Monday, 28 March 2016


Drama is a literary composition meant to be staged. The term drama is derived from the Greek word ‘dran’ which means ‘to act’. Drama originated in ancient Greece. Ancient Greek drama took its origin from religious rituals performed during the worship of Dionysus, the God of wine and fertility.  The villagers celebrated the festivals with a lot of singing and dancing. Two types of plays originated from such celebration. They are tragedy and comedy.

 Tragedy represented the serious side of human life when comedy takes the lighter side of life. In England drama originated from the religious performances of the Middle Ages. Priests and monks enacted the roles of characters and plays were usually performed inside the church. In due course, the earlier Latin dialogues were replaced by English and from the church play performances moved to the churchyard and to the streets.

The plays produced by Trade Guilds on religious themes became popular as Mystery plays and Miracle plays. Mysteries have themes from the Bible and the Miracle plays dealt with the lives of saints. Then appeared Morality plays in which the characters represented abstract qualities such as virtue, vice, prudence, ignorance.
 Some times in the midst of the serious plays, introduced small comic scripts of common familiar matters. This kind of play within a play was called an interlude. John Heywood wrote a play “The Four P’s” was a well-known interlude.  The word ‘theatre is derived from the Greek word ‘theatrons’,which means a place for viewing. It refers to the space used for a dramatic performance;, theatre is a form of self-expression and self-realization. Theatre is a medium to entertain people.  Theatre can be a house or an open space.

 Thespis was the first actor playwright in ancient Greece. Early Greek performances were stage in huge amphitheaters situated in open areas.  The theatre was rich in music, rituals and dance. Since there were no barriers between the actors and the audience, the actor-audience participation was very high. The tragic actors wore marks, padded costumes and thick, high heeled shoes. The comic actors wore light weight shoes. The masks prevented the actors from changing expressions and hence the actor’s facial expression remained unchanged throughout performance.

The Chorus of the ancient Greek tragedies often functions as the author’s mouth piece. It is usually a group of people who sing songs and perform dances during the play, guides the actions, and continually interrupting the dialogue and the progress of the action with their odes or interludes. The genesis of Greek tragedy is to be found in the dithyramb, or choral hymn, which as chanted by the village worshippers around the altar of Dionysus and from this ritual developed the Chorus which is an essential part of Greek tragedy.

 The great Greek dramatist Sophocles perfected Chorus.  In the play Oedipus Rex, the Chorus performs many functions. Here the Chorus represents the Theban elders who consult the King on important issues, warn him of the values of virtues and even makes important judgments on king and others and sings and dances.  The main function of the Chorus was to narrate the events that took place off the stage and to make commends on the morality of the actions represented on the stage.  But in modern plays, the place of the Chorus is taken by one of the characters in the play.

In Greek Drama, the hero is called the protagonist and the rival is known as the antagonist. The deuteragonist is the character that supported the hero throughout the narrative.  A foil is a character who exhibits opposite traits or some traits in a greater or lesser degree.  A confident is someone in whom the central character confides.
  Aristotle regarded tragedy as the highest form of poetry. He identified six elements of tragedy. They are plot, character, thought, diction, music and spectacle. He divides plot into simple and complex plots.  In complex plots there are peripeteia and anagnorisis. In a simple plot, these two puzzling situations are absent.  In Aristotle’s eyes, Oedipus Rex is the best Greek tragedy which, arouse pity and fear, effecting the catharsis of such emotions.  The tragic hero- Oedipus evokes the emotions of pity and fear in the minds of the audience, thereby effecting catharsis which is the benefit of a tragedy on the audience. Elizabethan drama reached its zenith during the period of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and others. Shakespeare’s plays are “Othello, King Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet are the best tragedies.
 The nineteenth century Victorian age saw a new kind of drama known as problem plays. The plays of Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw and John Galsworthy enriched English drama. Mr.Warren’s Profession and The Arms and Man dealt with social problems. ‘Dolls House written by Henrik Ibsen opened the door to feminism. John Galsworthy’s ‘The Silver Box’ ‘Strife’ and ‘Justice’ dealt with social problems.
 Then came ‘the poetic drama’ of Oscar Wild, W.B.Yeats , Lady Gregory appeared. T.S.Eliot’s famous play ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ introduces the conventions of Greek drama, and combines myth, ritual and poetry to create a heightened theatrical effect. It was followed by the rise of working class drama. John Osborne’s  play ‘Look Back in Anger’ is the best example. Post modern dramas appeared in the 20th century.  Samuel Becket’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party’, Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Mother Courage and Her Children’ are famous. Most of them are called absurd or black comedies.
Sanskrit drama. The earliest Sanskrit theatre is seen in Bharat Muni’s A Treatise on Theatre (Natyasastra). The Treatise is the most complete work of dramaturgy in the ancient India. It addresses acting, dance, music, dramatic construction, architecture, costuming, make up, props, the organization of companies, the audience and competition and offers a mythological account of the origin of theatre.

The rules of the Sanskrit drama have been laid down by Bharath Muni, in his Natyasastra. He implies that rasa is aroused as a result of the combination of the three elements ie, the Vibhavas, the Aubhavas and the yabhicari bhavas. However Bhasa the great Indian dramatist did not follow the rules of Bharatha Muni. enBhasa and Kalidasa were the most famous playwrights of ancient India. Bhasa’s ‘Karnabhara’, Kalidasa’s Sakunthalam, Vikrama and Urvashi, Malavika and Agnimitra are famous plays of this period. Rabindranath Tagore, is a great modern playwright and poet of India and his plays are written in Bengali. They include ‘Chitrangada, ‘The King of the dark chamber,’ ‘Post Office’ famous dramas. Another noted playwright of modern India is Girish Karnad who has written a number of plays that use history and mythology. His most famous play is ‘Nagamandala’ Sanskrit plays are classified into ten main types which are called “Dasaroopikani”. They are Natakam, Prakaranam, Bhana, Prakarna, Tima, Vyayoga, Samavakra, vithi, Ihamugh and Anga. Nataka and Prakrana are the most developed form of plays with a minimum of five acts.                                                                                                                                                                    Kjt/29-02-2016

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