Skip to main content
Humanities Libertexts

6.1: Drama as a Genre

  • Page ID
    15888
  • Like fiction, drama features characters caught up in a plot. In fact,
    some plays have been based on novels, and novels on plays. Yet, whereas
    the narrator of a novel can spend pages painting a picture of the story’s
    circumstances for the reader, a play is restricted to the space of the stage
    and the time frame of a couple of hours. What strategies are available to
    the playwright to ensure that the play successfully conveys its intended
    effects and themes?

    To provide the story’s setting, a play requires sets. If you’ve ever been
    involved with a play, you know that the set can be made up of detailed
    backdrops, specifically designed props, strategic lighting, and sometimes
    even background noise. A set, along with the characters’ subtle indications
    of the scene, can generate a full setting in the audience’s imagination.
    Another difference between fiction and drama is that usually a play’s
    plot is primarily forwarded through dialogue and action. Although a novel’s
    narrator can describe in detail the thoughts and impressions of its characters,
    a play’s effects depend much more heavily on what the characters say and
    do. A play is a performance, a spectacle, rather than words on paper. Some
    plays do include a narrator or a chorus, to introduce the scene or set the tone
    of the play, but the bulk of the production’s effect is generated through the
    dialogue and its visual devices, and since the play’s script dictates what
    the characters will say and often, through stage direction, its production
    strategies as well, the script is crucial to a successful performance.

    • Was this article helpful?