Drama

           

Aristotle (1811) Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice

Aristotle (1811) Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Drama presentation wherein actors imitate for spectators a deed (drama is derived from Greek dean, “to do”) by gestures and/or words. The mise en scene is the staging of the Drama, including scenery and properties (movable furniture) as well as the positions and gestures of the actors. If the story is communicated entirely through gestures, it is a pantomime or dumb show, but the latter is often a silent play within a play, as in Hamlet, where players wordlessly enact the murder of a king. 

             The first two chief dramatic divisions , are tragedy and comedy. Tragedy for Aristotle was a dramatic imitation of an “action of high importance”. For us, it is generally a play ending with death, or ending with the hero alive but spiritually crushed. Indeed, the tragic hero sometimes undone by his virtue-his courage, for example, when others are not merely prudent but cowardly. It may, therefore, be a serious misconception to insist that a tragic hero necessarily has a moral fault. In any case, the hero suffers, whether for a moral weakness, and an error, or virtue. After suffering, he usually comes to some sort of awareness, either of his vice, if he had one, or of his own virtue, which he now sees cannot exist in a world of ordinary men. This recognition is sometimes said to minimize the hero’s pain and the audience’s is pity and fear; it is also sometimes said to be precisely the tragic quality. That is, tragedy dramatizes the fact that men can only see clearly when they have been subjected to such great pressures that they are destroyed in the process. Aristotle said that tragedy evokes pity and fear, and that it produces in the spectator  purification of these emotions:  it drains or perhaps refines these emotions, and thus tragedy is socially useful. Two other words ought to be mentioned here: Aristotle’s reversal and his discovery or recognition. The former occurs  when an action produces the opposite of what was intended or expected, and it is therefor a kind of irony. For example, Macbeth kills  Duncan to gain happiness but reaps misery instead. For Aristotle the “recognition” or “disclosure” seems to be merely a recognition of who is who, by such tokens as birthmarks, clothes, etc., but the term has been usefully extended to include the tragic hero’s  recognition of himself and/or of the essence of life. Thus, Othello, having murdered his faithful wife, learns he was beguiled into thinking her dishonest, and finally recognizes himself as “one not easily jealous, but being wrought/perplexed in the extreme”; and he exacts justice from himself by suicide.

             From the Greeks until the seventeenth century, tragedy almost always dealt with persons of high rank, but with the rise of the middle class, bourgeois tragedy developed. There are a few Elizabethan examples of plays with a middle-class hero many 18th-century ones. Arthur Miller’s Death of  a SalesMan is a modern example. At the other extreme, heroic tragedy, popular in England during the Restoration Period, presented high-ranking characters who, larger than life, felt and expressed enormous passions and accomplished enormous deeds. The subject of  heroic tragedy _ or more generally, heroic drama, for it often ends untragically _ is commonly the clash between love and honor, with empires at stake.

   

English: A Restoration period painting of Shak...

English: A Restoration period painting of Shakespeare made after the Chandos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      Comedy most broadly, anything amusing _ a literary work or a situation _ is a comedy. More specifically, comedy is a kind of drama  wherein all the audience is amused. Dramatic comedies generally depict a movement  from unhappiness to happiness, from young lovers frustrated by their parents to young lovers happily married.The unhappy situation is so presented that it entertain rather than distresses the spectator; it is ridiculous and/or diverting rather than painful.

Comic drama seems related to fertility rituals; it generally celebrates generation, renewal, variety, and it celebrates man’s triumphs over the chances of life. It usually concludes with expressions of joy.

Most comedies since the Renaissance fall roughly into three sorts: (1) romantic comedies, such as most of Shakespeare’s, where the stage-world is a delightful never-never land and where the chief figures, are lovers; (2) critical or satiric comedies, such as Moliere’s, where the chief figures, who often interfere with the lovers, are ridiculed; (3) rogue comedies, such as Jonson’s Alchemist, where the chief figures are pleasant scoundrels who entertain us, perhaps because they represent a fulfillment of our rebellious instincts. Comedy of humors is a term sometimes applied to plays_notably those of Ben Jonson_wherein the characters, though somewhat individualized, obviously represent types or moods (the jealous husband, the witless pedant). 

               At the other extreme from low comedy is high comedy; intellectual rather than physical, it requires the close attention of a sophisticated audience.It is known as the comedy of manners.

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