Asian Theater


Asian Theater, live performance, featuring actors or puppets, native to Asia, a continent with more than 2 billion people of many nations and cultures. Asian theater typically combines storytelling, dance, music, and mime and incorporates masks, makeup, scenery, costumes, props, and scripts. In contrast to theater in the West, the focus of Asian theater is generally on performance rather than on a specific text.

Asian theater is not a unified entity. Differences among Asian countries in language, culture, history, economics, politics, and religion have resulted in several hundred distinct theater genres, not all of which have been studied or catalogued. As elsewhere in the world, theater may function as entertainment; as confirmation of cultural or social unity; as religious, political, or ethical education; or as a combination of these.


Peking Opera

Peking Opera combines music, acrobatic dance, and spectacular costumes to tell stories from Chinese history and folklore. Using abstract, symbolic gestures rich in dramatic meaning, actors represent personages from the heroic, divine, and animal worlds, often in martial exploits. The traditional features of the masklike makeup and elaborate costumes immediately identify the characters to a knowing audience.

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Because Asia encompasses so many countries and cultures, generalizations about Asian theater can be simplistic and misleading. Although common characteristics exist, they may not apply to every genre. However, several aspects merit mention. First, much Asian theater has its origin in some form of religious ritual. In addition, nearly all forms of Asian theater require a lengthy training period for performers. Finally, most Asian theater combines several art forms.

Much of traditional theater in Asia arose from religious ritual—and in many cases still resembles it. Religious ritual and theater share certain elements of performance, including stylized speech, gesture, costumes, music, and dance. An actor may also be a priest or shaman (a religious figure who communes with or calls forth spirits), thus representing the continuity between humanity and the spirit world. Also, performers may fall into a trance or appear to become possessed by supernatural spirits during performances. Examples of theater figures who become entranced include puppet masters in Javanese wayang kulit, performers in Myanmar’s nat pwe, and actors in Balinese barong.

A Ritual and Religious Elements

The main difference between shamanism (rituals that involve spirits) and theatrical performance lies in the purpose. Shamans depend upon a shared belief that rituals will change the course of nature—for example, by healing people or by guaranteeing a good harvest. Theatrical performers remain outside that social purpose, aiming instead at providing skilled entertainment.

Many religions have contributed to Asian theater. In South and Southeast Asia, the major religions include Hinduism and Buddhism. The Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, which revolve around gods such as Krishna and Rama and heroes such as Arjuna, have been adapted for the theater in a number of countries in those regions. Buddhist Jataka tales, which tell of the previous lives of the Buddha, also have numerous theatrical adaptations. In East Asia, Mahayana Buddhism, Daoism (Taoism), and Shinto are the significant religions. East Asian dramas often feature ethical conflicts, divided loyalty, or concerns about the afterlife rather than specific religious content. Confucianism is more a moral philosophy than a religion, but it, too, has shaped theater forms.

The fusion of religious and cultural practices is often evident in Asian theater. For example, Japanese nō exhibits both Buddhist and Shinto elements. Cambodia and Thailand dramatize the Hindu deity Rama as an incarnation of Buddha, and Indonesia, which is largely Islamic, offers masked dramas of spirit possession as well as Arabic, Hindu, and Buddhist tales. But not all Asian theater is religious in nature. Throughout Asia, there are also plays dealing with romantic love and other subjects, intended to entertain.

B Transmission from Master to Disciple

Most forms of Asian theater highlight the actor, who obtains mastery only after a lifetime of practice. Demanding training begins in early childhood. Students study specific performance techniques from skilled masters for years before approaching scripts or appearing in performance. For example, training for the Indian dance-drama known as kathakali involves painful massage, which provides the physical flexibility required for kathakali’s demanding contortions. The performers must also master complex eye, mouth, and facial movements and about 600 hand gestures that carry specific meanings.

Because performances are based on recognized conventions, they reinforce community by presenting a familiar, orderly universe and a shared heritage. One of the greatest compliments a fan may shout to a Japanese kabuki actor is, “You’re as good as your father was!” This concept is in direct opposition to the Western premium placed on individuality and originality on stage.

C Blurring Between Genres and Cultures

Wars, colonization, and trade in Asia over several thousand years have blurred the boundaries of countries, languages, and religions. Theater, too, reflects this blurring of borders; no specific genre is exclusive to one locale. In contrast to Western theater, most Asian theater genres mix various types of performance. A Western audience attends a concert, dance performance, or play. But in Asia such genres as masked-dance dramas or sung-danced-and-spoken operas are common.


Theater in East Asia includes the traditions of China, Japan, and Korea. Most Chinese theater is urban, secular (nonreligious) entertainment, influenced by the ethics of Confucianism. However, a belief in spirits influences rituals performed by ethnic minorities in China, and Buddhism dominates traditional Tibetan performance. Japanese dramatic forms combine native shamanistic performance, secular entertainment, and cultural or religious influences from China and Korea. Korea, while influenced by Confucianism and Buddhism, retains a belief in spirits and shamanism as the primary influence on theater.

A China

Dance and music are integral to almost all Chinese theater. Traditional Chinese theater is presentational—meaning that the performers and the audience are continually made aware that they are seeing a performance and so do not become wrapped up in the illusion of reality. Nearly 400 local theater genres exist in China. The structural pattern of the music reflects the musical tonality of the Chinese language and its various dialects.

A1 Origins and Overview

Classical Peking Opera

Of the many major forms of regional theater in China, Peking opera is by far the most famous. It is a dramatic form that blends dance, theater, music, and acrobatics. Character types are associated with vocal styles. For example, main male characters sing in the baritone range; secondary male characters (usually unbearded scholars or lovers) sing in falsetto; and virtuous female characters sing in high falsetto. Performers wear dramatic makeup or masks. Accompanying instruments include bowed and plucked lutes, drums, clappers, gongs, cymbals, bamboo flutes, and oboes. The example heard here is an excerpt from the Chaozhou regional opera Bai Lixi Reunites with His Wife.

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The theater of China has its origins in ritual and probably began before the 3rd century bc. In 714 ad Tang dynasty emperor Xuanzong encouraged theater and strengthened the Pear Garden, a conservatory that trained male and female court entertainers. Permanent, covered urban theaters seating thousands were built during the Song dynasty (960-1279).

There are four major developments in the history of Chinese theater. Yuan zaju, the first great Chinese literary drama, developed in the 13th century. Kunqu is a mellifluous, elegant form that arose in the 16th century. Jingxi, more commonly known in the West as Peking Opera, is a 19th-century form that fuses several regional and popular genres. Huaju is spoken drama and originated in the 20th century.

A2 Major Genres and Their Development

Peking Opera

Peking Opera, in Beijing, China, combines music, acrobatic dance, and spectacular costumes to tell stories from Chinese history and folklore. Using abstract, symbolic gestures rich in dramatic meaning, actors represent personages from the heroic, divine, and animal worlds, often in martial exploits. The traditional features of the masklike makeup and elaborate costumes immediately identify the characters to a knowing audience.

Marc Garanger/Corbis

China’s first great age of theater occurred during the Yuan dynasty, a period of Mongol rule over China in the 1200s and 1300s. China’s Mongol rulers banned native Confucian scholars from government, forcing skilled poets to seek opportunities to perform for money. These poets teamed with local performing troupes to create Yuan zaju, a form of literary drama that reached its height during the reign of Mongol emperor Kublai Khan (1279-1294). Men and women both depicted characters of either sex. Performances featured colorful costumes, singing, dancing, mime, and acrobatics.

Yuan zaju plays consisted of four acts and a wedge (a flexible, self-contained scene that usually appeared between acts). Each act had its own musical key, and only the leading actor sang. Typical plots featured romance, courtesans, supernatural events, battles, politics, courtroom justice, or heroic rebels fighting tyrants. Many ended sadly, sometimes with the main character’s death. Guan Hanqing is considered the greatest of the Yuan zaju playwrights, and 18 of some 60 plays of his have survived. In Guan’s Dou E yuan (translated as Snow in Midsummer and as The Injustice Done to Dou E), a virtuous young widow is wrongly executed for murder but is posthumously vindicated by supernatural events. After 1644, at the fall of the Ming Dynasty, Yuan zaju performances ceased.

As Yuan zaju ended its reign as China’s dominant form of theater, kunqu arose to replace it. In the 16th century, actor and musician Wei Liangfu blended various musical modes and speech patterns to create kunqu for performances at the emperor’s court. Kunqu’s music is slow and melodious, dominated by flute, and its language is literary, elegant, and refined. Among the best kunqu playwrights are Tang Xianzu and Li Yu. Tang’s Mudan ting (1598; The Peony Pavilion) is often considered China’s greatest drama. In 55 scenes it lyrically depicts young love and supernatural events. Li wrote popular plays and China’s major work of dramatic theory, Xianqing ouji (1671; partially translated as A Temporary Lodge for My Leisure Thoughts). He also directed a traveling acting troupe.

In 1790 a new genre, known as jingxi or jingju (meaning “drama of the capital city”) came into being. Better known to Westerners as Peking Opera, it was created in Beijing by actors from Anhui province who combined elements of several performance styles for Emperor Qianlong’s 80th birthday celebration. Jingxi’s immediate ancestors include regional folk songs, local dialects, clapper opera (in which orchestra members beat out a rhythm with wooden clappers), and a musical system called pihuang.

The scripts of Peking Opera tend to be revisions, often by actors, of zaju or kunqu dramas, and the operas emphasize song, mime, dance, acrobatics, martial arts, and speech. Actors specialize in a single role type: sheng (male), dan (female), jing (painted face), or chou (clown). Each type has several subdivisions. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, only males performed, and there were three ways to become an actor: by being an actor’s son, by receiving training from professional actors, or by having one’s family enter into a financial contract. Today, both male and female actors audition to train in respected government academies. The most famous Peking Opera actor of the 20th century was Mei Lanfang, a specialist in female roles who introduced Peking Opera to the West during tours in the 1930s.

Chinese Dancers

Dancers perform in Beijing, China. The complex choreography requires mastery of many hand gestures and facial expressions in addition to rhythmic dance steps. The hand gestures illustrate the influence of Buddhism, in which they represent abstract symbols that aid meditation. An ancient art form, dance has been a part of China’s artistic heritage for thousands of years.

John Slater/Corbis

Peking Opera stages are simple. The orchestra of fiddles, wooden clappers, gongs, and cymbals sits on a nearly bare stage with a carpet and two rear entrances. However, costumes and makeup, which identify role types, are elaborate and stylized. Actors wear water sleeves—long cuffs of white silk that fall about 60 cm (24 in) below the hand—and they express emotions by flicking the sleeves up onto the wrist or by swinging them while dancing. Pairs of pheasant plumes attached to headdresses also become components of choreographed movements. Warriors are identified by their heavily embroidered satin coats and by four triangular pennants strapped on their backs. Actors playing jing roles paint their faces with multicolored or black and white abstract patterns, which designate a specific character or personality. See also Chinese Music.

By the 20th century, dramatists had begun writing Western-style spoken dramas (huaju). The first original huaju, Heinu yutian lu (1907; The Black Slave’s Cry to Heaven), was an adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe published in 1852. It was first performed by Chinese student actors in Tokyo, Japan, and then brought to Shanghai. The most significant dramatist of early huaju was Cao Yu. His major play is Leiyu (1934; Thunderstorm, 1958), the story of a family tragedy that has been an audience favorite for many years.

Since 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was founded, theater has been primarily a propaganda tool to promote government objectives. After 1963 Jiang Qing, a former actor and the wife of Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong, used Mao’s artistic dictums to guide theater. From 1966 to 1976 the government undertook a campaign to stamp out elitism and revolutionize Chinese society. During this period, known as the Cultural Revolution, the government forbade all theater except “model” operas and ballets that featured revolutionary heroes. Many theater artists endured torture or were sent to brutal “reeducation” centers. After Mao’s death in 1976, controls were relaxed and more innovative plays appeared that reflect ancient Chinese ritual and Western influences.

B Japan

Classical Dance of the Ryukyu Islands, Japan

The art of dance on the Japanese Ryukyu Islands has developed along two main lines—the tradition of court classical dance and the diverse inheritance of the folk song-dance. This elaborately costumed dancer is performing one of the court dances according to strict choreographic conventions.

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Traditional Japanese theater can be traced back about 1300 years. It includes some of the longest continually performed genres in Asia, most notably the nō drama. See also Japanese Drama.

B1 Origins and Overview


Daikagura is an acrobatic dance traditionally performed at Shinto temples in Japan to frighten off evil spirits. Peformances today often involve juggling and are put on as popular entertainment. These masked dancers perform at a temple on Mount Komagatake near Tokyo.

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The Kojiki (712 ad), one of the oldest written records of Japanese myth and history, provides a mythical account of the country’s first theater performance. According to the Kojiki, the sun goddess Amaterasu had hidden in a cave. To lure her out, another goddess, Ame-no-Uzume, danced with lowered skirt and bared breasts, feet pounding on an overturned barrel. The gods’ raucous laughter at this performance enticed Amaterasu to peek out, restoring life-giving light to the world, and theater was born. Among the earliest genres to emerge was kagura, in which entranced priestesses or masked villagers performed celebratory dances at shrines of the Shinto religion. Nonreligious genres included sangaku and sarugaku (“monkey dances”), entertainments that included skits, circus acts, and acrobatics.

Performing arts imported from China and Korea from the 7th to 10th centuries profoundly influenced Japanese theater. In 612 Korean performer Mimashi (or Mimaji) introduced gigaku, a masked music-drama from Chinese Buddhism. Gigaku was supplanted a century later by bugaku, a masked theater with Chinese and Korean origins. Bugaku is accompanied by slow, elegant music, called gagaku, produced by drums, gong, mouth organ, and flute. Bugaku’s three-part rhythmic structure, provided by gagaku, influenced all subsequent performance.

The aristocratic theater genres of and kyōgen developed in the 1300s, during Japan’s domination by the warrior class, or samurai. Kabuki, a popular form of secular theater, and ningyō joruri (usually called bunraku), a form of puppetry, flowered without foreign influence from 1603 to 1868. After 1868 the Westernization of Japan fostered new forms: shimpa, shingeki, and the all-female takarazuka. The atomic blasts that ended World War II in 1945 prompted a search for Japanese identity and the creation of avant-garde genres such as angura and butō.

B2 Major Genres and Their Development

Classical Nō Drama of Japan

Inspired both spiritually and artistically by Zen Buddhism, the Japanese nō theater is composed of four main components: music (voices, instruments), choreography (dance, gestures), literature (texts), and dramatic effects (masks, costumes). Instrumental music, vocals, and action are intricately combined in nō theater productions and often perform various roles. For example, the guttural vocal interjections uttered by the drummers serve to mark time as well as to create a mood or appropriate atmosphere for the play. Like the drum beats, these vocal cries are not improvised, but are clearly marked, representing basic units of rhythmic organization.

“The Stone Bridge” from Japan 5: Music of the Noh Theatre (Cat.# Ocora C 559005) (p) 1987 Ocora/Radio France. All Rights Reserved./UPI/THE BETTMANN ARCHIVE

Nō, which is still popular today, was pioneered in the 14th century by Zeami Motokiyo, an actor in his father’s theater troupe. Under the patronage of Yoshimitsu, a shogun (military dictator), Zeami lived at court and transformed the sarugaku that his father performed into poetic, elegant, Buddhist-inspired nō. Zeami wrote many plays and treatises on nō performance and composition. (Nine major treatises have been translated as On the Art of the Nō Drama.) The major aesthetic concepts of nō include yūgen (dark, mysterious, sad beauty) and hana (flower), alluding to the freshness and skill for which actors must strive. About 250 nō plays survive, most of them written after Zeami’s death.

The nō stage is a roofed, wooden square with an entrance bridge. The audience sits on two sides of the stage. There are no stage sets and few props. Visible musicians play drums and flute, and a seated chorus chants narration and some dialogue. Performances feature mime, dance, and poetry. Some of the actors wear small, elegant masks. In a typical nō story, the characters seek Buddhist release from earthly attachments.

Kyōgen (“mad words”) are comic, fast-paced prose plays performed in conjunction with nō plays. Many plots feature the victory of clever servants or downtrodden wives over pompous masters. Mime is central. Some 260 kyōgen scripts survive, among them the representative scripts (most kyōgen scripts are anonymous) Bōshibari (Tied to a Pole) and Busu (Sweet Poison). Traditionally, five nō and four kyōgen were performed together and lasted all day. Today typical performances include two nō and one kyōgen. Actors of both genres are male, and most are the sons of actors. Each actor performs his genre exclusively.

Kabuki and bunraku are popular arts associated with an urban merchant class and are not influenced by foreign genres. They developed between the 17th century, when relations with foreign powers were forbidden, and the late 19th century, when Japan reopened to the rest of the world. During this time Japanese culture thrived in total isolation, with society structured on strict Confucian models.

Kabuki is said to have originated in a performance by Okuni, a female dancer-priestess, about 1600. Wearing male garb and an exotic Christian cross, Okuni performed sensual dances and skits called kabuki (meaning “dangerously off-balance”) in a dry river bed in the city of Kyōto. Male and female performers, often dressed as the opposite sex, soon became wildly popular. In 1629 women were banned from the stage; the young boys who replaced them were banned in 1652. As a result, the onnagata (female impersonator) was created.

Kabuki’s daylong plays, composed of numerous episodes, feature spectacular fights and dances, quick costume changes, heroic sacrifices, and star-crossed lovers. To evade censors, playwrights disguised their satires of contemporary events by giving them historical settings. Acting, makeup, costumes, and scenery range from realistic to elaborately stylized and exaggerated. The wide stage used by kabuki features the hanamichi (runway) extending through the audience.

Kabuki Theater

Kabuki theater is famous for its brightly colored sets, exaggerated acting, and lively and emotional music and dance. Kabuki is the most popular form of traditional Japanese theater. In the mid-1980s it became popular in the United States.

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Bunraku also appeared in the 1600s. It is performed by realistic puppets about 1 m (about 3 ft) tall. The main characters are each manipulated by three black-robed men who move in choreographed unison to create the puppets’ lifelike behavior. A single actor recites all dialogue and narration onstage, accompanied by a shamisen (three-stringed lute). Bunraku shares scripts and acting styles with kabuki. Many plays feature tragic conflicts of honor and desire. Chikamatsu Monzaemon, Japan’s finest dramatist, wrote about 130 plays for bunraku and kabuki. One of his masterpieces is Sonezaki Shinjū (1703; The Love Suicides at Sonezaki). The play Kanadehon Chūshingura (1748; The Treasury of Loyal Retainers), by Takeda Izumo, Miyoshi Shoraku, and Namiki Senryu, represents the supreme expression of loyalty, duty, and bushido (samurai spirit).

In 1868 supporters of the emperor regained control of Japan, ousting the shoguns that had dominated the country and ending 250 years of Japanese isolation from the rest of the world. The country rushed to modernize, discarding tradition (although major genres survived) and creating new forms of theater. The first partially Western drama was shimpa (“new school”), which included adaptations of Western classics and of melodramatic, patriotic plays that rebelled against tradition in subject matter and performance style. Kawakami Otojiro and his wife, Sada Yakko, were among the foremost performers of shimpa. While touring North America and Europe from 1899 to 1901, audiences compared Sada to renowned French actor Sarah Bernhardt. As the first modern Japanese actress, Sada’s influence helped overturn the 1629 ban on female performers.

Shingeki (“new theater”) fully resembles Western theater. Tsubouchi Shoyo, one of the originators of shingeki, translated the complete works of English playwright William Shakespeare. He also wrote plays and in 1906 founded Bungei Kyōkai (Literary Arts Society). Osanai Kaoru, cofounder of shingeki, established two theater companies that played a vital role in spreading shingeki. These are Jiyū Gekijō (Free Theater), founded in 1909, and Tsukiji Shōgekijo (Tsukiji Little Theater), founded in 1924. Major shingeki playwrights include Kishida Kunio, who wrote a realistic play called Sawa-shi no futari musume (1935; The Two Daughters of Mr. Sawa, 1989), and Kinoshita Junji, whose symbolic, poetic play Yūzuru (1949; Twilight Crane, 1956) is based on a Japanese folktale.

In 1914 takarazuka, an all-female form of theater, was established to offer discipline and artistic training to young women. It has evolved into a hugely popular entertainment presented by rigorously trained performers. Typical of its performances are musical versions of Western classics such as Gone With the Wind, Broadway shows, kabuki adaptations, and Las Vegas-style extravaganzas.

After Japan’s devastating defeat in World War II (1939-1945), Japanese artists struggled to find a new sense of meaning. Playwright Mishima Yukio summarized these conflicts in Kindai nōgakushū (1956; Five Modern Nō Plays, 1957). Butō was created as a nonverbal dance theater that sought to express the “dark soul of Japan.” Founded by Hijikata Tatsumi and Ono Kazuo, butō features nearly naked dancers painted white who writhe on stage. Angura (from the English word underground) flourished in the 1960s and the 1970s. It combined street theater, spontaneous activity, and in some cases anti-American political protest (see Performance Art). Kara Jūrō’s socially conscious Jōkyō Gekijō (Situation Theater), founded in 1963, and Terayama Shūji’s experimental Tenjō Sajiki (Peanut Gallery), established in 1967, are two of the most important angura groups.

