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Lecture Notes
Week 2
 

The Forms of Drama

(Form is another word for GENRE)

 

Key Terms: 

        Genre         History play         Spectacle
        Action         Cycle play         Procession
        Conflict         Documentary         Proagon
        Tragedy         Musical         Transition
        Comedy         Convention         Exposition
        Utile culce         Parts of a play         Climax
        Melodrama         Plot         Denouement
        Tragicomedy         Character         Curtain call
        Farce         Theme         Criticism
        Black or dark comedy         Diction  
        Interludes         Music  

 

 

 

This chapter will look first at definitions and conventions of classical Greek drama, and then at forms in general.

 

Tragedy  (togos ode--"goat song"

 

 

Definitions and Conventions of Classical Greek Theatre

 

Aristotle's definition, found in Poetics, is an analysis of Sophocles' Oedipus the King.  It is a classical definition used throughout history to define tragedy, but also has been used for discussion of drama in general.  "Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear affecting the proper purgation of these emotions."  

 

 

Notes on this definition from the classical point of view:

 

          The imitation of the action--the arrangement of the incidents. 

 

          Serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude:  Unity of plot demands the structural union of the parts so that if any one of them is displaced or removed, the whole will be disjointed and disturbed.)

 

          In Language embellished:  The accepted verse of the era.

 

          In the form of action:  Denotes dramatic action, not activity, which is the movement of spirit behind the play.  It is purposeful, varied, probable, and engages interest.  For instance, "Find the killer of Laius" is the dramatic action of Oedipus the King.  The entire play happens because of that action.

 

          The separate parts:  These are plot, character (moral disposition), thought, diction, song, spectacle.

 

          Purgation:  Means to rid one's self of. 

 

          Plot

                    Kinds. 

                              Climactic (most common for Greek drama).

                              Episodal.

                              Situational.

                    Parts.

                              Beginning.

                                        Exposition. 

                                        Major conflict. 

                              Middle.

                                        Climaxes and conflicts shown as a series of incidents, investigations,
                                        revelations and confrontations.

                              End.

                                        Final climax including, in tragedy, Reversal, Recognition

                                                  (change from ignorance toknowledge) or both.  In

                                                  tragedy:  Catharsis.

                                        Scene of suffering:  There will be destructive or painful

                                                  action.  The plot ought to be so constructed that,

                                                  even without the aid of the eye, he who hears the

                                                  tale told would thrill with horror and melt to pity at

                                                  what takes place.  (DTF)

                                        Denouement.   With this untying or unravelling comes the

                                                  new order (or new way of life) after the hero is

                                                  destroyed.  Oedipus steps down as king to wander

                                                  in search of a burial ground.  Hamlet's immediate

                                                  family dies, and Fortinbras assumes the throne.

 

          Character (moral disposition).

                    Certain qualities are ascribed to the agents.  Character reveals moral

                              purpose, showing what kind of things a man chooses or avoids.

                    In tragedy, a tragic hero is of nobility.

 

          Theme (intellect, idea, thought). 

                    Required wherever a statement is proven or a general truth enunciated.

 

          Diction (language). 

                    The expression of meaning in words.

                    Varies with conventions of the time.

 

          Music (song). 

                    Gives pleasure. 

                    Greek plays were largely musical.  The chorus is often called the "dancers".

 

          Spectacle.

                    Depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet.

 

          Convention.

                    The set of understandings between audience and artists.

 

          Action.

                Movement of spirit behind the plot.  (See above).              

 

FORMS:

 

Tragedy

 

The tragic view of life.

          The tragic nature of the human condition is its struggle with necessity.

          We must accept the inevitability of our fate.

          The spirit of tragedy is not passive, it is an active struggle.

 

The tragic hero (protagonist, or carrier of the action).

          He will have nobility of spirit.

          He will have excessive pride or hubris (sin of excess that caused pride

                    and arrogance).

          His hamartia (tragic flaw) will not allow him to compromise.

 

Division, choice and responsibility.

          The catastrophe is caused by the inner dividedness of the protagonist, not

                    by some external force.  The antagonist (opposer of the action) in

                    tragedy is larger than life--gods, ghosts, "fate".  He complicates the

                    action and forces the protagonist to act.

          The hero must accept the responsibility for his actions.

 

Condition in a society for tragedy:

          Elevation of man.

          Cruelty of the world.

          Greek Golden Age/Elizabethan England

 

Some principal writers.

          Classical.

                    Greece (The Golden Age).

                              Aeschylus.

                              Sophocles.

                              Euripides.

                    Italy (Rome).

