kabuki drama, developed from the 17th century, is another comic form, which includes dance.
Western opera is a dramatic art form, which arose during the Renaissance in an attempt to revive the classical Greek drama tradition in which both music and theatre were combined. Being strongly intertwined with western classical music, the opera has undergone enormous changes in the past four centuries and it is an important form of theatre until this day. Noteworthy is the huge influence of the German 19th-century composer Richard Wagner on the opera tradition. In his view, there was no proper balance between music and theatre in the operas of his time, because the music seemed to be more important than the dramatic aspects in these works. To restore the connection with the traditional Greek drama, he entirely renewed the operatic format, and to emphasize the equal importance of music and drama in these new works, he called them "music dramas".
Chinese opera has seen a more conservative development over a somewhat longer period of time.
These stories follow in the tradition of fables and folk tales. Usually there is a lesson learned, and with some help from the audience, the hero/heroine saves the day. This kind of play uses stock characters seen in masque and again commedia dell'arte, these characters include the villain (doctore), the clown/servant (Arlechino/Harlequin/buttons), the lovers etc. These plays usually have an emphasis on moral dilemmas, and good always triumphs over evil, this kind of play is also very entertaining making it a very effective way of reaching many people.
Creative drama includes dramatic activities and games used primarily in educational settings with children. Its roots in the United States began in the early 1900s. Winifred Ward is considered to be the founder of creative drama in education, establishing the first academic use of drama in Evanston, Illinois.
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