Japan’s major theater artists of the late 20th century include director Ninagawa Yukio, who directed a wide variety of plays, and director and theorist Suzuki Tadashi, who created the so-called Suzuki method of actor training. The Suzuki method is based on lower body strength, with an emphasis on the feet. Important contemporary female playwright-directors include Kisaragi Koharu and Kishida Rio.

C Korea

In Korea, theater probably began with official ceremonies and native religious rituals. These were modified in the 7th century by Buddhist genres, which probably came from China. Confucianism later exerted a strong influence on Korean theater.

Puppetry in Korea dates from the 7th century. In kkoktu kaksi, traditional Korean puppetry, a puppet master recites lines to musical accompaniment while manipulating one puppet at a time. Holding the puppet body in his hands, the puppeteer moves its stiff arms using strings pulled from below. The plots of puppet plays are comic and satirical.

Sandae-guk (“mountain performance”) is a generic term for masked folk dramas. Until 1634 the Confucian-dominated royal court sponsored official performances of masked dramas. After 1634, however, performers were no longer supported and they left the court, bringing theater to the rural areas. There are many local varieties, but all share common features. Sandae-guk is traditionally performed outdoors by torchlight and lasts all night. Performers wear colorful costumes and grotesque masks of dried gourds or paper, with cloth head coverings. Sandae-guk also features complex dances drawn from shamanism and songs based on folk music. Its improvised episodes incorporate bawdy jokes and poetry.

Two other significant theater genres in Korea are hahoe pyolsin-gut and p’ansori. Hahoe pyolsin-gut, a masked folk drama from Hahoe village, occurs once per decade, on the 15th day of the first lunar month. It makes use of sacred and ancient carved, wooden masks. Its improvised stories generally satirize corrupt monks and immoral or stupid officials. In p’ansori a solo performer of either sex sings, recites, and mimes stories to drumming, using an intentionally hoarse voice. P’ansori is popular in live performances as well as on radio and television. Today, the Seoul Theater Festival supports new work in South Korea. North Korea’s government encourages theatrical activity that reflects its socialist ideology and goals.


Southeast Asian Theater

Dancers on the island of Bali, Indonesia, perform a barong dance-drama. Dance-dramas enact battles between good and evil, and dancers appeal to the spirit world during performances. The barong dance-drama is believed to exorcise evil spirits from the village. This scene depicts a struggle between the witch Rangda and the barong, a mythical and benevolent beast.

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The countries in Southeast Asia with the strongest theater traditions are Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Dance-dramas and puppetry are extremely important art forms in Southeast Asia. Performances often last several hours, or even all night. In some areas, Chinese and Indian influence is pronounced.

A Indonesia

Shamanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam have all influenced theater in Indonesia. Although more than 3000 islands with hundreds of different cultures and performance traditions make up the Republic of Indonesia, only about 20 influential theater genres have been studied, primarily on the islands of Java and Bali.

A1 Origins and Overview

Early influences on Indonesian theater include improvisational poetry games and trance-dancing led by shamans. The recitation of Javanese epics derived from two great Sanskrit works of India, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, were part of religious rites from the 9th to the 14th centuries and also played a role in theater’s development.

Traditional theater in Indonesia developed between the 7th and 13th centuries, when a Buddhist and Hindu kingdom, Sri Vijaya, ruled the area from the island of Sumatra and traded with India and China. Performances at the ruler’s court featured female dancers, shadow puppets, masked performers, clowns, and a gamelan orchestra made up of gongs, metallophones (which resemble xylophones but have bars of metal rather than wood), xylophones, and drums. On Java, another island near Sumatra, Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms were in power until Islam reached the island in the 13th century. Despite Islam’s ban on theater and dance, the performing arts survived on Java, probably because of the presence of Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam in which dance has an important role. Performers modified tales of gods and heroes from the Mahabharata and introduced stories of Muslim heroes and saints. By 1520 Indonesia had become predominantly Islamic, while Bali remained Hindu. Bali is known for its trance dances, in which performers experience an altered state of consciousness and seek contact with the spirit world.

Indonesia’s first modern play, Bebasari (1926) by Rustam Effendi, was an allegory for opposition to the Dutch rule of Indonesia, which had begun in the 1600s and lasted until the mid-1900s. Major contemporary figures in theater include playwright, director, and actor W. S. Rendra and Balinese playwright and director Putu Wijaya. Teater Koma, a theater company in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, presents operas about Indonesia’s socially dispossessed classes that blend indigenous popular music with Western rock music.

A2 Major Genres

Wayang Kulit

Wayang Kulit is a form of Indonesian puppetry dating from the 10th century and using stories from Hindu epics. The puppet operator, known as the dalang, also narrates the story, speaks the dialogue, does the sound effects, and leads the orchestra in a performance that lasts from dusk until dawn.

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Wayang is the term for puppetry, a hugely popular genre in Indonesia. A single dalang (puppet master) manipulates all the puppets, recites improvised narration and dialogue, and cues the gamelan orchestra. Performances may occur as part of religious rituals or for entertainment alone. Puppets can be intricately carved out of animal hide, sculpted from wood, or painted on scrolls. Some forms of puppetry feature human actors who move in a puppet-like fashion. Wayang stories come from the Mahabharata, Islamic tales, or local folklore. In all stories, balance and order are restored to a world threatened by chaos.

In shadow puppetry, such as wayang kulit from Java or wayang parwa from Bali, the dalang and orchestra sit behind a white screen, which is lit by an oil or electric lamp. The puppeteer uses rods to manipulate puppets, which cast their shadows on the screen. Puppets are delicately cut out of hide or wood and are typically 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 in) tall. Clown or servant characters speak the local dialect, while mythical heroes speak an ancient literary language. Most audience members see only silhouetted shadows, but some watch from behind the dalang. Performances are lengthy and may last all night.

Balinese Dancers

The legong is a dance of Bali that features highly controlled movements of the arms and hands. It is performed by two or three young girls who wear tightly wrapped silk sarongs, flower headdresses, and collars decorated with tiny stones and mirrors. A gamelan orchestra featuring gongs and other percussion instruments accompanies the dancers.

Wolfgang Kaehler/Corbis

Barong is a complex, narrative dance-drama from Bali about the mythical barong, a benevolent animal spirit who battles the horrible witch-widow Rangda. Two men impersonate the barong, wearing an elaborate mask and costume. The actor playing Rangda wears a necklace representing human entrails (intestines and other internal organs) and a mask with bulging eyes, protruding fangs, and wild hair. During the performance male villagers fall into trance but are protected from Rangda’s evil power by belief in the barong. The performance concludes with the exorcism of Rangda.

Legong is Bali’s best-known dance-drama. In the legong young girls, who wear tightly wrapped sarongs and flower headdresses, perform to gamelan music. Legong is based on a dance called sanghyang dedari, in which girls in trance believe they are possessed by goddesses and may dance with closed eyes on the shoulders of dancing men.

Kecak Dance-Drama of Bali

The Kecak dance-drama of Bali is based on the Hindu epic Ramayana, which tells the story of Prince Rama and his rescue of his bride, Sita, from the demon king Ravana. A chorus of bare-chested men surrounds the dance area and imitates the “cak-cak” sound made by monkeys. An army of monkeys helped Rama in his battle with Ravana.

Arvind Garg/”Introduction” performed by Kecak Ganda Sari, from Kecak from Bali (Cat.# Bridge BCD 9019) (c)and(p)1990 Bridge Records, Inc. Box 1864, New York, NY 10116 1-800-321-4066. All rights reserved.

Kecak, nicknamed the Balinese monkey chant, developed around 1930. In kecak, a male chorus encircles a temple courtyard, imitating the “cak-cak” sound of monkeys as the epic Ramayana is enacted in pantomime. A dalang narrates. The kecak is usually performed by the light of oil lamps and serves primarily as entertainment.

A popular, working-class form of theater known as ludruk began on Java in the 1920s. In the ludruk, which is often satirical, clowns and transvestite singers perform songs interspersed with dialogue in the local dialect.

B Thailand

Traditional Dancer, Thailand

Traditional dance and music is an important part of Thai culture. Here, a woman in full ceremonial attire performs a traditional dance, called the Lacon Dance, that includes specific hand and head movements.

Thailand Tourism Authority

Thailand derived its most important theater genres from Cambodia, which it invaded in the 15th century. Thai performance in turn shaped the theater of neighboring Laos and Myanmar (Burma). Most theater was performed at the courts of Thailand’s kings. In the 20th century, King Rama VI helped revive and preserve traditional Thai court drama. Today, women perform female roles and refined male roles in all genres. Men play clowns, monkeys, and ogres.

There are three major court genres in Thai theater: nang yai, khon, and lakhon fai nai. Nang yai features the largest shadow puppets in the world. Made of flat, incised leather, they stand 1 to 1.5 m (4 to 5 ft) tall and are manipulated by dancer-puppeteers who move in front of and behind a screen. Two narrators recite from Ramakien (the Thai version of the Indian Ramayana). A piphat orchestra, composed of double reed instruments, xylophones, drums, gongs, and cymbals, accompanies the performance. Khon is a masked dance-drama performed in mime (originally by men only, but today by women as well) and accompanied by piphat orchestra and a narrator chanting from Ramakien. Elaborately carved, painted masks clearly identify characters, and highly stylized gestures and dance movements carry the action and express emotion. Lakhon fai nai is a refined, elegant, all female dance-drama accompanied by a singing chorus and piphat orchestra. It was originally performed by the queen and court ladies, with poetry written by the king or courtiers. Dancers or offstage singers recite dialogue. The performers wear tall, pagoda-shaped headdresses and form-fitting silk costumes.

Various popular genres also exist in Thailand. Commercial, improvisational likay features melodramas, situation comedies, and satires of traditional court dramas. Audiences are mostly middle-class women. Nang talung is shadow puppetry used in rural areas for political propaganda and entertainment.

C Cambodia

Performances at royal courts and temples began in Cambodia in the 3rd century ad or earlier and peaked during the Angkor period in Cambodian history, from the 9th century to the 15th century. During the 18th and 19th century performance styles and genres from Thailand were imported and adapted (ironically, as Thailand had several centuries earlier patterned some of its performance styles on those of Cambodia). During the violent reign of the Khmer Rouge, from 1975 to 1979, the vast majority of the country’s performing artists and playwrights fled or were killed. Almost all cultural documents and performance photographs were destroyed. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, actor and dancer Chheng Phon, a former minister of culture in Cambodia and one of the country’s few artists from the older generation, spearheaded the re-creation of performance traditions. The Cambodian government in power in the late 1990s supported ten professional troupes. The lakhon kabach boran, dance-dramas performed by women at court, correspond closely to Thailand’s lakon fai nai. In earlier times, performances lasted four days, with two four-hour segments each day.

D Myanmar (Burma)

The theater of Myanmar displays significant influences from India, China, and Tibet. Traditional beliefs also played a role in the development of theater. A major genre is a form of trance dance called nat pwe. It derives from the worship of “spirit wives,” who dance until they are possessed by one of 37 revered spirits, then speak while in trance. Zat pwe is Myanmar’s classical dance-drama with origins in Buddhism and legends. In zat pwe, actors who portray a prince, princess, and clown sing and dance while they oppose ogres and villains. Music defines the tone of each scene.

E Vietnam

Vietnamese theater reflects the influence of China, which ruled the country for hundreds of years, starting in the 200s bc. Musical modes from India appeared in the 14th century. The influence of France, which colonized Vietnam in the 19th and early 20th centuries, is present to a lesser extent. Hat bôi (also called hat tuông), which originated in the 13th century, is a classical court opera derived from Chinese models. Muá rôi nuoc, which originated before the 12th century, is a form of puppetry found only in Vietnam. The puppets use the surface of a pond as their stage. A structure behind the pond-stage hides puppet masters, who manipulate puppets representing animals, humans, and mythological characters by means of a system of underwater, mechanized rods.

F Philippines

The major performance genres of the Philippines have their origin in the traditions of Spain and the United States, both of which colonized the country. Komedya or moro-moro, which originated in the 17th century, is a folk drama that depicts Christians defeating the Moors. It is usually performed on saints’ days or at other religious festivals. Zarzuela or sarsuela are melodramatic operettas based on late 19th-century Spanish models. Troupes also perform Western-style spoken dramas in both English and Filipino.


India has been the dominant theatrical presence in South Asia for centuries. Much of the theater of other South Asian countries has adapted or borrowed from forms originally developed in India.

A India

Scholars have identified and studied more than 50 major traditional theater genres in India. India also has a thriving modern theater, especially in prominent cities such as Kolkata, Mumbai (formerly Bombay), and Delhi.

A1 Origins and Overview

Classical Dance of South India

The southern Indian kathakali is a dance drama that dates from the 17th century and is rooted in Hindu mythology. Male dancers perform kathakali at religious ceremonies and in exhibitions for tourists. The rhythmic cycle and melodic scale of traditional southern Indian music direct the dancer’s movements. This performer wears ceremonial makeup and dress that includes a large, circular headdress made of wood.

“Kathakali Dance Theater” from Ritual Music and Theater of Kerala (Cat.# Le Chant du Monde LDX 274 010) (p)1989 Le Chant du Monde. All rights reserved./Photo Researchers, Inc.

The Natya Shastra, written before 200 ad and attributed to a Hindu sage named Bharata Muni, is the world’s oldest, most complete manual for all aspects of performance. It details the requirements for theater architecture, costumes, actor training and performance, music, playwriting, and the emotional exchange that takes place between the audience and the actors. The book relates how the Hindu god Brahma created drama (natya) to entertain and to educate. While priests, musicians, and dancing nymphs were performing divinely created stories, jealous demons attacked the sacred stage. Brahma, however, created purifying rituals to include all beings—even demons.

From the 1st century to the 10th century, dramas written in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, were performed in temples and at royal courts. Performance of Sanskrit drama ceased, however, as a result of foreign invasions and because the language was spoken only by the upper classes, providing only a limited, aristocratic audience. During the 15th century, Islamic rulers, who then controlled northern India, forbade theater. However, local folk and devotional genres emerged elsewhere in India. Secular entertainment, puppetry, dance-dramas, and performances for religious minorities also flourished. In the 18th century Britain colonized India and introduced Western performance styles. In the 20th century, new genres appeared, including political protest plays and experimental combinations of European and traditional Indian drama. Indian poet and playwright Rabindranath Tagore won the 1913 Nobel Prize for literature. His plays include Raja (1910; The King of the Dark Chamber, 1914) and Raktakarabi (1924; Red Oleanders, 1925). Significant contemporary artists include playwright and director Badal Sircar, actor Tripti Mitra, director Uptal Dutt, and director and educator Ebrahim Alkazi.

A2 Major Genres and Their Development

Odissi Dancer

Odissi, a dance form of eastern India, originated in Hindu temples and is characterized by soft and flowing movements. Through her hand and body movements, this odissi dancer indicates that the character she portrays is looking playfully through a window.

Lindsay Hebberd/Woodfin Camp and Associates, Inc.

Sanskrit drama was one of the earliest formal theatrical genres to appear in India. It conformed to the rules laid out by the Natya Shastra, with its lyrical poetry, happy endings, song, dance, and mime. Both sexes probably acted in these dramas, though actors did not always portray characters of their gender. Theaters seated about 400 people. The stage had a rear balcony and machinery to aid in depicting supernatural events, such as the appearance of heavenly nymphs. The most famous Sanskrit dramatists include Bhasa, Kalidasa, and Bhavabhuti. Bhasa composed plays based primarily on Ramayana and Mahabharata. His best work is Svapnavasavadatta (4th-5th century; The Vision of Vasavadatta). Kalidasa composed the most revered Sanskrit drama, Abhijnanashakuntala (4th century; Shakuntala and the Ring of Recollection). It tells of love, loss, a curse, and ultimate reunion between a king and a nymph’s daughter. Bhavabhuti’s greatest work is Utara-rāma-charita (8th century; The Later History of Rama). Mrichchhakatika (5th century; The Little Clay Cart), attributed to Shudraka, is one of the most popular Sanskrit works.

Scholars believe that some conventions of Sanskrit drama are preserved in kutiyattam, the country’s oldest continuously performed theatrical genre. In kutiyattam, which comes from the southwestern state of Kerala, actors perform ancient Sanskrit plays in India’s only permanent, traditional theater structures for Sanskrit drama. Ritual performances occur once yearly at two Hindu temples, Vatukumnathan and Irinjalagauda. Each play takes several nights to complete, three to eight hours per night. A tall, metal oil lamp on the stage provides dim light. Dance, song, chant, gestures with specific meanings, and exaggerated facial and eye expressions are accompanied by drums, cymbals, a conch shell, and a wind instrument called a kuzhal. Performers wear elaborate makeup and costumes.

Several types of dance-dramas exist in India, including kathak, bharata natyam, and manipuri, but the most recognized is kathakali, from Kerala state. Kathakali originated in the 17th century. Its plots come from the Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, and the Puranas. Performers, who go through arduous training for six to ten years, wear brightly colored makeup in symbolic patterns and multilayered beards of paper and glue. Costumes usually include heavily layered, wide skirts and disk-shaped headdresses. Traditionally, performances lasted all night, but today they take only three or four hours. Actors dance, mime, and gesture while singers recite lyrical passages and dialogue. Drums, gongs, cymbals, harmonium, and conch shell accompany them. Kathakali may be performed in any locale for sacred or secular occasions.


Kathak is a style of traditional dance native to north India. Performed solo, it has its roots in the storytelling tradition of Hindu mythology which employs both mime and dramatic gesture.

Pankaj Shah/Redferns

Ramlila appeared in northern India in the 17th century. As a celebration of the life of Rama, the hero of Ramayana, Hindus consider it a part of their religious devotion. For Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and members of India’s other minority religions, it symbolizes national unity and is a popular commercial enterprise. Each ramlila lasts several weeks. In addition to hundreds of amateur actors, performances feature elephants, camels, burning arrows, fireworks, elaborate floats, and chariots. Ramlila performances are staged at rivers, forts, and other unconventional performance spaces in villages and cities. Performers wear patterned makeup, which may be embellished with sequins. If they are playing demons, they may wear multiheaded masks or black makeup. Local folk music and, occasionally, sacred chants accompany the play. Today, versions of ramlila occur all over India, from September to November, and millions of people attend.

B Other South Asian Cultures

In Sri Lanka, Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism are the dominant religions and have contributed stories, characters, and ritual to the country’s performance styles. Theater genres include kolam, a masked dance-drama that usually tells comic tales; the nadagama, a weeklong episodic play probably introduced by Roman Catholic missionaries in the 19th century; and rukada, a puppet theater featuring marionettes that are about 1 m (about 3 ft) tall.

In 1947 areas of northern India populated primarily by Muslims became East and West Pakistan, and in 1971 East Pakistan became Bangladesh. Although Islam does not condone theater, performances of theater in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, take place in urban areas. The first Urdu play was performed in 1853 at the court of Wajid Ali Shah of Oudh, in Lucknow (central India). Jatra, a Bengali-language genre, is performed in Bangladesh and eastern India. Formerly a religious genre, jatra is now secular and often highly political, featuring protest and satire. Settings and properties are minimal.

In Nepal, Mahayana Buddhist monks wearing large, colorfully painted masks perform the country’s most prominent dance-drama, the mani-rimdu. Performances take place in temple courtyards over three-day periods in May and November, and they celebrate Buddhism’s victory over Nepal’s traditional animism. Musical instruments include brass horns that are 3 m (10 ft) long, cymbals, and a trumpet made from a human thigh bone.
Contributed By:
Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.




Opera, drama in which the text is set to music and staged. The texts of operas are sung, with singing and stage action nearly always given instrumental accompaniment. Many operas also feature instrumental interludes (called intermezzi) and dance scenes, even extended ballets that interrupt the action.

Opera began as an entertainment at the courts of the Italian aristocracy, with outdoor terraces and even enclosed tennis courts being adapted for performances. It had its origins in the last years of the 16th century, and eventually this new form of entertainment caught on with the public. Giasone (1649) by Italian composer Pietro Francesco Cavalli held the stage for some 50 years. Opera as a popular entertainment attained its zenith in the 19th and early 20th centuries, after which the disruptive effects of two world wars and far-reaching developments in music itself left opera in a state of fairly arrested development.

In its heyday, opera was a prolific entertainment. Many of Europe’s greatest composers wrote operas by the dozen, and operas that took hold (many closed on opening night) were taken up by the feverishly adulated stars of the period. These stars held court in the sumptuous opera houses of Saint Petersburg, Naples, Rome, Venice, Milan, Vienna, Paris, and Berlin, and in such emerging outposts of opera as New York City and New Orleans, the last a stronghold of French opera in the 19th century. One wealthy eccentric even built an opera house in Manaus, a city deep in the Brazilian jungle, where Italian tenor Enrico Caruso made guest appearances.