                              Seneca.

 

          Middle Ages.

 

          Renaissance.

                    England (Elizabethan or Shakespearean era).

                              Shakespeare.

                              Jonson.

                              Marlowe.

                    Spain (The Golden Age).

                              Cervantes.

                              de Vega.

                              Calderon.

 

         Neoclassic (French Classicism).

                    France.

                              Racine.

                              Corneille.

 

          Romantic.

                    France.

                              Hugo.

                    Germany.

                              Schiller.

                              Goethe.

          Modern.

                    Norway.

                              Ibsen.

                    Sweden.

                              Strindberg.

                    England.

                              Shaw.

                    America.

                              O'Neill.

                              Williams.

                              Miller.

                              Albee.

 

Comedy (song of melody).  

 

The comic view of life.

          We will renew ourselves.

          Comedy is physical and energetic.

 

The protected world of comedy.

          There is an absence of pain.

          There is stability at the end.

          It is moral--morally offensive possibilities are hinted but do not happen.

 

The boundaries of the comic.

          Behavior is ludicrous--somewhere between the serious and absurd.

          There is an absence of pain.

 

Types of comedy.

          Situation.

          Character.

          Idea.

          Farce (This is sometimes dealt with as a separate form).

          Romantic.

          Comedy of Manners.

          Sentimental (This is maudlin, sappy, and silly.  Popular ing England and

                    America in the 18th. & 19th. centuries.)

          Black/Dark (Actually this is sometimes dealt with as a separate form, since it

                    is the opposite of tragicomedy).

 

Comic devices.

          Exaggeration.        

          Incongruity.

          Surprise.

          Repetition.

          Wisecrack/Sarcasm.

 

Some principal writers.

          Classical.

                    Greece.

                              Aristophanes (Old or High Comedy).

                              Menander (New or Low Comedy).

                    Italy.

                              Plautus (New Comedy).

                              Terence (New Comedy).

 

          Renaissance.

                    England.

                              Shakespeare (Romantic).

                              Jonson.

 

                    Italy.

                              Goldoni (commedia dell'arte).

 

          Neoclasic (French Classicism).

                    France.

                              Moliere.

 

          Restoration.

                    England.

                              Etherege (Comedy of Manners).

 

          18th Century.

                    England.

                              Sheridan (Comedy of Manners).

                              Goldsmith (Comedy of Manners).

 

          19th Century.

                    England.

                              Wilde (Comedy of Manners).

                              Shaw (Comedy if Ideas).

 

          20th Century.

                    England.

                              Coward (Comedy of Manners).

                              Shaw (Comedy of Ideas).

                    America.

                              O'Neill (Romantic/Sentimental/Character).

                              Kaufman & Hart (Idea/Situation/Character).

                              Simon (Situation/Character/Romantic/Black).

 

Melodrama (drama of disaster) (Think of the film Jaws with theme music every time the shark got near.  Music underscores most evil in melodramatic films, radio and television.  The music of melodrama is apparent in theatre, also.)

 

Melodrama and disaster.

          All the significant events of the plot are caused by forces outside the protagonist.

          The protagonist is a victim:

                    1)  Who is acted upon.

                    2)  Whose moral character is not essential to the event.

                    3)  Whose suffering does not imply related guilt or responsibility.

          There is no sense of moral consequence  (as in a change of the universe) in the event.

 

Woe is me.

          Paranoia abounds in melodrama.

          People are alive in a universe of danger.

          One always knows where one "is" in melodrama.  Moral principles are established, as are rules of proper conduct.  Punishment fits the crime.

 

Good guys vs. bad guys.

          There is maintenance of self in a hostile world.  There can be reordering of one's self in relationship to others, but the primary goal is NOT self-knowledge and reordering of self to the universe.

 

Melodrama as entertainment.

          It simplifies and idealizes human experience.

          All issues are resolved in a well-defined way with little or no shadows or doubts.

 

Some principal writers.

          Renaissance.

                    England.

                              Shakespeare & Marlowe (Revenge plays).

          19th Century.

                    America.

                              Stowe & Aiken.

                              Boucicault.

 

Tragicomedy  (tragedy that ends happily).

 

It thrives in a society in a state of flux.  It focuses on character relationships.

 

Hope springs eternal in tragicomedy.  It is non-judgmental.

 

It is a mixed form.  It is the most lifelike of the forms.  There are no absolutes.

 

Some principal writers.

          Modern.     

                    Russia.

                              Chekhov.

                    France.

                              Beckett.

 

Farce (Exaggerated physical activities growing out of situations). 

