Introduction to Drama as a Literary Genre

Drama – Tragedy – Comedy – Farce

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Hello Lovelies, and welcome back to the blog. Today we are going to talk about the third Pillar of Genre, and I am introducing you to the concept of Drama as a Literary Genre. Let’s dive straight in!

Drama Definition

Literarydevices.net says that “Drama is a mode of fictional representation through dialogue and performance. It is one of the literary genres, which is an imitation of some action. Drama is also a type of play written for theater, television, radio, and film.” I personally think this is the most accurate definition thus far, though I assure you that I’ve done my best to find decent definitions up until now. Simply put, drama is anything you write with the intention that it is meant to be performed.

Even someone as prolific as Lin Manuel Miranda didn’t jump on stage and randomly burst into song for Hamilton. All of your favorite television shows, Netflix films, musicals, and music have to be written and composed in advance. Whether teams of people are storyboarding an idea, you’re collabing on your idea, or you largely work on your screenplay alone, all the writing that results in an end product that is not a traditional book is likely to fall under this drama category.

Tragedy

A literary tragedy is a written piece that consists of courageous, noble characters who must confront powerful obstacles, external or from within. These characters are the epitome of bravery. They show the depth of the human spirit in the face of danger, defeat, and even death. If you thought Romeo and Juliet was the greatest love story ever told, it’s considered one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Why? Because, spoiler alert, almost everyone  dies in the end.

And while Shakespeare is a fairly criticized modern example, the Greeks have many famous tragedies, including Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, The Iliad by Homer, and Medea by Euripides. Other examples from around the world include: 

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Comedy

Comedy is any work that is intended to incite laughter and amusement, especially in theatre, television, film, stand-up comedy or any other entertainment medium. It dates back to the Ancient Greeks, originating from the comedy literary definition which refers to a medieval story or narrative involving an amusing character that triumphs over poor circumstances, creating comic effects. The tone here is light and satirical and the story always ends well. 

Two things come immediately to mind when I think of comedy examples, and that is Deadpool and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Someone had to write the humor into each of those things and the comedic value is unmistakable. Other examples coming to mind are:

  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
  • The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde

Farce

A farce is a literary genre and type of comedy that makes use of highly exaggerated and funny situations aimed at entertaining the audience. Farce is different from other forms of comedy as it only aims at making the audience laugh. It uses elements like physical humor, deliberate absurdity, bawdy jokes, and drunkenness just to make people laugh. We often see one-dimensional characters in ludicrous situations in farces.

I’m honestly thinking of sitcoms here like Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory. Stand-up comedians perform farce, especially in shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? Things that make fun of themselves for the joy of doing it, like Monty Python’s History of the World Part I, of which there was never a Part II made or intended, and old shows like The Three Stooges that perform gimmick after gimmick for the bawdy entertainment aspect. These things are all farce as they are over the top and intended for one purpose only; to make people laugh.

Next Week

Next week, we are diving straight into tragedy and looking closer at this old, noble type of storytelling. We’ll cover Comedy and Farce in the weeks to come. I hope you are having a blast learning about genre this year, and will check back weekly in July to learn even more! 

Discussion Questions

  1. What is your favorite drama in film or literature?
  2. Do you have a favorite type of drama subgenre?
  3. What genre is your favorite to read in, and do you write in the same genre or a different one?
  4. What is the most important reason writers should be aware of genre and its conventions?
  5. What questions would you like to see me answer in a blog post or podcast episode?

Leave your answers in the comments section for this post!

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