Throughout its history opera has exerted great influence on other forms of music—and vice versa. The symphony, for example, began as an instrumental introduction (called a sinfonia) to 18th-century Italian opera. The glittering runs and cadenzas (extended virtuosic solos) of violin and piano concertos stem, in large part, from an attempt to replicate some of opera’s vocal brilliance for these instruments. The innovations in harmony and orchestration (assigning parts in an orchestral composition to different instruments) that 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner developed for his sprawling operas shaped the subsequent course of many musical forms. Indeed, many modern musicians regard the effort to emerge from the gigantic shadow of Wagner as the principal struggle of classical music after the 19th century.


Singing is at the heart of opera. In grand opera, the type of opera most commonly performed today, the entire text is sung. What makes it opera in the grand manner is the spectacle—lavish sets and costumes, huge choruses, brilliant vocal displays and dance numbers (usually ballet). In comic opera, however, singing generally alternates with passages that are half-sung and half-spoken and usually accompanied by a keyboard instrument. Comic operas are not necessarily humorous, however. The term comic opera (opéra comique in French, opera buffa in Italian, and Singspiel in German) was intended to distinguish operas that were lighter in style from opera seria (serious opera). Comic operas generally deal with ordinary people and places and end happily, whereas opera seria treats mythological or historical subjects and typically ends tragically. The most famous examples of comic opera are Carmen (1875) by French composer Georges Bizet and Fidelio (1805; revised 1806, 1814) by German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. A form of light, sentimental comic opera that flourished in Paris and Vienna in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came to be called operetta. Imported to the United States, it evolved into the musical, a play that includes songs, choruses, and dances in its narrative.

All of these types of opera rest on the shared belief that music—and especially singing—intensifies dramatic effect. This was not always so. In opera’s early days, singing was often subordinated to ballet spectacles. And some opera composers, especially those of France and 19th-century Russia, emphasized extravagant scenic effects and extended dance episodes. Many of the later German composers made the orchestra a partner rather than an accompanist of the singer. But throughout the history of opera, the human voice has remained dominant.

A Vocal Numbers

Since the essence of opera is singing, the high points of the drama are set pieces such as arias, duets, and other numbers in which vocal music is emphasized. An aria is essentially a soliloquy (monologue), a duet is a dialogue, and trios typically dramatize the conflicted state of one of the participants. The complexity may be carried further, as in the quartet from Rigoletto (1851) by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi or the sextet in Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) by fellow Italian Gaetano Donizetti. Victor Hugo, author of the play from which Verdi adapted Rigoletto, marveled at how what would be unintelligible in the spoken theater—a quartet—became crystal-clear in content and feeling when set to music. Verdi reached the apex of this complexity with a fugue for ten characters and orchestra in his final opera, Falstaff (1893). (In a fugue one voice or instrument introduces a musical theme, which is then repeated and developed by the others in sequence.)

Composers employ these forms to suspend the action and dwell on one or several emotions simultaneously. Only a group of singers joined in ensemble can express different points of view at the same time. Sometimes, a chorus comments on the actions of the protagonists. In most choral numbers, the text is sung comparatively slowly, often with repetition of phrases.

It is difficult to carry an opera by means of aria alone, however. In the majority of operas, the principal method of articulating the plot and carrying the action forward is recitative: rapid singing in free tempo, following the inflections of speech, with a simple accompaniment. Recitative may bore operagoers who are unfamiliar with what is being sung (although the introduction of projected translations in the late 20th century has largely alleviated this incomprehension), but it is crucial to the advancement of the narrative. Not all opera preserves a strict distinction between recitative and such numbers as arias and choruses. Wagner moved away from this distinction in favor of a more continuous musical texture, and this practice has dominated opera ever since. Composers such as the Czech Leoš Janáček and the Russian Modest Mussorgsky elevated the observance of natural speech rhythms to a defining principle of their art.

B The Orchestra

If the singers provide the foundation of an operatic performance, the orchestra supplies the framework, the background, and the underpinning. Its instrumental preludes and thematic references prepare the audience for the evolution of the drama and provide dramatic context throughout the opera. The orchestra also supports the singers and underscores the climaxes. Its interludes cover changes of scenery or mood, and its coda (conclusion) provides the opera’s final statement.

C The Overture

In most operas, an orchestral overture or short prelude (usually woven from musical themes in the opera itself) sets the production in motion. Overtures are often performed as detachable concert pieces, running anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Some were thematically independent of the operas they preceded and could even be recycled. The overture of The Barber of Seville (1816), by Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini, had already been used by Rossini for Aureliano in Palmira (1813) and Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra (1815). As the 19th century progressed, composers increasingly sought unity of mood and thematic material in their overtures. Gradually, however, the overture gave way to the prelude, which—particularly in the case of Wagner—might have the dimensions of an overture, but more importantly provided a thematic résumé of the opera and led directly into it.

The independent overture gradually declined in importance. By the end of the 19th century and the premiere of Tosca (1900) by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, three abrupt chords were all the ‘prelude’ given before plunging abruptly into the action. In many contemporary operas, musical preliminaries have been completely eliminated. In some, such as Lear (1978) by German composer Aribert Reimann, the action begins well before the music itself.


The drama in opera is not only a function of the text but of the music as well. The original creators of opera called their productions dramma per musica (drama through music), and the tradition can be traced back to medieval religious plays, which also used music to tell their stories. An opera is more than a play with song and dance inserted, however. Plays are complete in themselves, but because opera requires a severely compressed text (time must be allowed for musical development), an opera without music is not even half of a dramatic entity. Music must not only carry the text, it must also provide subtext and fill out aspects of character and situation that the text can only hint at. This applies even to operas with considerable spoken dialogue, such as Beethoven’s Fidelio, where the music remains essential.

Few opera librettos (texts) could be performed successfully as stage plays; something is missing that only music can supply. For this reason, few plays make suitable librettos without liberal pruning of verbal imagery, simplification of plot, and reduction in cast. The music needs room to breathe—to repeat itself, to develop instrumentally and harmonically, and to change pace and color as the situation demands. Since singing diminishes the intelligibility of a text, the words themselves must not be too hard to follow. Florid syntax has been the downfall of operas such as Montezuma (1964) by American composer Roger Sessions, while straightforwardness and clarity of dramatic diction have ensured the success of such works as Les Dialogues des Carmèlites (1957), by French composer Francis Poulenc, and Peter Grimes (1945), by British composer Benjamin Britten.

Opera, then, must forgo a good play’s verbal richness and precision, but in its music it gains the richness of a language that speaks directly to the emotions. The source for Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (1904), a play about a Japanese geisha and a callous American naval lieutenant, now seems hopelessly quaint and even racist, but Puccini’s score has made this drama of betrayed love timeless.

In writing music that will serve the dramatic needs of the text, most composers employ certain conventions, such as writing for the higher registers of a voice or instrument to indicate passion, or employing dissonant harmonies to depict fear. These conventions are not wholly arbitrary, however. Voices do rise when people become excited, and the physical sensation of fear is inharmonious. A skilled opera composer will use still more subtle techniques to enhance the dramatic effect of the music. The melodic line must be suited to the words it is meant to carry, and the harmony must convey the ebb and flow of feeling and action. Rhythms vary for impetuous declamation, stately ceremonial ensembles, love duets, or arias. Composers also draw upon the orchestra to serve dramatic ends, such as using the timbre (quality or color of sound) and tonal possibilities of specific instruments for particular effects. Many great composers, such as Christoph Willibald Gluck and Richard Strauss of Germany, Claude Debussy of France, and Alban Berg of Austria, have emphasized the dramatic in their operas.


Today’s typical opera repertory mainly comprises works from the 19th century, plus a few from the late 18th and early 20th centuries. Romanticism, with its passion for noble deeds and faraway places, stimulated opera composition all over Europe throughout the 19th century. The plots, which usually revolved around romantic love thwarted by social or political forces, promoted a message of human equality in an era when rule by monarchs and aristocrats was giving way to revolutionary movements and a growing merchant class. The rise of the middle class guaranteed opera a vast, ready-made audience.

The conventional operatic repertory tends to reduce the many classifications of the past to two broad areas: tragedy and comedy. Composers have written considerably more tragic operas than comedic operas, and there are more operas, both tragic and comic, in Italian and German than in other languages. The French-language share of the repertory is comparatively small. A growing number of operas in the Russian and Czech languages have entered the repertory; once invariably performed in translation, they are sung more and more in their original tongue.

For the most part, fashion determines repertory. The prevalence or cultivation of certain voice types also has considerable influence, although opera companies regularly perform certain operas—such as Verdi’s Aïda (1871)—whether the proper voices are available or not. During an era when operas with coloratura (highly ornamented singing) or allegorical plots fell out of fashion, few people bothered to learn how to present them. The operas of German-born composer George Frideric Handel, for example, were neglected until Australian singer Joan Sutherland, Americans Marilyn Horne and Beverly Sills, and others began to perform them. Not only did the public rediscover the beauties of Handel’s operas, but also eventually vocal culture produced more singers able to cope with his florid compositions. The same phenomenon occurred with Rossini. The rediscovery of his vast output drastically altered the modern perception of a composer once thought of only in terms of The Barber of Seville. Indeed, by the late 20th century, when the composition of new operas had dwindled, much of the “new” ground being broken was that of the neglected past.

Similarly, brilliant performances of operas by Italians Luigi Cherubini and Vincenzo Bellini stimulated revivals of their works. As interest in discovering authentic historical performance practice rose during the late 20th century, performances of the operas of formerly neglected composers such as Cavalli, Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi, and French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier became more frequent. All such revivals require scrupulous musical attention and editing, especially the works of 17th-century composers, whose dynamics (loudness and softness) and instrumentation can only be guessed at because surviving documentation is often either fragmentary or contradictory. The seemingly endless repeats in the arias of Handel and of Neapolitan composers of the early 18th century can prove trying for modern audiences; audiences of Handel’s time commonly left their seats during the performance, either to socialize or to eat. All too often, the obscurity and expansiveness of a score have tempted a conductor or director today to abridge, rearrange, interpolate, or even rewrite the opera, often to the extent that the audience hears a distant relative of the opera listed in the program.


Opera singers are usually classified as one of six types, according to the range of their voices. From highest to lowest, the three female voices are soprano, mezzo-soprano, and contralto. The male voices are tenor, baritone, and bass. Within each range there may be a variety of subdivisions, differentiating voice quality and style of singing. A coloratura soprano has a light and extremely flexible voice; she is trained in the execution of virtuoso passages featuring rapid scales, trills, and other ornamental displays. The lyric soprano has a voice of great clarity and beauty. The voice of the dramatic soprano is full and powerful, able to soar over a large orchestra. The distinction between lyric and dramatic voices occurs among tenors as well. There are also three major types of bass: the comic basso buffo; the basso profondo, who sings with a powerful, deep tone; and the basso cantante, who sings the remaining ‘straight’ roles.

Certain conventions have arisen concerning the type of voice to which a composer assigns a given role. Heroes and heroines are usually tenors and sopranos. In general, the deeper the voice in an opera, the older or more experienced the character depicted. Thus an unsophisticated young woman, such as Gilda in Rigoletto, is a lyric soprano, while a temptress, such as Maddalena in the same opera, is a sultry mezzo-soprano. Similarly, a role cast for baritone is that of Figaro, the ingenious hero of both Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville, 1816) by Rossini and Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro, 1786) by Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The tenor voice is often reserved for the romantic lead. The parts of villains, sorcerers, and men of maturity and power (Mozart’s Don Giovanni is one example) are usually cast for bass-baritone or bass.

Changing tastes have played a major role in operatic singing styles. Techniques of attack (onset), release, and vibrato (the ‘throb’ in a trained voice) have varied throughout operatic history. Jacopo Peri, an Italian singer who wrote one of the earliest surviving operas (Dafne, 1598), is likely to have sung with little or no vibrato, in keeping with standard practice at the end of the Renaissance. Within a century, though, the cult of the star singer was flourishing, first in Naples and then throughout Europe, and a fairly liberal use of vibrato became fashionable.

During opera’s infancy, in the 17th and early 18th centuries, the parts of female heroes and villains were often sung by male sopranos and altos—the castrati, whose vocal development had been arrested by means of castration before their voices dropped. ‘Long live the little knife,’ was the cry of their fans. These singers trained their voices for the utmost in range and flexibility, combining the muscular power of a dramatic tenor with the altitudinous range of a coloratura soprano. The most famous of these was Farinelli, whose soprano voice was deemed more powerful than a trumpet.

Virtuosic female singers were also active during opera’s early years, however; one such was 18th-century mezzo-soprano Faustina Bordoni, wife of composer Johann Hasse, whose ability to sustain a note was legendary. These singers held great sway with the composers whose music they sang. Some even composed operas themselves or (as was the case with Farinelli) directed opera troupes. Composers expected singers to embellish melodies with improvised ornamentation, which singers did in profusion and with varying dramatic aptness. The tenors in Rossini’s operas were expected to be as expert in coloratura technique as the sopranos and mezzos they partnered. The resurgence of this skill in the 20th century gave new life to Rossini’s vast and varied operatic output.

One 18th-century fashion, the basso buffo, has remained essentially unchanged since its inception. The garrulous, easily outwitted old man, a common basso buffo character, is a venerable figure in operatic tradition that originated in the commedia dell’arte, a form of improvisational theater that arose around 1550. The role’s characteristic broad effects and rapid patter do not preclude inventive interpretation, so long as the singer observes the proper style. It is likely that the low comedy of Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa is played out today much as it was more than 200 years ago.

The clear and brilliant bel canto (Italian for “beautiful singing”), favored by Mozart, Rossini, and other composers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, gradually gave way by the mid-19th century to a more powerful and dramatic type of singing. The development of modern harmony (principally by Wagner and French composer Hector Berlioz) gradually promoted the role of the orchestra from accompanist to protagonist, and singers needed more power if they were to be heard above the orchestra. The German Heldentenor (heroic tenor) evolved from powerful, bright-toned tenors, such as Josef Tichatschek and Albert Niemann, who premiered many of Wagner’s operas and could project their voices over his rich orchestration.

Verdi’s later works and those of his successors called for tenors and sopranos whose voices combined bulk with carrying power. The demands of romantic opera, which arose in the 19th century, have sometimes necessitated performances that run counter to a composer’s ideal. Richard Strauss, for example, conceived of his Salome as “a 16-year-old with the voice of an Isolde” (a Wagner role that requires a hefty voice). Strauss’s orchestration is so dense that any soprano who can plausibly sing Salome will likely have sung for many years and be robust of build.

The opera stars of the past have become legends. Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, probably the most popular singer in history, had the good fortune to come of age soon after the invention of the phonograph. American soprano Geraldine Farrar was followed about New York City by her imitative “Gerryflappers.” The towering Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin remained a permanent influence with his imperious, outsized dramatic naturalism. Kirsten Flagstad, a heroic Wagnerian soprano from Norway, and Lauritz Melchior, a bearish and big-voiced Danish-American tenor, both left their mark as Wagner specialists. Over time, the stature of these artists was attained by such greats as Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson; Australian soprano Joan Sutherland; American sopranos Maria Callas, Marilyn Horne, Jessye Norman, Beverly Sills, and Leontyne Price; New Zealand-born soprano Kiri Te Kanawa; Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli; American tenor Richard Tucker; Italian baritone Tito Gobbi; German bass-baritone Hans Hotter; American baritone Robert Merrill; Canadian tenor Jon Vickers; Bulgarian bass Boris Christoff; Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti; and Spanish tenors Plácido Domingo and José Carreras. Lagi


I. Pengertian

Ada bermacam-macam definisi tentang kesusastraan. Namun demikian, diskusi tentang hakikat sastra sampai sekarang masih hangat. Hal itu karena banyak definisi yang tidak memuaskan. Definisi-definisi yang pernah ada kurang memuaskan karena :

  1. Pada dasarnya sastra bukanlah ilmu, sastra adalah cabang seni. Seni sangat ditentukan oleh faktor manusia dan penafsiran, khususnya masalah perasaan, semangat, kepercayaan. Dengan demikian, sulit sekali dibuat batasan atau definisi sastra di mana definisi tersebut dihasilkan dari metode ilmiah.
  2. Orang ingin mendefinisikan terlalu banyak sekaligus. Seperti diketahui, karya sastra selalu melekat dengan situasi dan waktu penciptaannya. Karya sastra tahun 1920-an tentu berbeda dengan karya sastra tahun 1966. Kadang-kadang definisi kesusastraan ingin mencakup seluruhnya, sehingga mungkin tepat untuk satu kurun waktu tertentu tetapi ternyata kurang tepat untuk yang lain.
  3. Orang ingin mencari definisi ontologis tentang sastra (ingin mengungkap hakikat sastra). Karya sastra pada dasarnya merupakan hasil kreativitas manusia. Kreativitas merupakan sesuatu yang sangat unik dan individual. Oleh sebab itu sangat tidak memungkinkan jika orang mau mengungkap hakikat sastra.
  4. Orientasinya terlalu kebarat-baratan. Ketika orang mencoba mendefinisikan kesusastraan, orang cenderung mengambil referensi dari karya-karya barat. Padahal belum tentu telaah yang dilakukan untuk karya sastra Barat sesuai untuk diterapkan pada karya sastra Indonesia.
  5. Biasanya terjadi percampuran antara mendefinisikan sastra dan menilai bermutu tidaknya suatu karya sastra. Definisi mensyaratkan sesuatu rumusan yang universal, berlaku umum, sementara penilaian hanya berlaku untuk karya-karya tertentu yang diketahui oleh pembuat definisi.

Beberapa definisi yang pernah diungkapkan orang :

  1. Sastra adalah seni berbahasa.
  2. Sastra adalah ungkapan spontan dari perasaan yang mendalam.
  3. Sastra adalah ekspresi pikiran (pandangan, ide, perasaan, pemikiran) dalam bahasa.
  4. Sastra adalah inspirasi kehidupan yanag dimateraikan dalam sebuah bentuk keindahan.
  5. Sastra adalah buku-buku yang memuat perasaan kemanusiaan yang mendalam dan kebenaran moral dengan sentuhan kesucian, keluasan pandangan, dan bentuk yang mempesona.
  6. Sastra adalah ungkapan pribadi manusia yang berupa pengalaman, pemikiran, perasaan, ide, semangat, keyakainan dalam suatu bentuk gambaran kongkret yang membangkitkan pesona dengan alat bahasa.
  7. Sesuatu disebut teks sastra jika (1) teks tersebut tidak melulu disusun untuk tujuan komunikatif praktis atau sementara waktu, (2) teks tersebut mengandung unsur fiksionalitas, (3) teks tersebut menyebabkan pembaca mengambil jarak, (4) bahannya diolah secara istimewa, dan (5) mempunyai keterbukaan penafsiran.

Sampai saat ini ada keyakinan bahwa ada tiga hal yang membedakan karya sastra dengan karya tulis lainnya, yaitu

  1. sifat khayali
  2. adanya nilai-nilai seni/estetika
  3. penggunaan bahasa yang khas

II. Pembagian Jenis-jenis Sastra

Pembicaraan yang selama ini dilakukan ternyata hanya memberi perhatian pada tiga jenis karya sastra yaitu puisi, prosa cerita, dan drama. Hal itu memang logis karena tiga jenis tersebutlah yang mengandung unsur-unsur kesusastraan secara dominan (fiksi, imaji, dan rekaan). Namun, seiring dengan perkembangan dunia sastra akhir-akhir ini mulai terjadi pembatasan yang tipis antara khayalan dan kenyataan. Oleh sebab itu mulai dibicarakan pembagian sastra yanag lain.

Dalam perkembangan sastra akhir-akhir ini, karya sastra dapat dikelompokkan menjadi dua kelompok, yaitu (a) sastra imajinatif, dan (b) sastra non-imajinatif.

Sastra imajinatif mempunyai ciri

  1. isinya bersifat khayali
  2. menggunakan bahasa yang konotatif
  3. memenuhi syarat-syarat estetika seni.

Sedangkan sastra non-imajinatif mempunyai ciri-ciri

  1. isinya menekankan unsur faktual/faktanya.
  2. Menggunakan bahasa yang cenderung denotatif.
  3. Memenuhi unsur-unsur estetika seni.

Dengan demikian dapat dikatakan bahwa kesamaan antara sastra imajinatif dan non-imajinatif adalah masalah estetika seni. Unsur estetika seni meliputi keutuhan (unity), keselarasan (harmony), keseimbangan (balance), fokus/pusat penekanan suatu unsur (right emphasis). Sedangkan perbedaannya terletak pada isi dan bahasanya. Isi sastra imajinatif sepenuhnya bersifat khayal/fiktif, sedangkan isi sastra non-imajinantif didominasi oleh fakta-fakta. Bahasa sastra imajinatif cenderung konotatif, sedangkan bahasa sastra non-imajinatif cenderung denotatif.