 

Some principal writers.

          Classical.

                    Italy.

                              Plautus.

                              Terence.

 

           Renaissance.

                    England.

                              Shakespeare.

                    Italy.

                              Commedia dell'arte.

 

          Neoclassic.

                    France.

                              Moliere.

 

          19th Century.

                    France.

                              Feydeau.

 

          Modern.

                    Russia.

                              Chekhov.

 

Black or dark comedy (The play is comic but ends darkly or ironically.)  

 

Interludes (These are comic entertainments between plays or courses of a dinner in medieval times.) 

 

History plays (These chronicle historical events, but do so with almost the cathartic depth of tragedies.  Shakespeare is the principal writer.)  

 

Cycle plays (These are stories of the Bible set into dramas.) 

 

Documentary (These use authentic evidence to bring historical events to light.  

 

Musical (This is actually a style, as one can have a musical tragedy, musical comedy, and so on.  This will be dealt with later in the semester.)

 

 

Concept Questions

 

1.  Apply Aristotle's elements of drama to Aeschylus' play Prometheus Bound.

 

2.  Define "conventions" and explain how you see those conventions working in a play of your choice.

 

3.  Discuss pre-play activities in terms of the conventions of the drama. 

 

4.  According to Aristotle, plot is the soul of drama.  Discuss the way that the other elements of the drama support the plot.

 

5.  The curtain call functions as an important convention in the drama.  Explain its importance especially in terms of the actor's paradox, the economical relationship between audience and actor.

 

 

Chapter 2 Study Questions

 

1.  Why is a play considered art? p.

2.  What is denouement? p. 51

3.  What is anagnorisis?  p. 51

4.  "Genre" means:_____   p. 31

5.  The point of highest tension in a  play, when the conflicts of the play are at their fullest expression, is called:_____  p. 51

6.  What is the origin of tragedy and how does its origin differ from that of comedy? p. 32

7.  What is a protagonist?  p. 33

8.  What happens to the central character in a Greek tragedy?  p. 33

9.  Who or what is an antagonist?  p. 33

10.  What is catharsis?  p. 33

11.  What is the nature of tragic suffering?  p. 33

12.  Which play did Aristotle feel was the model of a great tragedy?  p. 33

13.  Which modern play challenges Aristotle's definition of tragedy by having the lead character come from the lower classes?  p. 33

14.  First author of written comedies (Greek) p. 33

15.  How do tragedy and comedy differ?  pp. 34-5

16.  How do tragic and comic characterizations differ?  p. 34

17.  What is utile dulce?  p. 35

18.  Know some modern authors of dramatic comedy.  p. 35

19.  What two genres originated in the Middle Ages?  p. 35

20.  Which genre did Shakespeare create?  p. 35

21.  Which type of drama is Amphitryon?  p. 35

22.  What is the kind of play which dramatizes key events in the life of a king or head of state?  p. 35

23.  What kind of play begins comically and ends disturbingly?  p. 35

24.  What is the principal difference between dark comedy and tragicomedy?  p. 35

25.  Know some major dark comedies.  p. 35

26.  What qualities does a melodrama have?  p. 36

27.  What is a melodrama?  pp. 36-7

28.  This genre relies on authentic evidence as the basis for portraying recent events.  p. 38

29.  Identified by its extensive musical score this genre is considered America's greatest contribution to the theatre.  pp. 38-9

30.  Which critical work analyzed a play through its division into parts?  p. 40

31.  What are the parts of a play in Aristotle's order of importance?  pp. 40-44

32.  What is the difference between plot and story?  p. 40

33.  The two primary demands of plot are__________.  p. 41

34.  In general a character is________.  p. 41

35.  What is Aristotle's meaning for the term "theme"?  p. 41

36.  What is the definition of the term "diction" as from Aristotle's Poetics?  p. 42

37.  What is the meaning of the element "music" as from Aristotle's Poetics?  pp. 42-3

38.  What is included in the meaning of "spectacle"?  pp. 43-4

39.  What is a convention?  pp. 44-5

40.  What is an aside?  p. 44

41.  According to Aristotle, how should a play be structured?  p. 45

42.  What are some paratheatrical events?  p. 45

43.  What value did a procession have in promoting theatrical performances?  p. 46

44.  What was the proagon in ancient Greece?  p. 46

45.  What is "box-office revenue"?  p. 46

46.  What is exposition?  p. 47

47.  What are means a playwright may use to show exposition?  pp. 47-9

48.  What is the "inciting incident"?  p. 50

49.  What is meant by the Greek term "pathos"?  p. 51

 

 

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