Bentuk karya sastra yang termasuk karya sastra imajinatif adalah

  1. Puisi                : 1. Epik        2. Lirik               3. dramatik
  2. Prosa               : 1. Fiksi (novel, cerpen, roman) dan       2. Drama (drama prosa, drama puisi)

Bentuk karya sastra yang termasuk sastra non-imajinatif adalah

  1. Esai, yaitu karangan pendek tentang suatu fakta yang dikupas menurut pandangan pribadi penulisnya.
  2. Kritik, adalah analisis untuk menilai suatu karya seni atau karya sastra.
  3. Biografi, adalah cerita tentang hidup seseorang yang ditulis oleh orang lain.
  4. Otobiografi, adalah biografi yang ditulis oleh tokohnya sendiri.
  5. Sejarah, adalah cerita tentang zaman lampau suatu masyarakat berdasarkan sumber tertulis maupun tidak tertulis.
  6. Memoar, adalah otobiografi tentang sebagian pengalaman hidup saja.
  7. Catatan harian, adalah catataan seseorang tentang dirinya atau lingkungannya yang ditulis secara teratur.

III. Unsur-unsur Pembentuk Karya Sastra

Sebenarnya sangat sulit menjelaskan unsur-unsur yang membentuk suatu karya sastra. Namun, setidak-tidaknya hal itu dapat didekati dari dua sisi. Pertama kita lihat dari definisi-definisi yang telah diungkapkan. Dari definisi-definisi yang sudah ada, ada unsur-unsur yang selalu disinggung. Unsur-unsur tersebut dapat dipandang sebagai unsur-unsur yang dianggap sebagai pembentuk karya sastra.

Menurut Luxemburg (1992:4-6) beberapa ciri yang selalu muncul dari definisi-definisi yang pernah diungkapkan antara lain :

  1. Sastra merupakan ciptaan atau kreasi, bukan pertama-tama imitasi.
  2. Sastra bersifat otonom (menciptakan dunianya sendiri), terlepas dari dunia nyata.
  3. Sastra mempunyai ciri koherensi atau keselarasan antara bentuk dan isinya.
  4. Sastra menghidangkan sintesa (jalan tengah) antara hal-hal yang saling bertentangan.
  5. Sastra berusaha mengungkapkan hal yang tidak terungkapkan.

Pendekatan kedua dapat dilihat dengan cara melihat bagaimana seorang juri atau editor mempertimbangkan mutu sebuah karya sastra.

Jakob Sumardjo dan Zaini KM (1988:5-8) mengajukan sepuluh syarat karya sastra bermutu, yaitu

  1. Karya sastra adalah usaha merekam isi jiwa sastrawannya.
  2. Sastra adalah komunikasi, artinya bisa dipahami oleh orang lain.
  3. Sastra adalah sebuah keteraturan, artinya tunduk pada kaidah-kaidah seni.
  4. Sastra adalah penghiburan, artinya mampu memberi rasa puas atau rasa senang pada pembaca.
  5. Sastra adalah sebuah integrasi, artinya terdapat keserasian antara isi, bentuk, bahasa, dan ekspresi pribadi pengarangnya.
  6. Sebuah karya sastra yang bermutu merupakan penemuan.
  7. Karya yang bermutu merupakan (totalitas) ekspresi sastrawannya.
  8. Karya sastra yang bermutu merupakan sebuah karya yang pekat, artinya padat isi dan bentuk, bahasa dan ekspresi.
  9. Karya sastra yang bermutu merupakan (hasil) penafsiran kehidupan.
  10. Karya sastra yang bermutu merupakan sebuah pembaharuan.

Berbeda dengan Jakob Sumardjo dan Zaini KM, Luxemburg berpendapat bahwa

  1. Karya sastra adalah teks-teks yang tidak melulu disusun untuk tujuan komunikasi praktis dan sementara waktu.
  2. Karya sastra adalah teks-teks yang mengandung unsur fiksionalitas.
  3. Karya sastra adalah jika pembacanya mengambil jarak dengan teks tersebut.
  4. Bahannya diolah secara istimewa.
  5. Karya sastra dapat kita baca menurut tahap-tahap arti yang berbeda-beda.
  6. Karena sifat rekaannya sastra secara langsung tidak mengatakan sesuatu mengenai kenyataan dan juga tidak menggugak kita untuk langsung bertindak.
  7. Sambil membaca karya sastra tersebut kita dapat mengadakan identifikasi dengan seorang tokoh atau dengan orang-orang lain.
  8. Bahasa sastra dan pengolahan bahan lewaat sastra dapat membuka batin kita bagi pengalaman-pengalaman baru.
  9. Bahasa dan sarana-sarana sastra lainnya mempunyai suatu nilai tersendiri.
  10. Sastra sering digunakan untuk mencetuskan pendapat yang hidup dalam masyarakat.

Daftar Pustaka

Luxemburg, Jan van, Mieke Bal, dan Willem G. Weststeijn. 1992. Pengantar Ilmu Sastra. Jakarta : Gramedia Pustaka Utama.

Sumardjo, Jakob, dan Sauni K.M. 1988. Apresiasi Kesusastraan. Jakarta : Gramedia.



Theater, one of the oldest and most popular forms of entertainment, in which actors perform live for an audience on a stage or in an other space designated for the performance. The space set aside for performances, either permanently or temporarily, is also known as a theater.

A prominent theater director, Peter Brook of Britain, has said that for theater to take place, an actor walks across an empty space while someone else is watching. In this empty space, called a stage, actors present themselves in a story about some aspect of human experience. The actors, the audience, and the space are three essentials of theater. The fourth is the performance, or the actors’ creative work in production. The performance is very often a play—a tragedy, comedy, or musical—but it need not be. Theater performances include vaudeville, puppet shows, mime, and other forms of entertainment.

Anthropologists and theater historians trace the origins of theater to myth and ritual found in dances and mimed performances by masked dancers during fertility rites and other ceremonies that marked important passages in life. Early societies acted out patterns of life, death, and rebirth associated with the welfare of village tribes. Imitation, costumes, masks, makeup, gesture, dance, music, and pantomime were some of the theatrical elements found in early rituals. At some unrecorded time, these ceremonies and rituals became formalized in dramatic festivals and spread west from Greece and east from India.


Fundamental to the theater experience is the act of seeing and being seen; in fact, the word theater comes from the Greek word theatron, meaning ‘seeing place.’ Throughout the history of world cultures, actors have used a variety of locations for theater, including amphitheaters, churches, marketplaces, garages, street corners, warehouses, and formal buildings. It is not the building that makes theater but rather the use of space for actors to imitate human experience before audiences.

In addition to the actor and the audience in a space, other elements of theater include a written or improvised text, costumes, scenery, lights, sound, and properties (props). Most theatrical performances require the collaborative efforts of many creative people working toward a common goal: the production.

Theatrical texts, often referred to as drama, usually provide the vital framework of a performance. Greek philosopher Aristotle, writing in the 4th century bc, thought of drama as the most direct response to humanity’s need to imitate experience. The word drama has its source in the Greek verb dran, meaning “to do,” “to act,” or “to perform.” Aristotle further defined drama as ‘an imitation of an action.’ His concept of imitation (mimesis, in Greek) begins with the playwright’s deliberate selection and arrangement of events, words, and images into a dramatic pattern that makes up a meaningful course of human events. In Aristotle’s famous definition, drama is an imitation of an action that is whole, complete, and of a certain magnitude or scope. See also Drama and Dramatic Arts; Comedy; Tragedy.


Theater can serve many ends. It can be designed to entertain, instruct, motivate, persuade, and even shock. But whatever the intentions of the director, performers, and crew, the result depends on the interaction with an audience. The audience for theater differs from the reader of a novel or the viewer of a painting in that it assembles as a group at a given time and place to share in the performance with the actors and all the surrounding elements of light, sound, music, costumes, and scenery. The audience affects the performance by providing the performers with immediate feedback, such as laughter, tears, applause, or silence. Each night there is continuous interaction between the auditorium and the stage.

Some audiences want only to be entertained. Others want the theater to provide new insight and understanding about political, social, or personal issues. Throughout history theater has reflected and, at times, commented on the society in which it takes place. In many repressive and authoritarian regimes theater provides entertainment to distract audiences from the brutal conditions under which they live or to serve as lessons in the virtues of the ruling powers. In Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, for example, theater and motion pictures were used to extol the virtues of Adolf Hitler’s regime.

Ultimately, audiences make their opinions known through their attendance or nonattendance. They support what appeals to them and generally fail to support what they find distasteful, offensive, or incomprehensible.

The terms presentational theater and representational theater are often used to describe two different approaches to accomplishing the goals of a production. A presentational style offers a performance with full recognition that the actors are at work on a stage, speaking and acting out a script with music, under lights, and in costumes. There is no attempt to disguise the fact that a theatrical performance is taking place to entertain or instruct audiences. Plays from ancient Greece and from the time of English playwright William Shakespeare are produced in this forthright manner, as are many modern experimental plays. Musicals and traditional Asian theater also fall into this general category.

A representational style of production evolved in Europe in the mid-19th century as writers, directors, and designers set about to show candid truths about ordinary existence within recognizable environments. Two movements—realism in the 1850s and naturalism in the 1870s—presented familiar characters in specific environments, such as living rooms, kitchens, or flophouses. The purpose of the detailed environment was to show how a person’s character and life choices are determined in part by environmental or social forces and in part by gender or genetic forces. Visual elements—such as clothing, furnishings, and stage properties—became very specific to the environment. Actors worked within a picture-frame stage—a stage separated from the audience by an arch or rectangular frame—with the understanding that the imaginary fourth wall of their environment was removed to allow audiences to look into the lives of the characters. Dramatists who pioneered the writing of plays for the new realist production style include Henrik Ibsen of Norway, August Strindberg of Sweden, Émile Zola of France, and Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov of Russia.


Theater is a diverse and complex art. It requires collaboration among many artists, craftspeople, and managers in order to create a performance for audiences. Since the time of the ancient Greeks, theatrical events have included such production elements as costumes, scenery, properties, music, and choreography. Lighting and sound are more recent additions. Each element in today’s theater has its own designer, composer, or choreographer, who collaborates with the director to focus the audience’s attention on the actor in the special environment or seeing place.

A Theater Companies

Organizations that produce theater today range from commercial theaters on Broadway in New York City or the West End in London, England, to nonprofit resident companies subsidized by boards of directors, government agencies, and corporations. Commercial producers organize single productions, such as The Sound of Music, The Phantom of the Opera, or Ragtime, for the purpose of staging the work and making money for investors. Educational theater programs and amateur theaters organize their efforts in ways similar to commercial theaters.

Resident theater companies, which typically are nonprofit organizations, produce a wide variety of works. Resident groups, composed of actors, directors, designers, craftspeople, and managers, are subsidized through the theater’s box office, government grants, and contributions from businesses and individuals. Like commercial theaters, nonprofit companies are located all around the world. Some prominent examples are the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the Royal National Theatre in London; and the Moscow Art Theater in Russia. Unlike commercial theaters, which specialize in one production at a time, resident companies usually produce a season of plays in sequence, or several plays in repertory that are rotated week after week over a period of time. Some resident companies were built around the artistic vision of a director. Prominent examples include Trevor Nunn at the Royal National Theatre; Peter Brook at the International Center of Theatre Research in Paris, France; and Ariane Mnouchkine at the Théâtre du Soleil in Paris. In the United States more than 60 professional resident theaters have artistic or producing directors as their leaders. The Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.; American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Seattle Repertory Theatre in Washington State; and the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California, are a few of the most distinguished professional, nonprofit theaters in the United States.

B Theater Personnel

All theaters, regardless of size or purpose, require artistic, managerial, and technical people as part of a permanent staff to prepare and present productions on a predetermined schedule. Commercial and noncommercial production staffs vary only in size and complexity. In general, the artistic or creative staff consists of a director, designers, and actors. Sometimes a playwright, dramaturge (literary manager), choreographer, musical director, composer, voice and dialect coach, and fight director are added to the staff when necessary and affordable. The administrative staff includes the producer, casting director, managers, box-office personnel, publicist, house managers, and ushers. The technical staff includes the stage manager, production manager, technical director, construction staff (scenery, costumes, properties), sound and electrical technicians, and running crews. In smaller nonprofit, educational, or community theaters, personnel may assume responsibility for several positions or duties.

B1 The Producer

In commercial and nonprofit theaters, the producer is the person who puts together the financing, management staff, and the artistic team to produce the show. The producer is ordinarily not directly involved in the day-to-day artistic development of the production but has the authority to hire (and dismiss) artistic personnel. In this way, the producer may put a kind of stamp on the overall artistic effect of the production. Britain’s Cameron Mackintosh is one of the most successful producers in today’s commercial English-language theater, with the musicals Cats (1982) and Phantom of the Opera (1988) among his credits. A noted producer in the United States was Joseph Papp, who founded the New York Shakespeare Festival in the city’s Central Park. He also launched such Broadway hits as Hair (1968) and A Chorus Line (1975).

In today’s American commercial theater, several producers are often needed to acquire the funding needed to mount a large musical on Broadway. In effect, the commercial producer, with the help of assistants, licenses a playwright’s script, raises funds from investors (so-called angels or backers), hires the artistic staff, rents a theater, negotiates with unions, rents theatrical equipment (such as lights or a sound board), oversees publicity and ticket sales, and takes responsibility for all financial aspects of the production. Usually, the producer works in tandem with a general manager and others to accomplish the daily running of the production, from rehearsals to closing. The producer also supervises the sale of subsidiary rights to touring companies and the recording industry, or for film or television adaptations and broadcasts.

In nonprofit regional (or provincial in Canada) companies, the producer is often the group’s artistic director. In this role he or she selects a season of several plays, hires the artistic teams and technical staff, works with a casting director to audition and cast actors in the various parts, controls the theater’s funding, and acts as the final authority in all artistic and administrative operations.

B2 The Director

Directors assume responsibility for the overall interpretation of a script, and they have the authority to approve, control, and coordinate all the elements of a production. Since the 1860s in Europe, the presence of a single artist guiding all artistic or creative aspects of a production has been an accepted practice. Before that time, leading actors, theater managers, and playwrights staged plays, dictated financial matters, and made decisions on casting, scenery, and costumes. As these artist-managers gave greater attention to creating a unified artistic product on stage, the role of the modern director took shape. The efforts of Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen in Germany, André Antoine in France, and Konstantin Stanislavsky in Russia defined the modern director’s role as the single artist responsible for all creative decisions, resulting in a production that is a harmonious and unified entity.

Today, the stage director collaborates with the playwright, actors, designers, and technicians to stage a carefully crafted vision of life based upon his or her interpretation of the script. In all events, the director is the controlling artist responsible for unifying the production elements. The director works intensely with actors in rehearsals, helping them discover their characters’ inner lives and project their discoveries vocally and visually to the audience. Directors vary in how they approach the interpretation of the script and the rehearsal process, but the final goal is the unified production. Audiences today experience a production largely through the director’s imagination, making the director as distinct a force in the modern theater as the playwright. Notable 20th-century directors include Max Reinhardt and Bertolt Brecht of Germany, Jean-Louis Barrault and Ariane Mnouchkine of France, Elia Kazan of the United States, Peter Brook and Sir Peter Hall of Britain, Giorgio Strehler of Italy, and Ingmar Bergman of Sweden. See also Directing.

B3 The Performers

The actor is the creative artist most identified by audiences with their experience of theater. Actors portray their characters’ wants and needs through believable personal behavior that mirrors the characters’ psychological and emotional lives within the world of the play. British actor Sir Laurence Olivier once said that acting ‘is an everlasting search for truth.’ Acting begins with an individual’s talent, imagination, discipline, the need to express, and the process of observation through the sensory organs—eyes, ears, skin, tongue, nose. Reduced to its simplest terms, the actor’s goal is to tell the character’s circumstances within the story of the play. Through years of training with skilled coaches and through meticulous homework and long rehearsals, the actor is able to convey the psychological and emotional truth of the character’s behavior within the context of the play. The successful actor combines inner belief in the role with learned technique to create a sense of life taking place on stage as if for the very first time.

Throughout the ages, performers have been jugglers, mimes, minstrels, puppeteers, acrobats, clowns, singers, dancers, and amateur and professional actors. The first performers were most likely singers and dancers, as the first performances had no spoken dialogue. Of the earliest actors nothing is known, but in ancient Greece they were men who were participants in religious ceremonies. Attitudes toward the acting profession have varied greatly depending on the culture. Some actors have enjoyed praise and been celebrated as national treasures, while others have been excluded from religious participation or labeled vagabonds and rogues and denied the rights of citizenship. It was not until the 19th century that actors in England achieved a respected social status that culminated in 1895 when Henry Irving received the first knighthood bestowed upon an actor.

Women have had a more difficult history as performers. They did not perform in ancient Greece at all, and only prostitutes were permitted to appear on stage in ancient Rome. Some records suggest that women may have appeared as Eve in biblical dramatizations during medieval times. The professional actress first appeared in Italy in the commedia dell’arte, a form of improvisational theater that originated in the 16th century, and women began appearing on the French and English stages in the 17th century. The profession remains today a challenging one for both men and women.

Most professional stage actors in the United States are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the actors’ union. In the United Kingdom, the union is called British Equity Association. Although the great majority of union actors remain unemployed (as performers) much of the time, their chances for acting work are improved if they have an agent to represent them. Agents work through casting directors, who seek actors for auditions in order to cast them in productions or companies. The majority of acting jobs in the United States are found in regional theaters located across the nation. See also Acting.

B4 The Designers

Designers collaborate with directors to create an environment for a play. That environment may be a well-appointed living room or a run-down tenement apartment, or it may be a nightclub setting or an empty stage for a chorus-line audition. The designers’ work is to shape and fill the stage space and to make the play’s world visible and interesting. In the modern theater various artists are responsible for different design effects. There are four principal types of designers: scene, costume, lighting, and sound.

B4a The Scene Designer

The modern scene designer, also known as the scenic designer or set designer, emerged in the late 19th century out of the work of the scenic artist, who painted large pieces of scenery for the theater manager. In those days scenery’s main function was to provide a painted background for the actors and to indicate place and period. By the end of the 19th century, the requirements for realistic settings and furniture to make the stage look convincingly like the play’s actual setting called for a new theatrical artist—the scene designer.

Scene design can vary widely in style, ranging from the requirements of realism to theatricalism. Realism has been the dominant convention of modern theater, and it calls for the designer to create a stage environment that accurately represents real places, furniture, curtains, and so on. Stage realism pretends that the stage is not a stage but an actual living room, bar, street corner, or other environment. In contrast, scenic theatricalism expresses and symbolizes the play’s atmosphere and imaginative life, rather than attempting to reproduce realistic details of place, lifestyle, and social and economic status.

In the early 20th century designers Adolphe Appia of Switzerland and Gordon Craig of Britain led a revolution against realistic stage design. They were concerned with creating mood and atmosphere, opening up the stage for large symbolic scenic pieces, and making theatrical design more expressive by using platforms, ramps, steps, panels, and drapes. The aim was to make the audience’s experience more theatrical by emphasizing language, sound, lighting, the actors’ presence, and the spectators’ imagination, instead of distracting the audience with a detailed set. This so-called new stagecraft was introduced to Broadway by Robert Edmond Jones and Lee Simonson in the 1920s. Today, such international designers as Ming Cho Lee, John Napier, and Josef Svoboda work within these design traditions in order to serve the requirements of productions ranging from Broadway musicals to single-set dramas of domestic life.

B4b The Costume Designer

The costume designer is the creative artist responsible for the look of the characters and its contribution to the play’s inner meaning. Modern costume design includes a character’s garments, accessories, hairstyle or wig, makeup, and masks, if required. As a design element, costumes help establish a character’s social class, economic status, age, and occupation. They can also assist in identifying a play’s time period, geographic location, weather, and time of day. They help clarify relationships between characters (servant to master, for example) and a character’s emotional state (for instance, Masha in The Seagull by Russian writer Anton Chekhov wears black to reflect her melancholy). During the Renaissance (14th century to 17th century), signature costumes and masks readily identified the stock characters of commedia dell’arte.

From ancient Greek times to the mid-19th century in Europe, actors wore clothing of their time. The actor, manager, director, or wardrobe person was responsible for costumes worn on stage and gave little attention to the unity of visual elements. By the 20th century, the complex demands of stage production required specialized, trained costume designers to design, select, and control the elements of clothing as they relate to the total production design.

Like the scene designer, modern costume designers work with directors to make visible the world in which the characters live. They supplement the director’s understanding of the play and the characters’ lives visually through clothing, paying close attention to fabric, color, texture, and style. One award-winning costume designer has said that costumes serve a producer’s vision, a director’s viewpoint, and an actor’s comfort. In the commercial theater, costume designers have their own design studios and utilize construction shops with managers, cutters, drapers, and stitchers to execute their designs for Broadway musicals or regional productions.

Makeup enhances an actor’s visibility and makes facial features distinctive. Like a costume, it helps an actor reveal character by giving physical clues to personality, age, background, race, health, and environment. In ancient Greek and Asian theater, actors wore masks or used white lead makeup with strong accents of color. In the modern Western theater, basic makeup that consists of a foundation and color shadings is used to prevent the actor from appearing washed out beneath powerful stage lights. Costume designers label makeup straight, character, or fantasy, depending on the way it is used. Straight makeup highlights an actor’s normal features and coloring for distinctness and visibility. Character or illustrative makeup transforms an actor’s features, usually with false noses, wrinkles, eyelashes, eye pouches, teeth, or facial hair. Fantasy makeup alters the actor’s appearance in a fantastic or unrealistic way. Actors appearing in the musical Cats, for example, require fantasy makeup and wigs to appear as the various felines. In Asian theater, bold makeup is often used. In China’s Beijing Opera, for example, male roles require makeup and beards, while most female roles require white painted faces with deep red and pink shading around the eyes.

Wigs are designed by a wig specialist and are used to lend authenticity to plays set in historical periods or to alter entirely the actor’s normal appearance. In all instances, makeup, wigs, and hair require the costume designer’s approval.

Mask-making is an ancient art dating from early cultures, where masks were thought to possess supernatural powers. Masks have been part of the early theatrical traditions of both East and West. The use of masks was common in ancient Greek and Roman theater, commedia dell’arte, and Japanese nō plays. Masks enlarge the actor’s features for visibility at great distances, and they express basic emotions, such as grief, anger, horror, sadness, or pity. They also can create an altogether different presence for the actor wearing the mask. That presence can be stately, heroic, awesome, or mysterious. If the mask reflects light, it can even appear to change expression as the light changes. Today, masks are comfortable, strong, lightweight, and molded to the contours of the actor’s face. The costume designer has final approval of the actor’s mask.

B4c The Lighting Designer

Modern stage lighting affects what audiences see. Carefully planned lighting can establish mood and color, control the audience’s focus of attention, and enhance the meaning of the play.

Once stage productions moved into enclosed buildings (and away from natural light), candles and then gas lamps were used to illuminate the stage. In 1879 the invention of electric light transformed the possibilities for the use of light as an artistic medium in the theater. The ability to control lighting effects made it possible to include a range of colors and intensities, create mood and atmosphere, and highlight areas of the stage. In the late 19th century Adolphe Appia first envisioned the possibilities of light as an artistic medium in the theater, and modern lighting design still follows his theories and practices. Today’s lighting designer uses sophisticated equipment, such as computerized light boards and a variety of instruments, to achieve the desired effects. Like the theater’s other designers, the artist responsible for lighting design collaborates with the director and other designers to achieve a unified interpretation of the play.

B4d The Sound Designer

The sound designer is the theater’s newest artist. The technological capability today for both live and recorded sound has brought the sound designer onto the director’s creative team to provide sounds of nature, such as rain or dogs barking; locations, such as doorbells, trains, or airplanes; and abstract sounds to underscore moods of romance or treachery, for example. Working with the director, the sound designer plots the effects required by the script and adds a creative element to enhance atmosphere and psychological meaning. The technology available to the sound designer includes tape recorders and playback units, microphones and turntables, mixers and amplifiers, elaborate speaker systems, and control consoles.

B5 Related Theater Personnel

In rehearsals and workshops, additional personnel may be on the theater’s permanent staff or employed as required. The casting director is employed by the producer to assist in arranging casting sessions. In these sessions, agents send professional actors to audition for previously announced roles. In the United States, such auditions occur most often in New York City; Chicago, Illinois; or Los Angeles, California.

The dramaturge, or literary manager, has become a permanent staff member of regional theaters in North America and Europe. The dramaturge works with the director to select and prepare scripts for performance, advises the director and actors on the details of the play’s history and interpretation, and prepares material such as program notes to help the audience better appreciate and enjoy the play. In addition, the voice and dialect coach and the fight director have become indispensable members of many theater companies. The voice and dialect coach advises actors on audibility, diction, and comprehension, while the fight director ensures the actors’ safety by choreographing and rehearsing any fight scenes. Staging a musical requires a musical director and a choreographer. The musical director oversees the performances of the musicians and singers, and the choreographer is responsible for hiring dancers and preparing dance numbers.

C Theater Architecture

Throughout Western theatrical history, there have been six major types of theater buildings and basic arrangements of audience seating: (1) the proscenium or picture-frame stage, (2) the arena stage, or theater in the round, (3) the thrust or open stage, (4) the amphitheater, (5) the black box or studio, and (6) created or found space. All are still used but with varying degrees of popularity.

The proscenium or picture-frame stage is the most prevalent type of theater architecture in the West. The word proscenium, used by the Romans, originally referred to the area in front of the stage. Today, it refers to the wall with a large center opening that separates the audience from the stage. In the past the opening was called an arch or proscenium arch, but the shape of the opening is more rectangular than oval. In this type of theater, the audience faces in the direction of the proscenium opening and looks into the stage, which is framed by the opening. The auditorium floor slants downward from the back toward the stage to provide greater visibility for the audience. Often at least one balcony is above the auditorium floor, protruding about a quarter of the way over the main floor. A curtain located just behind the proscenium opening hides or reveals the events taking place on stage. The proscenium wall conceals the complicated stage machinery and lighting instruments required by modern theater production.

The arena stage, also called a theater in the round, places the stage at the center of a square or circle. Seating for the audience surrounds the stage. This stage offers more intimacy between actor and audience, since the playing space has no barrier separating them. In addition, productions can usually be staged on relatively low budgets since a large, complex set would partially obscure the audience’s view of the actors. In the mid-20th century, American director Margo Jones initiated the development of modern arena stage design in the United States.

The thrust or open stage consists of a platform stage that thrusts out into the audience, which is seated on three sides or in a semicircle around a low platform stage. At the back of the stage are a proscenium wall and an opening. These provide entrances and exits as well as space for scenery and visual elements. In the 1950s and 1960s, a number of important thrust stages were built in the United States and Canada, including the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Stratford Festival Theater in Ontario, Canada.

An amphitheater is an open-air building with tiers of seats surrounding a central area, as in a sports stadium or an open-air auditorium. The term originated to describe a Roman open-air building with tiers of seats, generally oval in shape, which was intended for staging gladiatorial contests, wild beast shows, or mock sea battles. The Colosseum in Rome, the most famous amphitheater, was completed in ad 80 and still stands today. In the United States, outdoor theaters, another name for amphitheaters, are often used for historical pageants or other summertime celebrations.

The black box is a type of minimal performance space developed in the 1960s in the United States for inexpensive experimental work or new plays. Essentially a large, rectangular room painted a flat black or muted color, the black-box theater is usually equipped with a complex overhead lighting grid and movable seating (usually about 50 to 200 seats). The movable seating permits flexibility with the shape and size of the performance space. The Cottesloe Theatre, part of Britain’s Royal National Theatre, is a black-box theater with galleries (balconies) on three sides of the rectangular room. The galleries are permanent, but the risers of seats positioned along the floor are movable.

The search for alternative or environmental performance spaces, also called created or found space, although international, is associated in the United States with protest movements of the 1960s. In their revolt against society and the cultural establishment at that time, artistic groups created theatrical performances that rejected conventional stages and seating arrangements. Sometimes the audience became a part of the playing space. Streets, garages, warehouses, lofts, and halls became performance spaces. Jerzy Grotowski, a Polish director, introduced the concept of poor theater—theater without costumes, scenery, makeup, stage lighting, or sound effects. All that was needed were the essentials: the actor and the audience in the bare space. The Living Theatre, the Performance Group, the Open Theater, and the Bread and Puppet Theater were among the American groups active in the search for alternative spaces in which to convey new messages about American society.


All cultures have theatrical performances and special places for viewing these events. In Eastern and Western cultures, the conventions of performance and production have varied in approaches to texts, subjects, acting styles, and production elements. The examination of African, Asian, European, and North American theater traditions that follows will reveal some of these differences.

A African Theater

The earliest performance areas in Africa were used for rituals dealing with life and death. Like early performers in the West, the priest in African villages performed in an open circle, a hut, or an enclosure that he shared with onlookers. African theater today is a mixture of native traditions and European traditions, a mixture influenced by colonial educational systems and warring political factions within the individual countries. Most formal theatrical activity in Africa receives government funding and is encouraged as a means of preserving native cultures that continue to be threatened by urbanization and westernization.

African traditions of professional entertainment date back to ancient times. Storytelling, music, and dance have all played a central role in African culture, because they help preserve history and religious and social customs (see African Music: African Music in Society). Traditional drama in Africa combines storytelling, songs, and dances with costumes, masks, mime, and drumming. Another important part of that tradition are traveling entertainers, including griots (poets) and singers who praise tribal leaders and other important figures. Playwrights today draw upon these traditions for dramatic material. Contemporary social issues or political events, such as the struggle for independence or tribal warfare, also supply themes and plots for plays.

British and French colonists brought Western traditions of theater to Africa. Shakespeare’s Hamlet was performed on a British ship off the coast of Africa as early as 1607. The British encouraged amateur theatricals in all British-ruled territories as a means of educating Africans and spreading Christianity. The Donovan Maule Theatre in Nairobi, Kenya, was founded in 1947 as a modern professional company on the British model. Likewise, French colonialists laid the groundwork for Afro-French theater. Drama in French West Africa was fostered by French-language academies.

In West Africa, theater artists received their training in public schools and universities fashioned after European models. Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka of Nigeria founded the Orisun Theatre in Nigeria in 1963 to perform his plays and those of other Nigerian writers. East Africa has a stronger tradition of amateur and educational theater than West Africa, in part because of the involvement of East Africa’s large European population. Moreover, large numbers of East Africans speak the same language, Swahili, which facilitates theater production. See also African Theater.

B Asian Theater

Rich traditions of theater practice thrive throughout Asia. Until the 20th century, geography, culture, and politics separated the theater traditions of the East from those of the West. Only in modern times have Asian theatrical traditions influenced Western directors, actors, designers, and theorists. Even though Western theater practices are known in Asia, the traditional staging of classical works of Asian theater remains popular. This section focuses on the theater of China, Japan, and India. For more information, especially on the theater of other Asian countries, see Asian Theater.

B1 China

In China, as in other cultures, theatrical performances arose out of ancient rituals. Theater traditions also absorbed influences from acrobatics and joking of court jesters. Around the time of the Han dynasty (206 bc to ad 220), storytellers combined singing and dancing with their craft. During the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), known as the classical age of Chinese theater, dramatists created plays from history, legend, epics, and contemporary events. These plays were performed on bare stages decorated with a large, embroidered tapestry hanging between two doors in the rear. Performers wore colorful clothes of the period and elaborate makeup.

Chinese theater today consists chiefly of classical drama from the Yuan dynasty, Peking Opera, and many types of local theater. Peking Opera combines spoken dialogue, operatic singing, dancing, and acrobatics. It arose in the 18th century and by the mid-19th century had become the dominant form of popular theater in China. Its subject matter is derived from legends, historical anecdotes, and well-known novels, and its plots usually reward goodness and punish evil. The traditional opera stage is an open, raised platform covered by a roof that is supported by lacquered columns. As in classical Chinese theater, a large, embroidered curtain hangs between two doors at the rear of the stage. Properties are minimal and have standard meanings. Depending on the way the actor uses it, a table might serve as an altar or a bridge, and an oar might represent a boat. Costumes indicate social rank, character, and occasion through their style and color, and elaborate makeup suggests character traits and gender. From the age of ten, actors (all male) undergo years of strenuous training for the Peking Opera and are eventually selected for roles that they continue to play throughout their professional lives. In the early 20th century actor Mei Lanfang became one of the most famous interpreters of female roles in Peking Opera. See also Chinese Music.

Spoken drama in China developed during the early 20th century, as the country increasingly came into contact with foreign cultures. Playwrights Tian Han and Cao Yu were among the first to write original Chinese drama, addressing such issues as class struggle and political oppression. After Japan invaded China in 1937, the theater in China was increasingly used to voice anti-Japanese sentiment.

In 1949, with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, government control over theater increased. Plays were based upon officially approved models that dealt with problems of the new society under Communism. The government encouraged communes and factories to mount amateur performances of standard works. Only a handful of plays were approved for performance during the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976), when the government attempted to remake Chinese society and culture. All other works and their authors were banned as immoral or counter-revolutionary. After the Cultural Revolution ended, the theater revived in China with presentations of both Peking Opera and Western-style spoken drama.

The Peking Opera and its conventions have fascinated Westerners. Western dramatists and directors who have acknowledged Chinese influences in their work include Bertolt Brecht, Antonin Artaud, Ariane Mnouchkine, Jerzy Grotowski, and Americans Harold Prince and Julie Taymor.

B2 Japan

Japan’s two major forms of theater are and kabuki. The nō theater ( means ‘accomplishment’) arose in the 14th century largely at the hands of the dramatist Zeami for the entertainment of court society, and it has remained unchanged since the 17th century. The same is true of the kabuki theater, which has been popular since about 1600.

Nō theater is highly stylized for enacting stories from the classical literature of Japan. A temple roof supported by four columns rises above the stage, which is divided into two areas: the stage proper and the bridge, which actors use for entrances and exits. A hurry door, which is in the wall at the back of the stage, is used by minor characters, musicians, and stage assistants for quick exits and entrances. Scenery consists of three small pine trees that stand for heaven, earth, and humanity, and a larger pine tree, which is painted on the center wall and represents the play’s earthly setting. Musicians who play the flute and drums sit on stage, along with the chorus, which narrates many of the play’s events. The actors (all male) wear colorful silk costumes, rich headdresses, and painted wooden masks that designate types (for example, men, women, deities, monsters, and spirits). A nō performance is slow and stately by Western standards.

In contrast, the popular kabuki theater is energetic. Dating from the 17th century, it emerged in urban areas, especially Edo (Tokyo’s historic center), Kyōto, and Ōsaka. The kabuki stage combines thrust and proscenium stages. The stage covers the entire front of the auditorium and is approached by a ramp that connects the rear of the auditorium to the stage proper. The actors (all male) use this runway for dramatic entrances and exits. The proscenium stage is long, often 27 meters (90 feet), and has a low opening, or arch. Musicians sit onstage and accompany the stage action. Kabuki plays once required a full day to perform, but today they last about five hours. Their subjects involve feuds, revenge, adventure, and romance, and their staging features elaborate scenic effects.

Like nō actors, kabuki actors are trained from childhood. The women’s parts are performed by male actors skilled in their ability to convey feminine gestures and sensibilities. Actors wear boldly patterned makeup that signifies the roles (heroes, villains, children, women), and each role also has a conventional costume based on historical dress. Japan’s greatest playwright, Chikamatsu Monzaemon, wrote for kabuki, which flourishes today. See also Japanese Drama.

B3 India

India has a long history of theatrical activity, yet no clear theatrical centers until recently. The absence of a national language also hindered the development of an identifiable native drama. Sixteen major languages and hundreds of dialects are in use in India today.

Theater in India may have originated as early as the 3rd century bc and was influenced by the Hindu religion, the caste system, and literature in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. The earliest theater was patronized by the ruling classes. Two great Sanskrit epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana, made up of history, legend, and myth, became the major sources of material for early Sanskrit dramatists. The Natya Shastra (The Science of Dramaturgy), a Sanskrit handbook probably completed sometime around ad 200, codifies practices in drama, dance, acting, costume, and makeup. Ancient tradition assigns this work to Bharata, the eldest member of a legendary family, who learned the art of theater directly from Brahma, the creator-god, and passed it down to his many actor-sons. Ancient theater was, therefore, regarded as a sacred art descended directly from a Hindu god to human beings. Women were admitted to theatrical companies when another Hindu deity pointed out that women made exceptional dancers.

The earliest theatrical performances took place in palaces and temples. When theaters were built, the auditorium was divided by four pillars painted white, red, yellow, and blue to indicate social castes, and spectators sat near the pillar that corresponded to their caste. A curtain divided the stage in half, with the front half used for the performance and the rear for dressing rooms or other offstage functions. Although paintings and carvings decorated the stage, there was no scenery, and the actor indicated the locale through spoken description or mime. Attention focused on the actor, whose movements, gestures, costumes, and makeup had been codified by early Hindu writings. Each play was accompanied by musicians and singers.

Sanskrit drama was organized around rasas (moods), which ranged from furious to peaceful, and ended with good triumphing over evil. Dialogue was a mixture of verse and prose spoken in classical Sanskrit, the learned language spoken by gods, kings, generals, and sages; and Prakrit, the everyday dialects of Sanskrit used by women, children, servants, and people of low birth. Thirteen plays by Bhasa, written as early as the 3rd century ad, are the oldest surviving complete Sanskrit dramas. Shakuntala, written in the late 4th or early 5th century ad by Kalidasa, a court poet and dramatist, is considered the finest of all Sanskrit dramas. Based on an episode from the Mahabharata, it recounts a love story with insight and sympathy.

Popular forms of entertainment, including shadow-puppet plays (see Puppets), folk drama, and dance, began to replace Sanskrit drama in the 7th century. By the 10th century companies were touring and performing plays in regional languages. By the 15th century many regional theatrical forms had emerged, dominated by folk plays that were performed outdoors, often with spectators surrounding the performance space. Many of these plays featured legendary heroes, along with themes of love and chivalry.

Modern Indian theater owes its origins and development to the growth of urban centers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Kolkata, Madras, and Bombay evolved as theatrical centers, largely as a result of the British presence in these cities. British theater was imported to entertain British soldiers, business people, and government officials, and proscenium theaters built on British models became centers of urban theatrical activity. Plays were then written in the language of the region, based on historical and mythological sources, and performed by actors of different castes, races, religions, and occupations. Songs and dances popular with Indian audiences were grafted onto dialogue.

Other modern Indian plays more closely resemble Western plays in style. These plays focus on families and on social and political events, including India’s struggle for independence in the first half of the 20th century. Poet Rabindranath Tagore, who won the Nobel Prize in literature, successfully blended Indian and Western traditions in such plays as The King of the Dark Chamber (1910) and The Cycle of Spring (1917). Theater in India has remained highly diverse, ranging from productions of Sanskrit plays and folk drama to modern realistic works. Classical dance forms, such as manipuri of northeastern India and kathakali of southeastern India, continue to delight 20th-century audiences (see Indian Dance).

C Western Theater

Theater in the West, like theater elsewhere in the world, is believed to have evolved from prehistoric rites and religious practices. For the most part, the theater of Europe and North America has been more text-centered than African or Asian theater. Although ritual played a prominent role in ancient Egypt, scholars generally regard ancient Greece as the birthplace of Western theater.

C1 Theater in Ancient Times

Ancient Egyptian theater emerged from ritual practices. For example, a passion play performed annually at Abydos from about 2500 bc to about 550 bc dealt with the death and resurrection of the god Osiris. Although no part of the text remains, references to it suggest it was one of the most elaborate spectacles ever staged and included mock battles, processions, and burial ceremonies. Despite the advanced civilization that developed in ancient Egypt, theatrical activity never progressed beyond ritual, pageantry, burial ceremonies, and commemorations of dead pharaohs. Therefore, historians look to Greece as the source for Western theater and drama.

When theater began in ancient Greece is not known, but the Greek philosopher Aristotle, writing in the 4th century bc, claimed that it began with hymns to the god Dionysus presented at an annual festival. According to tradition, Dionysus died each winter and was reborn each spring, a cycle that signified the seasonal return of fertility to the land and also the rebirth of human beings after death. Greece’s earliest theater architecture took its form from the threshing circle—a round, flat circle at the base of a hillside that was used for separating wheat from the chaff. By the 5th century bc, when the classical period began, two performance areas were cradled within the curve of a hillside: one where a chorus performed, usually portraying ordinary citizens; and the other where the main actors performed. One speaking actor (later three) portrayed mythical and historical characters, at first in an empty space and later in front of a rectangular building that formed a neutral background. This scene building could represent different places as needed—a palace, temple, house, or cave, for example. Initially audiences stood or were seated on the ground; later, wooden or stone benches on the hillside formed an auditorium. The open-air theaters of ancient Greece, which held some 20,000 people, became the prototypes for amphitheaters, Roman coliseums, and modern sports arenas.

The most celebrated theater of classical Athens, the theater of Dionysus, was located on the slope of a hill below the Acropolis. Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, the four Greek playwrights whose work has survived, wrote for annual dramatic festivals held there. Their plays expanded and interpreted the characters and stories of legend and history. During the 5th century bc, the features of Athens’s annual dramatic festival became fixed: three groups of players—each consisting of a chorus, musicians, and two (later three) actors—competed in acting four sets of plays. Each set contained three tragedies and a satyr play, a burlesque of Greek myth that served as comic relief. Costumes were richly decorated, masks elaborate, and physical action restrained; violent scenes occurred offstage. In the 4th century bc, theaters throughout the Greek world grew more elaborate.

Theater in ancient Rome had its origins in musical and dancing performances and in chariot racing, boxing, and gladiatorial contests. The first drama was performed outdoors at annual games dedicated to the gods, and Roman theater maintained a circus-like atmosphere. The popularity of theater so increased that by ad 354 dramatic entertainment consumed more than 100 festival days per year. Works by only three Roman writers—Plautus, Terence, and Seneca—survive today.

Early Roman stages were temporary narrow platforms of wood approximately 30 m (100 ft) long. A stage house with three openings for entrances framed the back and ends. In time, the stage house was decorated with columns, statues, niches, and porticoes, and covered by a roof. The platform served as a street, where the dramatic action occurred, and openings in the back wall served as doorways into fictional houses that bordered the street. The first stone theater in Rome, in imitation of Greek theaters, was built in the 1st century bc. In the permanent stone theaters, the stage house and the auditorium formed a single architectural unit, and the orchestra was a half circle between the stage and auditorium. A distinguishing feature of Roman theater was a curtain at the front of the stage that dropped into a slot at the beginning of a performance and was raised at the end. Roman actors wore thin sandals, garments of the time, and masks that were useful for playing multiple roles. Music accompanied the dialogue in most comedies. Tragedies included choral interludes and long speeches.

Roman theater declined as the Roman Empire expanded. Dramatic festivals gave way to gladiatorial contests, water ballets, and sea battles held in the orchestras of theaters. By the 1st century ad, these spectacles had become increasingly bloodthirsty. The last recorded performance in Rome occurred in 533ad. The ruins of many Roman theaters erected in Europe, Asia, and Africa may still be seen today. Theater reemerged in the religious festivals of medieval Europe.

C2 Medieval Theater

Like the theater of ancient times, the theater of medieval Europe took place at outdoor festivals, though not until about 1200. Medieval theater had its origins in short plays performed in Latin by priests in churches. Some scholars argue that the church introduced dramatic ceremonies to counter pagan rites that remained popular throughout Europe. However, dramatized episodes from the Bible also made biblical stories more immediate and understandable for the public. Gradually, performances moved out of churches and into marketplaces. Lay performers replaced priests, and scripts became more complex, mixing serious religious subjects with boisterous and farcical material.

Medieval theater used two types of stages: fixed and movable. The fixed stage was a platform set up in a public square for the days or weeks of the performance. Audiences stood around the platform. One of the best-known fixed stages was constructed in 1547 for a passion play performed in Valenciennes, in northern France. One part of the stage contained so-called mansions or huts that depicted such locales as Paradise, Jerusalem, a palace, the sea, or the entrance to hell. The other part of the stage served as the open playing space. Heaven and hell were usually at each end of the stage, with earthly scenes of toil and humor occurring between them. The fixed stage made it possible to present numerous scenes along with special effects without interrupting the performance. Actors simply went from hut to hut to indicate a change in locale. Costumes distinguished the spiritual and earthly realms. God, angels, and saints wore borrowed church garments; earthly characters wore garments appropriate to their status in life; and devils were fancifully conceived with tails, horns, beaks, claws, and wings.

The fixed stages used elaborate stage machinery for special effects. The devices included pulleys and ropes for moving clouds, trapdoors through which actors could disappear, and fire and smoke for the mouth of hell. As productions became more complex, the skills of machinists and stage managers became increasingly important.

While fixed stages were common throughout Europe, movable stages were also used in England and Spain. A platform on wheels, similar to a modern parade float, was called a pageant wagon in England and a carros in Spain. A hut on top of the wagon provided a scenic background, an acting space, or a place for costume changes. The wagons moved through narrow streets and stopped for performances at designated places. Audiences assembled around the wagons to watch such plays as The Wakefield Cycle, which traced the Christian view of world history, from Creation to Judgment Day, in 32 short plays.

Three types of plays were written for performance on medieval stages. Cycles (or mystery plays) dramatized biblical material in a series of short scenes. Miracle plays depicted episodes from the lives of saints and martyrs. Morality plays dramatized spiritual lessons. The morality plays, or moralities, aimed to teach through entertainment by dramatizing the conflict between Vice and Virtue (which were represented by actors) for an individual’s soul. They were performed by small professional companies in banquet halls and elsewhere. The best-known morality play in English is Everyman (1495?). Morality plays flourished in the mid-15th century and formed a bridge between earlier religious drama and the secular drama of the Renaissance. See also Miracle, Mystery, and Morality Plays.

C3 Renaissance Theater

By the late 16th century in Europe, permanent buildings were being constructed to house a new kind of commercial theater. In 1576 actor James Burbage built London’s first public theater, known simply as The Theatre, which was an open-air structure that combined features of pageant wagons, fixed stages, and banquet halls. The most famous Renaissance theater was the Globe Theatre (completed 1599), which was also in London. The Globe became a showcase for the talents of playwright William Shakespeare and Burbage’s acting company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later renamed The King’s Men.

The Globe was an open-air building with a platform stage and standing room for spectators on three sides of the stage. Bordering this space was a large enclosed balcony topped by one or two smaller roofed balconies. A multilevel facade, which was part of the theater building, backed the platform stage. A roof, supported by two columns, jutted out above the stage platform. The underside of the roof, nicknamed the heavens, was painted with moons, stars, and planets. On the stage level were places for hiding and discovering people and objects—probably influenced by the huts of medieval stages. Productions used little scenery and few props. Costumes—largely clothing of the time—defined the rank of kings and queens, lords and ladies, soldiers and servants. A modern reconstruction of the Globe, completed in 1996, stands on the south bank of the Thames River in London, very near the site of the original theater, and holds performances from May to September.

Because open-air theaters could not be used year-round, professional companies sought out other buildings in London. The first of these private theaters was opened in 1576 in a residential district called Blackfriars in a former monastery. By 1610 a rebuilt Blackfriars Theatre had become the winter home of Shakespeare’s company, and by 1642 six other private theaters had opened.

The private theaters shared many of the features of the public stages. A raised platform stage at one end of a long, rectangular hall served as the stage, and spectators sat in the pit, galleries, or private boxes around it. The theaters were roofed and restricted in size, with a far smaller seating capacity than the outdoor theaters. Staging conventions remained largely unchanged, with the exception of candles used to illuminate indoor theaters.

In Italy conventions of theater architecture and stage spectacle introduced in Florence, Venice, Parma, Bologna, Rome, and Milan during the Renaissance were to dominate European theater into the 20th century. These conventions included the picture-frame (proscenium) stage; perspective scenery, which gave an illusion of depth; elaborate machinery for scene shifting and producing special effects; and artificial lighting. Also popular in Italy was commedia dell’arte, an actor-centered improvisational theater. Troupes of professional commedia actors toured Italy, and later the rest of Europe, performing their shows.

C4 Theater of the 17th and 18th Centuries

Theater practices in Europe, especially in Italy, France, and England, underwent great changes in the 17th and 18th centuries. Proscenium theaters were developed and imported into France and England; painted perspective scenery with wings, borders, and shutters came into wide use; machinery above and below the stage helped shift scenery quickly; and auditoriums were divided into pit, boxes, and galleries to reflect class distinctions. Professional acting companies led by star actors, such as David Garrick in England, selected the plays to be performed throughout the season. A typical evening at the theater lasted at least three hours. It began with orchestral music, followed by a prologue and then a full-length play. An afterpiece, usually a pantomime, farce, or comic opera, concluded the show. Intervals between acts were filled with variety acts, such as singing, dancing, magic tricks, acrobatics, and trained animals.

European playwriting at this time ranged from French plays by Pierre Corneille, Jean Racine, and Molière, which generally followed strict rules based on ancient Greek and Roman models, to sketched-out scenarios of Italian commedia dell’arte troupes. In England, most new plays were either tragedies, featuring great heroes, or comedies that satirized the manners of the upper classes. England’s outstanding playwrights of this time included John Dryden, William Wycherley, William Congreve, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Italian theater artists continued to develop ideas introduced during the Renaissance. The great innovators in the Italian theater of the 17th century were Nicola Sabbattini, Giacomo Torelli, and the Bibiena family of designers. Their innovations prepared the way for the great operas of the 19th century. The majority of professional Italian dramatists were engaged in the lucrative business of writing libretti (texts) for opera, a new form of theater in which dialogue was sung. The greatest influence on playwrights Carlo Goldoni and Carlo Gozzi were the commedia dell’arte troupes. At the height of its popularity in 1600, commedia touring companies, made up of men and women, performed in marketplaces and palaces throughout Europe.

C5 Theater of the 19th Century

Commercial theater in the 19th century continued in large proscenium playhouses in London and Paris, where such popular types of theater as melodrama, farce, and comedy served as the favorite entertainment. Despite the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815), which involved all of Europe, demand for entertainment increased, partly as a result of growing urban populations. The most noteworthy theatrical changes of the 19th century were the rise of touring companies, the exploitation of stars to promote plays, and the increase of long-running productions in place of rotating repertory. As the railway system expanded in the United States, so did the number of traveling productions. Touring companies eventually undermined resident theaters in outlying towns and cities. By 1900 the single-play, long-run policy had become the norm among commercial producers.

The principal departures from established conventions of staging in 19th-century European theaters were attempts to achieve historical accuracy and the illusion of real life. These experiments from the 1850s through the 1880s, known as realism and naturalism, brought about changes in scenic and costume design, acting styles, and staging. The leading exponents of these international movements for writing and staging truthful depictions of life included playwrights Émile Zola in France, Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg in Scandinavia, Anton Chekhov in Russia, Gerhart Hauptmann in Germany, and John Galsworthy and George Bernard Shaw in England. Emerging directors who advocated realism included André Antoine at the Théâtre Libre in Paris, France; Otto Brahm at the Freie Bühne in Berlin, Germany; and Konstantin Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theater. By 1900 realism had become the dominant mode in playwriting and in theatrical production in the West.

C6 Theater of the 20th Century

Theater became international in the 20th century. Rapid modes of communication and travel fostered worldwide touring companies; cultural exchanges of artists, theories, and productions; and international publication of dramatic texts. Numerous experimental movements of varying duration included symbolism, expressionism, theater of the absurd, epic theater, documentary drama, and environmental production. However, realism remained the most popular mode of writing and staging in the West, and the picture-frame playhouse—enhanced by lighting, sound, and other technologies—remained the most common style of theater architecture.

The American theater in the 20th century fostered playwrights of extraordinary influence, including Eugene O’Neill, Lillian Hellman, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, and Neil Simon. (See American Literature: Drama). The United States also pioneered musical theater as the most popular form of commercial, nonprofit, and amateur entertainment. Broadway, the heart of New York City’s theater district, became synonymous with the production of musicals—both revivals and new works—and with multimillion-dollar production costs. The American theater also became ethnically and ideologically diverse, beginning in the 1960s with the rise of African American, Latino, Asian American, feminist, and homosexual theater groups, to name a few. The emergence of professional regional companies or resident theaters (now called the regional theater movement) formed a parallel trend in the 1960s.

For several decades, government subsidy of the arts in the United States—begun in 1965 when federal legislation established the National Endowment for the Arts—assisted nonprofit theaters, orchestras, museums, and opera and dance companies. In the 1990s, federal funding for the arts came under attack from Congress. Nonprofit professional theaters responded by engaging in coproductions with other theaters, sharing artists and costs, and providing a source for serious dramatic plays that eventually moved to Broadway. Despite rising costs and criticism that Broadway theater has become homogeneous and predictable, audiences are larger than at almost any time in the history of theater in the United States, and playwrights, actors, and directors have become household names.
Contributed By:
Milly S. Barranger

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Drama and Dramatic Arts


Drama and Dramatic Arts. Drama is a type of literature usually written to be performed. People often make a distinction between drama, which concerns the written text, or script, for the performance, and theater, which concerns the performance of this script. Many of the most honored and influential works of literature around the world have been dramas. They begin with the classical Greek tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides and continue with the plays of such major dramatists as William Shakespeare in England, Molière in France, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in Germany, Henrik Ibsen in Norway, and August Strindberg in Sweden. The honor bestowed on drama is particularly true of the Western tradition, which is the subject of this article. For more information on other theater traditions, see Asian Theater; African Theater.


Most types of literature, including novels, short stories, and poems, are written to be read, usually in silence by a solitary reader. Although works of drama, called plays, are also often read in this manner, they are created primarily to be presented in public by a group of performers, each of whom pretends to be one of the characters in the story the play is telling. Older plays, such as those written by the Greeks or Shakespeare, consist almost entirely of the words spoken by these characters (the dialogue). More recent plays usually contain nonspoken material (the stage directions) that tells the actors when to enter or leave the performance space, gives suggestions about how to speak their dialogue (their lines), and describes their costumes or their physical surroundings on stage (the setting).

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who laid the foundations for the critical study of drama, divided the elements of drama into plot, character, thought, language, and spectacle. Aristotle considered plot—the basic story and how it is told—the most important of these, and this is indeed typically the case. However, almost all dramas use all of these elements to some extent, telling a story by means of the interactions of characters, who express their thoughts through language within a particular visual setting. The balance of these elements, however, varies from play to play. During some periods and in some traditions many or most plays emphasize some element other than plot. Numerous plays emphasize a particular character or a relationship between characters, as does Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1601?). Such plays are especially popular because audiences have always been interested in seeing their favorite actors interpret such demanding roles.

Western theater also has a long tradition of plays emphasizing thought. Such plays are sometimes said to treat a particular theme and have been called philosophical plays or thesis plays. Some of the greatest modern dramatists have emphasized thought or theme, among them George Bernard Shaw of Britain and Ibsen, who addressed social issues of their day, and Bertolt Brecht of Germany, many of whose plays criticized capitalism and instructed audiences in his leftist political views.

Language is almost always an important element in drama, and it is occasionally the dominant element. This is the case in the poetic dramas of English romantic authors of the early 19th century and in much of what is called high comedy or comedy of manners, which dates back to the 17th century in England. The latter tradition emphasizes nuances of social class and behavior and typically makes prominent use of witty dialogue, puns, and other verbal acrobatics.

The types of drama that have emphasized spectacle include opera, modern musical comedy, 19th-century melodrama, and court spectacles known as masques that originated in England during the 16th century. Spectacle can include lavish costumes, elaborate sets or stage machinery, and other elements that serve to enrich an audience’s visual experience of a play.


The most widespread and familiar subdivisions of drama are comedy and tragedy, a division established by the Greeks. Even today the smiling and weeping masks worn by Greek actors in comedy and tragedy symbolize the two branches of drama. Traditionally, a tragedy is dominated by a serious tone, concerns kings and princes, deals with profound issues, and usually concludes with the death of the leading character. A comedy typically deals with common people, is dominated by a light tone that encourages laughter (or at least amusement or entertainment), and ends happily, often with the uniting of a pair of young lovers.

During the Renaissance (14th century to 17th century) other forms of drama appeared, and dramatists modified the two traditional forms. Shakespeare divided his plays into comedies, tragedies, and histories, the latter presenting national history in dramatic form. He also departed from classic practice by putting important comic scenes into his tragedies. In Italy, certain critics and dramatists began mixing elements and aspects of the two traditional kinds of theater to create a third kind, called tragicomedy. The mixture of moods would become much more common in the 19th and 20th centuries.

After the Renaissance the terms comedy and tragedy remained central, but writers subdivided each type and developed new combined forms as well. Tragedy remained the genre used most often to explore the profound philosophic questions of good and evil and humankind’s place in the universe, while comedy emphasized people in their social aspects and personal relationships. This split made comedy the more appropriate form for social commentary and criticism as well as for simple amusement. Comedy emphasizing wit and style among the upper classes became known as high comedy or comedy of manners, as opposed to low comedy or farce. Low comedy traditionally gains its effects from physical humor that can even turn violent at times and from crude verbal jokes, rather than from verbal wit or nuances of social behavior. Farce as a popular, nonliterary form can be traced back to classical Greece. The equivalent form of tragedy with a wide popular appeal, called melodrama, emerged as a recognized type of theater in the 19th century (though some modern critics characterize certain plays by Euripides as melodramas). Like farce, melodrama is associated with physical action. In the 18th century, as interest grew in the exploration of the emotions, sentimental comedy developed. It stressed feelings rather than laughter and encouraged audience sympathy with the characters and their trials. Other new forms included tragedies that dealt with middle-class characters and serious plays about middle-class life, often called simply dramas. In the 20th century such middle-class drama replaced tragedy as the major serious form of theatrical writing.


Drama has served a wide variety of functions at different times and in different places. Roman writer Horace, in one of the most famous statements about the purpose of literature in general and drama in particular, said it was designed ‘to delight and to instruct.’ Sometimes the purpose of drama has been considered to be primarily the first of these, sometimes the second, but generally at least some degree of both has been present.

From classical times until the Renaissance drama was closely associated with major religious and civic observances and served to support both. As a result, plays emphasized instruction. The Renaissance saw examples of theater that were almost purely instructional at schools and universities, along with examples that were almost pure entertainment in the popular theaters at fairs and marketplaces, and a great variety of combinations of the two. Subsequent popular drama stressed entertainment, from presentations in farce and folk theaters of the 18th century to the offerings of major commercial theaters today. Much of the more serious, literary drama from the 18th century on has sought to encourage its audiences to become better informed and more thoughtful about a range of political, social, and moral issues. It is important to remember that drama is also an art form, and can offer in addition to relaxing entertainment the often more demanding experience of aesthetic pleasure. In the early 20th-century the art theater movement stressed this purpose in particular, by presenting dramas whose primary goal was neither conventional entertainment nor instruction but an aesthetic or artistic experience.

Audiences attend plays from a mixture of motivations, including curiosity, pleasure-seeking, and a desire for knowledge or aesthetic experience. But all of these experiences are intensified by the public nature of drama. Because drama is a literary form designed for public presentation, writing about drama has often explored how drama relates to society. Some theorists have argued that, as an art reflecting social concerns for a group audience, drama is particularly suited to stimulate social change. Other theorists have argued that the group orientation of drama means that to succeed drama can never seriously challenge the audience’s general assumptions. Even though critics disagree about drama’s revolutionary potential, most would agree that a central purpose of drama has always been to provide a means for a society to reflect upon itself and its beliefs.


Scholars generally believe that the origins of drama date back more than 5000 years to prehistoric ritual. Both ritual and drama involve such elements as music, dance, masks, costumes, and repeated symbolic actions.

A Ancient Drama

A number of ancient texts suggest that dramatic performances in ancient Egypt celebrated royal coronations and major religious holidays. Much more detailed records of drama come from classical Greece, where beginning in the 6th century bc the state organized annual dramatic festivals to honor the god Dionysus. A prize was given each year for the best tetralogy, a series of three related tragedies and a satyr play. The satyr play, which dealt comically or satirically with gods or heroes, provided a kind of comic relief after the seriousness of the tragic trilogy. The tragedies, considered then and ever since as preeminent among dramatic forms, took their subjects from myth and history. Accompanied by commentary on the play’s action by a chorus, tragedies brought their leading characters through suffering and often to the moment of death so they might achieve an insight into a higher law beyond normal human understanding. The only complete tragic trilogy that has survived is the Oresteia (458 bc) of Aeschylus, which tells the story of Agamemnon, the leader of Greek forces in the Trojan War; his wife, Clytemnestra; and their children Electra and Orestes.

The most decorated of the Greek tragic writers was Sophocles, who won the prize at the drama festival about 20 times. His Oedipus Rex (430? bc) is generally considered the greatest Greek tragedy. Its limited number of characters, concentration of action within a brief period of time, gradual unveiling of past events, and tone of high seriousness has provided a model for many later dramatists. Only one complete satyr play has survived: Cyclops (425? bc) by Euripides, the third of the great Greek tragic authors. In his own time Euripides, who often treated traditional myths in an unconventional or even irreverent manner, was less respected than Aeschylus or Sophocles, but his work later gained popularity. Euripides’s Medea (431 bc) is one of the best known of all Greek tragedies.

Comedy was added to the annual drama festivals in Greece about 50 years after the establishment of annual contests in tragedy. The only surviving comedies from the 5th century bc are by Aristophanes. These works, now known as Old Comedy to distinguish them from later Greek comedies, are among the most complex plays ever written. They include broad farce, verbal wit, visual spectacle, elegant lyric poetry, songs, literary satire, personal attacks, and political and social commentary. The subjects of the comedies are quite varied: war and peace in Lysistrata (411 bc); education in Nephelai (423 bc; translated as The Clouds); and literary rivalry in Batrachoi (405 bc; The Frogs). But the structure of these plays remains fairly constant. In the prologue, an impractical idea for the improvement of society is advanced and debated. Then, after an interlude provided by the chorus, this idea is tested in a series of comic scenes, culminating in a final scene that reconciles all the contending forces and promises revelry and celebration.

Shortly after 400 bc dramatists turned from the social and political concerns of Old Comedy to mythological burlesque or, more often, to amusing plays of everyday life. No complete examples of these plays have survived. In the 330s bc this so-called Middle Comedy gave way to New Comedy, which dealt primarily with the Athenian middle class. The only complete surviving example is Dyskolos (317 bc; The Curmudgeon) by Menander. The title character is a common type in such plays, an old man opposing the union of sympathetic young lovers who finally triumph, aided by a clever servant. This comic structure was later taken up by the Roman comic dramatists Plautus, in Aulularia (200? bc; The Pot of Gold) and other plays, and Terence, in Adelphoe (160 bc; The Brothers), for example. Through their influence it became one of the most familiar models of comedy. Almost all of the surviving Roman tragedies are by the philosopher Seneca. Although they were probably not performed in his own time, they later played an important role in shaping Renaissance tragedy and neoclassic tragedy of 17th-century France (for more information, see the Renaissance Drama section of this article).

B Medieval Drama

The tradition of classical drama disappeared with the end of the Roman Empire in the 5th century ad, and after almost 400 years a new tradition grew out of the rituals of the medieval Christian church. Certain sung passages from the liturgy were elaborated into short dialogues based on passages from the Bible, and these dramas, performed only in churches and monasteries, spread throughout Europe from the 10th to the 13th centuries. Around 1200 these plays began to be performed outdoors, and between then and 1350 they became more and more elaborate in size, subject matter, and physical staging. Instead of single biblical scenes or stories, they often included several stories. In England religious plays presented major events from the entire Bible in long cycles, from the creation of the world to the last judgment. Although still sponsored, written, and organized by church authorities, they involved entire communities in their staging and performance, which sometimes continued for several days.

In France, plays based on the lives and legends of saints rivaled biblical dramas in popularity. Some scholars have called these miracle plays, because they depict the miracles performed by saints, and have termed the plays based on the Bible mystery plays (from mysterium, Latin for “service” or “office,” referring to the members of trade guilds who often performed them). But the terms are often used interchangeably today. Another popular type of religious drama from the 14th century onward was the morality play, which taught religious lessons using allegorical characters such as Good Deeds, Riches, or Vice. The most famous morality play is Everyman (1500?), which describes Everyman’s encounter with Death. See Miracle, Mystery, and Morality Plays.

Not all medieval drama was religious. Many secular plays have survived from the Netherlands, France, and Germany. Most common are short farces—rather crude and earthy pieces designed only to stimulate laughter. Often they involve pranks and trickery, as in the most famous of the plays, Pierre Pathelin (1470?) from France. The oldest surviving secular play, Le jeu de la feuillée (The Play of the Greensward, 1276) by French poet and composer Adam de la Halle, mixes elements from folktales and fairy tales. His later Jeu de Robin et Marion (1283?; The Play of Robin and Marion), with its songs and dances, has sometimes been called the first comic opera.

Still other dramatic activities developed in late medieval royal courts. Tournaments—originally contests among knights—and court costume parties called mummings or disguisings gradually became more symbolic and elaborate. With the addition of scenery and scripts the mummings became the court masques of the Renaissance, which featured poetry, music, and dance, and told allegorical or mythical stories.

C Renaissance Drama

While medieval culture and drama still flourished in northern Europe in the 15th and early 16th centuries, a revival of interest in the learning and culture of classical Greece and Rome took place in Italy, ushering in the Renaissance. Roman drama had been studied as literature throughout the Middle Ages, but in the schools and universities of Italy a new interest developed in performing these dramas and creating modern imitations of them. This interest received encouragement from aristocratic families such as the Medici, who supported Renaissance painters and musicians and saw in drama another art that could add to the glory of their courts. Even the greatest artists of the Renaissance participated in elaborate stagings of classical revivals and modern imitations.

During the 15th century, the Italian interest in classical drama and modern versions spread, contributing to one of the greatest eras of dramatic writing in Spain, France, and England. Despite the enormous influence of the Italian drama during this period, few plays from the Italian Renaissance are still read or performed today. The best known of these few is Mandragola (1524; The Mandrake), a satire on Italian society of the time by statesman and historian Niccolò Machiavelli.

Along with an interest in classical drama itself came an equal interest in the theory and analysis of this drama. Renaissance literary theorists in Italy undertook close studies of the commentaries of Horace and Aristotle on drama and devoted a major part of their work to analysis of these writings. This so-called neoclassic theory had perhaps an even wider readership and a greater influence throughout Europe than the Italian plays themselves, which also were termed neoclassic. Dramatists in England, Spain, and particularly France looked to Renaissance Italian theorists such as Francesco Robertello or Julius Caesar Scaliger to provide them with precise instructions on the proper way of writing a play. Among the most influential of these rules were those that demanded strict separation of comedy and tragedy, a moral function for theater, and the three unities of time, place, and action. The three unities required that the events of a play not exceed a single day (time), be confined to a single location or to several locations within a small area (place), and not have subplots (action).

From the beginning, the strict regulations of neoclassic dramatic theory met with some resistance, especially from playwrights. Italian poet Battista Guarini, for instance, argued for the development of a new genre, the tragicomedy, that would combine elements from these two traditional genres. The example he created, Il pastor fido (1589; The Faithful Shepherd, 1647), enjoyed great international success. It also helped to establish the pastoral, a play that dealt with the loves of shepherds and shepherdesses, as a major type of Renaissance drama. The degree to which strict neoclassic theory shaped Renaissance drama varied from country to country. The French eventually subscribed to it almost totally, whereas major English dramatists such as Shakespeare gave it little attention. The theory remained a powerful guide for most European playwrights until the early 19th century, when the movement known as romanticism arose. In the theater, romanticism was in large part a rejection of the whole framework of neoclassic theory, in favor of a freer and more open dramatic structure similar to that represented by Shakespeare.

C1 New Dramatic Forms in Italy

Classical scholars in Italy were aware that Greek tragedies had musical accompaniment, dealt with mythological subjects, and featured solo singers and choruses, and they attempted to recreate this form in the late 16th century. Their experiments led instead to a new genre, the opera. The first major opera was Orfeo (Orpheus, 1607) by composer Claudio Monteverdi. Opera remained an entertainment of the Italian nobility and intellectual circles until 1637, when the first public opera house opened in Venice. Its success was so great that opera soon spread throughout Italy and then to the rest of Europe.

Italy’s other major contribution to Renaissance theater in Europe was the commedia dell’arte. The name, meaning comedy of professional players (literally, “comedy of art”), distinguished it from the commedia erudita, or academic comedy, a form of literary comedy created and presented by amateur actors at courts of the nobility and at academies of learning. Unlike the commedia erudita, the commedia dell’arte had no written script, only an outline scenario around which the actors wove improvised sequences with comic routines, called lazzi, and previously memorized set speeches. Written descriptions of the commedia dell’arte begin to appear about 1550. Although its origins are unknown, various scholars have suggested that it may have developed from classic Roman comedies or farces or from late-medieval farce. A likely contributor was playwright Angelo Beolco of Venice, who created a whole series of farces in the early 1500s based on a wily peasant named Ruzzante. The commedia dell’arte utilized stock characters, like Ruzzante, so that actors performed the same character in play after play. Each commedia company had one or two pairs of young lovers and several more exaggerated roles that were divided into masters and servants and performed in masks. The most familiar masters were the boastful Captain, the incompetent Doctor, and the foolish old merchant Pantalone. The servants were much more varied, though many scripts called for a clever and a foolish one, a tradition that is still often followed in clowning. Today, the best known of the commedia servants is the witty and cunning Harlequin.

C2 Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Restoration Drama in England

The Italian enthusiasm for imitating and reviving classical drama and for formulating elaborate rules for its creation gradually spread throughout Europe, but with very different results in different countries. English schools and universities embraced the new Italian ideas avidly in the mid-16th century. By the end of that century, however, classical dramatic practice had merged with medieval theater practices and various popular traditions to create a complex new kind of drama in England. This form culminated in the work of the most famous dramatist of all time, William Shakespeare.

In the 1580s a group of educated men, sometimes called the University Wits, prepared the way for Shakespeare. The best-known members of this group were playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe and dramatist Thomas Kyd. Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (1588?) strikingly combines medieval and Renaissance elements with the powerful poetic style for which Marlowe became famous. Kyd’s play The Spanish Tragedy (1589?) was the first great popular success of the English Renaissance and anticipated in its theme and structure later tragedies, most notably Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1601?).

Toward the end of Queen Elizabeth’s long reign, which lasted from 1558 to 1603, a brilliant flowering of drama took place in England, which was one of the most important and productive in history. Today, Shakespeare seems to have dominated this period, but at the time some of his rivals enjoyed equal or greater reputations, particularly Ben Jonson, Francis Beaumont, and John Fletcher. Jonson, best known for his Volpone (1606; The Fox), was the most concerned with following classical models and elevating drama to a respectable art. In 1616 he became the first English dramatist to publish his plays, thereby encouraging the public to view them as literature, not simply temporary entertainment. Beaumont and Fletcher are best known for their collaborative works, such as The Maid’s Tragedy (1611?), although they also worked alone and with other authors. Fletcher collaborated with Shakespeare on The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613?).

Following the death of Elizabeth in 1603, rising political and religious tensions steadily eroded the exuberance of the Elizabethan period. Dramatic works of the Jacobean period that followed were distinctly darker and more pessimistic in tone. This is the period of Shakespeare’s great tragedies. They include Othello (1604?), about a husband who murders his wife in a fit of jealousy; King Lear (1605?), about an aging king who tragically misjudges the love of his daughters; and Macbeth (1606?), about an ambitious, amoral tyrant. Even dark comedy emerges in Measure for Measure (1604?), about a corrupt deputy. Works that represent both the powerful poetry and gloomy world view of this period particularly well are The Duchess of Malfi (1614?) by John Webster and ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (1633) by John Ford. In Webster’s play the title character is murdered by her evil brothers for marrying a commoner. Ford’s play revolves around the incestuous relationship between a brother and sister.

The political and religious instability in England culminated in civil war in 1642, and the theaters were closed until the monarchy was restored in 1660. During the Restoration period, which began in 1660, many Renaissance plays were revived but new styles of drama also gained popularity. The influence of Pierre Corneille, a major playwright in France through the 1650s, encouraged a more classically oriented poetic tragedy, called heroic tragedy. John Dryden, the first major dramatist of the Restoration, produced a heroic tragedy with The Conquest of Granada (1670), which extols such heroic values as ideal love and valor in battle and is in rhymed couplets.

The best-known plays of this period are a series of brilliant comedies that established the pattern for subsequent English high comedy or comedy of manners based on the witty conversation of aristocratic characters. The first masters of this new style were George Etherege, with such plays as The Man of Mode (1676), and William Wycherley, with The Country Wife (1675). The Restoration also saw the appearance of the first professional female dramatists in England, led by Aphra Behn. Her popular comedies shared some features with the comedies of manners but relied more on complex plots for their effect. The Restoration comedy of manners reached its fullest expression in The Way of the World (1700) by William Congreve, which is dominated by a brilliantly witty couple.

C3 Spain’s Golden Age

Spain, England’s political rival during the Elizabethan period, also rivaled England in the importance of its drama at this time. The great playwrights of Spain’s so-called Golden Age, which lasted from the early 16th century to the late 17th century, mixed classical, medieval, and popular forms to create a complex and powerful new drama. The theater became enormously popular in Renaissance Spain, and the leading dramatists wrote plays in astonishing numbers to answer this demand. The most successful of all was Lope de Vega. Of the more than 1800 plays he is thought to have written, some 470 survive. The best known today is Fuenteovejuna (1614?), about a village that revolts against a tyrannical overlord. Much more typical are his many so-called cape-and-sword plays, swashbuckling stories of conflicts between love and duty exemplified by El perro del hortelano (1613?; The Dog in the Manger).

The other leading dramatist of the Spanish Golden Age was Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Like Lope, Calderón wrote many cape-and-sword plays, but he also wrote philosophical dramas such as La vida es sueño (1635; Life is a Dream), which explores ambition and the forces of destiny. Spain’s tradition of religious drama continued during the Renaissance, and some of Calderón’s most famous works were sacred plays (called autos sacramentales), such as El gran teatro del mundo (1649; The Great Theatre of the World). El burlador de Seville (1630; The Trickster of Seville) by Tirso de Molina was notable as the first literary treatment of one of the most often represented characters in Western drama, the legendary rake Don Juan. After Calderón’s death in 1681, the Spanish drama declined in importance, only reemerging in modern times, but the works of its Golden Age dramatists continued to be admired in Europe from the Renaissance onward.

C4 Neoclassicism in France

The neoclassic ideals of drama that developed in Renaissance Italy had their greatest influence in France, so much so that in the 17th century France replaced Italy as the center of both neoclassic theory and practice. At the beginning of the century, French playwrights mixed classical, medieval, and popular elements much as their contemporaries in England and Spain. By 1636, however, when Le Cid by Pierre Corneille opened a golden age of French theater, France’s leading dramatists and theorists generally agreed that drama should strictly follow what they felt were the rules of classical theater. Among these were the unities of time, place, and action and the strict separation of comedy and tragedy, rules generally ignored by the great Renaissance writers of England and Spain.

Although critics at times rebuked Corneille for not adhering strictly enough to these rules, Jean Baptiste Racine, the greatest of French tragic dramatists, showed that they need not be a hindrance, but could be utilized to concentrate and deepen a tragic play. Racine started his plays near the time of the catastrophe they revolved around, as Greek tragic authors had done, and emphasized inner, psychological action. His masterpiece, Phèdre (1677), clearly demonstrates Racine’s poetic genius and emphasis on internal conflict through its treatment of Phèdre’s guilt over her love for her stepson. It also ended this great period of French playwriting.

Between Corneille and Racine flourished France’s greatest comic dramatist, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, who took the stage name of Molière. Drawing upon Roman comedy, commedia dell’arte, and the long tradition of French farce, he created some of the most brilliant and beloved comedies in the Western tradition. Molière wrote in a variety of styles, from broad farces for a general audience, such as Les fourberies de Scapin (1671; The Cheats of Scapin), to comedies with ballet interludes to amuse the royal court. But his best-known works are his more thoughtful comedies of character, such as Tartuffe (1664; translated 1670), about a pious hypocrite, and L’avare (1668; The Miser, 1739). Such works have influenced the comic writing of every subsequent generation, most notably through their use of comedy as a forum for the discussion of serious issues.

D 18th-Century Drama

In the early 18th century French and English drama adopted a more emotional and moralistic tone, resulting in comedies often designated as sentimental. The most famous English example is The Conscious Lovers (1722) by Sir Richard Steele, which sought to involve audiences emotionally with its characters rather than to stimulate laughter. Some leading French dramatists carried emotion and sentiment so far that their plays were known as weeping comedies. An example is Pierre Claude Nivelle de La Chaussée in his La préjugé à la mode (The Fashionable Prejudice, 1735). The most enduring dramatist of the period, Pierre Carlet de Marivaux, successfully united sentimentality and wit in such comedies about young love as La jeu de l’amour et du hasard (1730; The Game of Love and Chance, 1923).

Although other types of comedy remained popular during the 18th century, sentimental comedy held a sufficiently prominent place to inspire a reaction and a return to so-called laughing comedy in the 1770s. In England Oliver Goldsmith specifically boasted of making this change in such plays as She Stoops to Conquer (1773), in which a well-born young woman must dress up as a servant to win the love of a shy young man. He was powerfully seconded by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in The School for Scandal (1777), a play about gossip, hypocrisy, and false sentimentality. In France, Pierre Beaumarchais similarly reinvigorated comedy with his popular Le barbier de Séville (1775; The Barber of Seville) and Le mariage de Figaro (1784; The Marriage of Figaro). Both pit clever servants against dull-witted aristocrats. This trend was reinforced by the international popularity of Italy’s greatest comic dramatist, Carlo Goldoni, who established his reputation in Venice with such literate comedies as Mirandolina (1753; The Mistress of the Inn).

The 18th century’s major contribution to serious drama was the innovation of tragedies that depicted people in everyday life, a form pioneered in England with The London Merchant (1731) by George Lillo. Lillo in turn inspired Gotthold Ephraim Lessing to create the first classical work of the German stage in 1755, Miss Sara Sampson, and Denis Diderot in France to pioneer middle-class serious drama in his Le fils naturel (The Illegitimate Son, 1757). French tragic writing of this century was dominated by Voltaire, whose major tragedies continued firmly in the neoclassic style. He was more innovative in staging and introduced social and political commentary into such dramas as his Mahomet (1741).

E 19th-Century Drama

At the beginning of the 19th century, dramatists made conscious decisions to break with earlier traditions. A tendency toward realism and the depiction of situations and characters with whom audiences could identify accelerated over the course of the century.

E1 Romanticism

As the 19th century began, a new literary movement emerged in Germany. Called romanticism, it emphasized individualism, subjective expression, and imagination. In theater the romantics rejected neoclassic strictures, especially those of French drama, including the three unities, the strict separation of genres, and conventional motivation by reason and ethics. Writers generally regarded Voltaire and Racine as leading examples of the neoclassic approach, and they looked to Shakespeare’s work as a model of an alternative approach. By the 1830s, romantic ideas dominated the literary drama of Europe. The leading German dramatists of the early 19th century, Friedrich von Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, had helped lay the groundwork for romanticism in the late 18th century with dramas that highlighted emotion and personal liberty. Although those dramatists eventually distanced themselves from their romantic contemporaries, romantic influence is clearly present in many of their best-known works. Schiller’s Maria Stuart (1800) features two solitary heroines—Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots—in a hostile world. Goethe’s masterpiece Faust (1808, 1832) emphasizes the right of the individual to inquire freely and work out a personal destiny. The complex psychological tragedies of Heinrich von Kleist, including Prinz Friedrich von Homburg (1811; The Prince of Homburg), also show the impact of romanticism.

The leading dramatist of early 19th-century Britain, Joanna Baillie, also incorporated some romantic qualities into her historical tragedies, such as De Monfort (1800), by emphasizing the emotions of the characters. Most of the major romantic poets also wrote dramas, but only one poet’s work appeared on stage during his lifetime: Marino Faliero (1821) by Lord Byron.

French writers strongly resisted romanticism until the success in 1830 of Hernani (translated 1830) by Victor Hugo. Soon after this, romantic dramas achieved prominence, including Antony (1831) by Alexandre Dumas and Chatterton (1835; translated 1847) by Alfred de Vigny. Although the dramas of Hugo, Dumas, and Vigny dominated this period, it was the delicate comedies of love by Alfred de Musset, such as Les caprices de Marianne (1851; Marianne, 1905), at first ignored, that ultimately proved the most popular plays of this movement.

E2 Melodrama

In theaters patronized by the people (rather than the nobility), the most popular form of drama in the early 19th century featured elements of romanticism, including an interest in emotion and spectacle and a disregard for the rules of neoclassicism. This form was the melodrama, in which authors manipulated events and emotions with little regard for logic or character. The first fully developed melodrama was René Guilbert de Pixérécourt’s Victor ou l’enfant du forêt (Victor, or the Child of the Forest, 1798). For many years Pixérécourt and his rival Victor Ducange dominated this popular genre in France with such plays as the latter’s Trente ans ou la vie d’un joueur (1827; The Gambler’s Fate).

Thomas Holcroft established the English melodramatic tradition in 1802 with A Tale of Mystery, a translation of Pixérécourt’s Coelina, ou l’enfant du mystère (1800). Early English melodrama, following French examples, tended to treat supernatural or exotic subjects, but by the 1820s more familiar subjects from everyday life were appearing. England’s close ties to the sea were reflected in melodramas about sailors and their loves, the most famous of these being Douglas William Jerrold’s Black-Eyed Susan (1829). The most familiar melodramas were domestic, a form that playwright John Baldwin Buckstone developed in such plays as Luke the Labourer (1826). For the next half-century, melodrama dominated the British stage, most notably in the plays of Dion Boucicault, who during his most productive years divided his time between England and the United States. Boucicault’s The Octoroon (1859) winningly combined an examination of American racial tensions with melodramatic intrigue and views on modern technology.

E3 The Well-Made Play

Even as romanticism achieved its greatest successes in the French theater, prolific playwright Eugène Scribe was developing another type of drama that ultimately proved more influential. Scribe, the author of more than 300 plays, perfected what came to be called the well-made play. In it, Scribe carefully prepared the audience for the emotions he sought to elicit, arranged incidents in a cause-and-effect sequence, built in suspense and surprising reversals, and structured climaxes precisely. Although later critics dismissed Scribe’s successes, such as Le verre d’eau (1840; A Glass of Water), as hollow machines deficient in thought and character, the form he developed later won favor from highly respected dramatists in France and elsewhere.

The most direct heir of Scribe was Victorien Sardou, one of the most popular dramatists of the late 19th century. He created plays for some of the leading actors of the period, including La Tosca (1887) for Sarah Bernhardt. Writers of farce also favored the careful construction and elaborate intrigue of the well-made play. The French brought the farce to one of its greatest periods in such complex intrigues as Le chapeau de paille d’Italie (1851; A Leghorn Hat, 1917) by Eugène Labiche and Hôtel du Libre-Échange (1894; Hotel Paradiso, 1957) by Georges Feydeau.

E4 Realism and Social Drama

Around the middle of the 19th century, European dramatists developed an interest in depicting contemporary life more truthfully and accurately, often with a direct or implied social message. This so-called social drama or drama of realism was pioneered in France by Émile Augier and by Alexandre Dumas fils (junior). Dumas filsLa dame aux camélias (1852; The Lady of the Camellias, 1897) won great international success. However, its sentimental depiction of a woman of questionable morals inspired Augier to present a much darker reply in Le mariage d’Olympe (1855; The Marriage of Olympe), a more realistic portrait of a prostitute. In Germany, Friedrich Hebbel, though he began as a romantic, turned in the direction of realism for his most famous work, the tragedy Maria Magdalena (1844), which reflected on middle-class attitudes toward marriage and morality. Although English popular melodrama generally became more realistic during the 19th century, the English dramatist who most resembled the continental realists was Tom Robertson. In Society (1864) and other plays, he paid such close attention to everyday language and small social customs that they became known as cup and saucer dramas.

Aleksandr Ostrovsky, the first professional playwright in Russia, established realism as a major dramatic mode in that country, both in comedies (Les, 1871; The Forest) and in tragedies (Groza, 1860; The Thunderstorm). Another important contributor to Russian realistic drama was Ivan Turgenev, whose works include Mesiats v derevne (1850; A Month in the Country), a perceptive study of the aristocracy.

E5 Naturalism, Symbolism, and Other Late 19th-Century Innovations

By the beginning of the 1870s the realist drama introduced in the 1850s had begun to seem dated and somewhat artificial. A new generation of dramatists and theorists sought a drama that would even more closely represent the texture of everyday life. Realism gave way to naturalism, whose chief spokesman was French writer Émile Zola. In plays and theoretical essays, Zola called for a drama that would apply the methods of science to playwriting, observing and recording human behavior as objectively and scrupulously as a scientist in a laboratory. A play that exemplifies Zola’s approach is Thérèse Raquin (1873), which was adapted from his 1867 novel of the same title.

Simultaneously with Zola’s writings, Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen began a series of plays that would mark the emergence of the modern theater. Most of Ibsen’s early works looked back to romanticism, his Peer Gynt (1867; translated 1892) for example, strongly suggesting Goethe’s Faust. In the late 1870s, however, his work took a sharp turn with Et dukkehjem (1879; A Doll’s House, 1889) and Gengangere (1881; Ghosts, 1888). These plays resembled those of the naturalists in their willingness to deal with shocking material formerly thought unsuitable for the theater—women’s equality in A Doll’s House and sexually transmitted disease in Ghosts. In form they owed much to Scribe and the well-made play, while in their general style and concern with social problems they carried forward the concerns of the early realists.

Ibsen’s realistic works were read, produced (despite many problems with censors), and imitated throughout Europe, and in their wake a major new generation of dramatists emerged. In Germany, Gerhart Hauptmann created powerful studies of contemporary society, such as Die Weber (1892; The Weavers), which chronicles the fate of a group of peasants. In Sweden, August Strindberg established his reputation with the realistic dramas Fadren (1887; The Father) and Fröken Julie (1888; Miss Julie). In Spain, José Echegaray modeled his El hijo de Don Juan (1892; The Son of Don Juan, 1895) on Ibsen’s Ghosts. James A. Herne brought new realism and psychological depth to the American drama with his Margaret Fleming (1890), about an unfaithful husband’s relationship with his wife. In England a new school of serious social drama appeared, inspired in large part by Ibsen. The leaders of this group included Henry Arthur Jones, with such plays as The Liars (1897), and Arthur Wing Pinero, whose The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1893) portrays a woman who is unable to escape her tarnished past. George Bernard Shaw also began his playwriting career much under Ibsen’s influence, with Widowers’ Houses (1892), a play that attacked capitalism.

Shaw considered Eugène Brieux of France the greatest playwright in Europe after Ibsen; and Brieux’s rather shocking studies of social problems certainly suggest Ibsen, especially Brieux’s Les avariés (1902; Damaged Goods, 1912), which discussed sexually transmitted disease. But the more purely naturalistic drama also received a powerful boost from another Frenchman, Henri Becque, in plays such as Les corbeaux (1882; The Vultures, 1913). Another major contribution to naturalism was Vlast’ tmy (1888; The Power of Darkness), a tragedy about peasants by Leo Tolstoy of Russia, although the major Russian dramatist of this period was Anton Chekhov. Chekhov’s delicate studies of life in provincial Russia, such as Chaika (1896; The Sea Gull, 1912), owed something to the tradition of realism developed in Russia by Ostrovsky and Turgenev, though they created a tone unique to their author.

Although realism remained a dominant style through most of the 20th century, individual authors and movements regularly arose to challenge it. A number of authors near the end of the 19th century sought to return to the poetic language and visual spectacle of the romantic theater, but only Edmond Rostand gained lasting success, with Cyrano de Bergerac (1897; translated 1898). A much more important challenge to realism was mounted by symbolism, which developed in response to the objectivity and scientific rationality that naturalism had encouraged (see Symbolist Movement). Symbolists, by contrast, proclaimed that the imagination was the true interpreter of reality. Ibsen began to turn in a more symbolic, even mystic direction in his later plays, beginning with Bygmester solness (1892; The Master Builder, 1893), as did Hauptmann, beginning with Hanneles Himmelfahrt (1893; Hannele, 1894). In Germany Frank Wedekind mixed realism and symbolism in his first important play, Frühlings erwachen (1891; The Awakening of Spring, 1909). Dramatists associated entirely with symbolism also emerged, led by Maurice Maeterlinck of Belgium, whose medieval and mystic Pelléas et Mélisande (1892; translated 1892) became a kind of model for the new movement. Much less typical was the grotesque satire Ubu Roi (1896; translated 1951) by Alfred Jarry, whose violent subversion of traditional theatrical modes anticipated features of later surrealist, dadaist, and absurdist drama in France (for more information, see the Reactions Against Realism and Theater of the Absurd sections of this article). In Italy, Gabriele D’Annunzio was influenced by Maeterlinck to create a series of symbolist dramas, including La città morta (1898; The Dead City, 1900), many of them for the great Italian actor Eleonora Duse.

William Butler Yeats became acquainted with many of the symbolists in Paris, France, and took their ideas back to his native Ireland, where they exercised an important influence on his work, particularly in his early plays such as The Shadowy Waters (1900). In the closing years of the 19th century he was deeply involved in the development of an Irish national stage, which contributed significantly to the drama of the opening years of the next century. Oscar Wilde provided a rare example of an English play influenced by symbolism in his Salomé (1893), but he is much better known for reviving the wit and style of the traditional English comedy of manners, most notably in The Importance of Being Earnest (1895).

F Early 20th-Century Drama

In the 20th century, many dramatists undertook radical experiments with form and language. Although many of these experiments challenged realism, a tradition of essentially realistic drama continued.

F1 Developments in Europe

Some 19th-century movements, including realism and symbolism, remained influential in Europe, especially during the early years of the century. But following World War I (1914-1918), reactions against those traditions erupted in Italy, France, Germany, and other European countries.

F1a New Directions in Realism

The Irish Renaissance, initiated in the late 19th century by the works of Yeats, reached its peak in the early years of the 20th century. Yeats himself continued to lead the movement, enriching the poetic symbolism of such dramas as At the Hawk’s Well (1916) with inspiration from the Asian theater. John Millington Synge contributed more realistic dramas, drawing on life in the Irish countryside to produce major works of both tragedy and comedy, such as Riders to the Sea (1904) and The Playboy of the Western World (1907), respectively. A number of secondary dramatists surrounded Yeats and Synge. Some specialized in realistic depictions of their native land, as did Lady Gregory with The Workhouse Ward (1908), and others developed symbolist themes, as, for example, Lord Dunsany with The Glittering Gate (1909). The leading Irish dramatist of the next generation, Sean O’Casey, turned from rural and mythic themes to serious though comic studies of urban Irish life, such as Juno and the Paycock (1924).

British theater of the early 20th century was dominated by Shaw. By infusing discussions of social problems with wit and paradox, Shaw lent power and success to the 19th-century tradition of realistic drama. A prime example is the treatment of war, peace, and weaponry in Major Barbara (1905). The treatment of social problems by John Galsworthy, such as labor unrest in Strife (1909), produced more typical realistic dramas. During the 1920s Somerset Maugham and Noel Coward revived once again the sophisticated comedy of manners, a longtime British specialty. Coward’s Private Lives (1930) has been restaged frequently.

Radical experiments within a basically realistic framework were undertaken in Italy by Luigi Pirandello, who called into question the realist assumption of a single reality that could be objectively observed and shown on stage. Very often he used the theater itself as a central image, as in his best-known work, Sei personnagi in cerca d’autore (1921; Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1922). In this work characters from a play challenge the ability of the theater to portray their lives and relationships fully and accurately.

In England, J. B. Priestley took realism in a new direction, challenging its cause-and-effect structure and its closed system of action with a series of plays that used the dimension of time in unconventional and surprising ways. In his first important success, Dangerous Corner (1932), for example, the action unfolds in a logical manner leading to catastrophic consequences, then at the end returns to repeat the opening scene to show that a slight change in the dialogue would lead the action in a totally different direction.

F1b Poetic Drama

A number of playwrights in the early 20th century attempted to revive poetic drama, which had fallen out of fashion with the rise of realism. The most successful was the period’s most respected poet, T. S. Eliot, who was born in the United States but became a British citizen. Eliot wrote several poetic dramas of contemporary life and the historical meditation Murder in the Cathedral (1935), a verse play that deals with the martyrdom of Saint Thomas à Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. More widely produced were the plays of Spain’s Federico García Lorca. He powerfully blended poetic imagery with strong sexual passion in such works as Bodas de sangre (1933; Blood Wedding, 1939).

The leading French dramatist between the two world wars—from 1918 to 1939—was Jean Giraudoux. Like many French dramatists before him, he took his subject matter from classic mythology, as in his comedy Amphitryon 38 (1929; translated 1938), or from a rather fantasized contemporary life, as in La folle de Chaillot (1945; The Madwoman of Chaillot, 1947). He gave to each his particular poetic imagination, fantasy, and gentle irony. Giraudoux inspired the younger Jean Anouilh, who, like the early Shaw, divided his plays into pleasant and unpleasant works (Anouilh’s terms for them were rosy and black or sparkling and grating). Anouilh’s best-known work is Antigone (1942; translated 1946). Created during the German occupation of Paris in World War II, it is a complex study of the forces of political power and resistance.

F1c Reactions Against Realism

A series of strong reactions to the prevalent theater of realism appeared throughout the early 20th century in a number of continental European countries. Probably the most influential of the nonrealistic dramatists from the early years of the 20th century was Strindberg, who around 1900 turned from naturalistic drama to more subjective works that sought to capture the inner imagination of dreams. He even titled one of them The Dream Play (originally Ett drömspel, 1902; translated 1912). These plays, along with the dark, grotesque, and often shocking later dramas of Frank Wedekind of Germany, such as Die Büchse der Pandora (1904; Pandora’s Box, 1918), prepared the way for perhaps the most important reaction against realism in the early 20th century: expressionism.

After symbolism, the next movement to emerge was called futurism. Futurism rejected both realism and romanticism as relics of the 19th century and sought a new form for a new century, a form more suited to an age of technology. Futurism was most important in Italy, where its leader Filippo Tommaso Marinetti specialized in brief, often parodistic scenes called sintesi, and in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). There Vladimir Mayakovsky produced much more complex works that often included political commentary, as in his play Klop (1929; The Bedbug, 1960). By the early 1930s, however, the Soviet government required that literature present an optimistic view of life in the USSR, establishing a style known as socialist realism and halting experimentation. The play Na dne (1902; The Lower Depths, 1912) by the naturalist Maksim Gorky was praised for its interest in the oppressed and seen as a better model for drama, but no new dramatists of Gorky’s stature appeared to create the more cheerful portraits that the Soviets wanted.

Two much-publicized revolts against realism arose during World War I (1914-1918): dada and surrealism. Dada went further than futurism in its efforts to subvert existing art, including drama, and left only plays designed to be impossible to stage, among them Le coeur à gaz (1920; The Gas Heart, 1964) by French writer Tristan Tzara. Surrealism took a more positive approach, attempting to go beyond realism, as its name suggests, into the psychic world of dreams and imagination. Not surprisingly, neither of these rather extreme movements produced much drama. However, Jean Cocteau of France, who began his career as a surrealist, continued to employ its techniques in the 1930s in his popular adaptations of classical myths, including Orphée (1926; Orpheus, 1933). Later the theater of the absurd would show the influence of these movements (for more information, see the Theater of the Absurd section of this article).

The work of several other dramatists of the 1920s also displayed the antirealistic influence of such movements as surrealism and symbolism. These include Fernand Crommelynck of France, with Le cocu magnifique (1921; The Magnificent Cuckold, 1966), an eccentric love story; Roger Vitrac of France, with Victor, ou les enfants au pouvoir (1928; Victor, or Children in Power), a farce with surrealist elements; and Michel de Ghelderode of Belgium, with Pantagleize (1929; translated 1960), a bitterly humorous look at revolution. None of these playwrights attracted widespread attention, however, until the emergence of the theater of the absurd in the 1950s, to which their work then seemed related.

F1d Expressionism and Epic Drama

Expressionism emerged in Germany just before World War I and remained a major movement in the German theater until the mid-1920s. Complaining that realist drama was concerned only with surface reality, the expressionists attempted to capture inner feelings as well, often distorting external reality to reflect the consciousness of the central character. In an effort to escape the specificity of realism in search of more general truths, expressionist characters were often presented as types—the Father, the Worker, or the Wife, for example. Many of the plays deal with basic family conflicts, such as Der Sohn (The Son, 1916) by Walter Hasenclever, but even more common are plays of social commentary. Notable examples include Seeschlacht (1918; Naval Encounter, 1969) by Reinhard Goering, which deals with the war, and two plays that address the dehumanizing effect of modern technological and capitalistic society. They are Von morgen bis mitternachts (1916; From Morn to Midnight, 1922) by Georg Kaiser and Masse-mensch (1920; Masses and Man, 1923) by Ernst Toller. Expressionism also had a strong influence in Eastern Europe, most notably in the plays of Czech dramatist Karel Čapek, whose futurist drama RUR (1921; translated 1923) brought the word robot (from the Czech word for “work”) into the European vocabulary.

Bertolt Brecht, the most influential German dramatist of the 20th century, began his career at the height of expressionism, which is clearly reflected in such early works as Trommeln in der Nacht (1922; Drums in the Night, 1971). Although he retained certain features of expressionist drama, including its episodic structure and social concerns, he turned away from its subjectivism and created a new kind of drama, which he called epic. This drama sought through theatrical means to diminish the audience’s emotional involvement and encourage rational responses to the material presented. Much debate has focused on whether Brecht actually achieved this goal in such works as Die Dreigroschenoper (1928; The Threepenny Opera, 1964) or Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (written 1937; produced 1941; translated as Mother Courage and Her Children, 1941). But Brecht’s works were nevertheless among the most widely produced and influential plays of the 20th century.

F2 Developments in the United States

A substantial playwriting tradition existed in the United States throughout the 19th century but attracted little international attention. Following World War I, however, American dramatists began to receive recognition, led by Eugene O’Neill, the outstanding figure of the early 20th century. Very much aware of European experiments in drama, O’Neill utilized a wide variety of dramatic styles, including symbolism in The Fountain (1925), expressionism in The Hairy Ape (1922), and realism in Desire Under the Elms (1924).

Among the various European antirealistic movements, only expressionism had much effect in the United States, primarily in plays with a strong social message. Examples include The Adding Machine (1923) by Elmer Rice, a fable about man’s dehumanization in a technological age, and Johnny Johnson (1936), an antiwar spectacle by Paul Green. Expressionism was also apparent in critiques of the capitalist system—comic in Beggar on Horseback (1924) by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly and militantly serious in such John Howard Lawson plays as Processional (1925). Elements of expressionism, combined with a complex mixture of realism and theatricality, marked the most popular of all American experimental dramas, Our Town (1938), a hymn to the human experience by Thornton Wilder.

Despite these experimental works, the main tradition in the American theater remained realistic, even naturalistic, as in two studies of urban slums: Street Scene (1929) by Elmer Rice, and Dead End (1935) by Sidney Kingsley. Even the tragedy Winterset (1935) by Maxwell Anderson, unique in its use of verse, had characters, a setting, and a plot that were basically realistic. Many dramas carried on Ibsen’s focus on social and personal relationships, most notably The Silver Cord (1926) by Sidney Howard, Golden Boy (1937) by Clifford Odets, and The Children’s Hour (1934) by Lillian Hellman. The American comedy of manners, established by the great success of Anna Cora Mowatt’s Fashion (1845), flourished in the 1930s. Prime examples include the works of S. N. Behrman, who incorporated political and social concerns into the witty dialogue of his plays, and Philip Barry, whose The Philadelphia Story (1939) was made into a popular motion picture.

G Post-World War II Drama

Although many dramatists of the 1930s continued to produce important works during the 1940s and 1950s, the theatrical landscape in Europe and the United States changed significantly after World War II (1939-1945). Among the most influential postwar movements was theater of the absurd.

G1 European Trends

In the years immediately following World War II, the philosophy of existentialism gained many followers in France and elsewhere. Existentialism argued that the universe contained no fixed and unchanging set of moral codes, and that each individual must create his or her own order and morality. Two of the leading philosophers of this movement, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, were also important dramatists. They created realistic dramas of contemporary moral conflicts, such as Sartre’s Morts sans sépulture (1946; Men without Shadows, 1949); historical dramas, such as Camus’s Caligula (1944; translated 1958); and even reworkings of mythology, such as Sartre’s version of the ancient Greek story of Orestes, Les mouches (1943; The Flies, 1946).

G1a Theater of the Absurd

Despite the assumption of an irrational universe, Sartre and Camus created dramas—whatever their settings—that essentially followed the traditional rules of rational construction and action. Around 1950, however, a new group of playwrights, much influenced philosophically by Camus and Sartre, created a revolution in European drama by taking the irrational into the structure, motivations, and language of their plays. Although very different in style, these dramatists shared a rejection of traditional cause-and-effect realistic drama, and as a group came to be known as the absurdists (see Theater of the Absurd). The term comes from a 1942 essay by Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus, 1955), which called the human condition absurd because humans continued to seek order and reason in a universe that was not built on these principles.

The first absurdist to gain attention was Arthur Adamov of France, whose early works, such as La parodie (The Parody, 1952), were influenced philosophically by existentialism and structurally by surrealism. The popular La cantatrice chauve (1950; The Bald Soprano, 1956) by Eugène Ionesco of France systematically attacked all the conventional rules of dramatic action, motivation, and language—most notably, in the characters’ inability to communicate with each other. Ionesco called it an antiplay. The first great success of the absurdist movement and probably the most known of all its plays, En attendant Godot (1953; Waiting for Godot, 1954), was written in French by Irish-born playwright Samuel Beckett, who came to be recognized as one of the major dramatists of the late 20th century. The two tramps of his play, Didi and Gogo, play pointless games to pass the time waiting for a savior who never comes. They have become two of the most familiar figures in modern theater. The success of Godot brought attention to Adamov, Ionesco, and Jean Genet, who was also from France. Genet created dark fables of power, submission, and masquerade, including Le balcon (1956; The Balcony, 1958), which is set in the illusory world of an elegant brothel as a revolution erupts outside. Power and cruelty also mark the absurdist works of Spanish-born French playwright Fernando Arrabal, such as Le cimetière des voitures (1958; The Automobile Graveyard, 1960).

The theater of the absurd had only a limited impact in England, but several playwrights did adopt its approaches and principles. In 1957 N. F. Simpson brought absurdist comedy to England with his The Resounding Tinkle. The most important English dramatist with a clear connection to the absurd is Tom Stoppard, who began a series of brilliant verbal comedies with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1966). Stoppard placed these minor characters from Hamlet at the center of the play, with characterizations clearly indebted to Beckett’s two famous tramps. The early plays of Peter Shaffer, most notably The Private Ear (1962) and The Public Eye (1962), also show their debt to absurdist theater in their humorous examinations of a hostile universe. His later and better known works, including Amadeus (1979), are much closer to realism, even though his plays often jump back and forth within space and time. Critics have also suggested a relationship between the absurdist theater and the works of Harold Pinter, one of England’s leading dramatists during the 1960s. Although the setting and dialogue of a Pinter play, such as The Caretaker (1960), suggests traditional realistic or naturalistic drama, a feeling of mystery and menace beneath the surface reality distances it from the realist tradition.

The international success of absurdist dramatists like Beckett, Genet, and Ionesco drew attention to dramatists who had taken part in earlier nonrational movements in France and elsewhere. Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, written in 1896, and the later surrealist and dadaist dramas were freshly viewed as precursors of the new style. Also, in many countries emerging dramatists experimented in a variety of ways with rejecting the strategies of the traditional realistic drama.

G1b Other Antirealistic Experiments

The two leading Swiss dramatists of the postwar years, Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Max Frisch, were for a time considered part of the absurdist movement because their plays departed from conventional realism. However, their dark, exaggerated allegories have little in common with Ionesco or Beckett, and Dürrenmatt’s suggestion that his plays be called grotesque rather than absurd highlights the difference. Frisch’s Biedermann und die Brandstifter (1958; The Fire Raisers, 1962) and Dürrenmatt’s Der Besuch der alten Dame (1956; The Visit, 1958), for example, are grim moral fables, with distorted but quite rational dramatic actions. Closer to the absurdists were the experiments of Peter Handke of Austria. His Publikumsbeschimpfung (1966; Offending the Audience, 1969), even more than any work by Ionesco, might be best described as an antiplay. It directly attacks the dramatic illusion itself by having the actors address and insult the audience.

The structure of the best-known German play of the 1960s, by Peter Weiss, was strongly influenced by his countryman Brecht, most notably in its use of political songs and a herald who comments on the action. Generally referred to as Marat/Sade, the full title of Weiss’s play is Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean-Paul Marats dargestellt durch die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizes zu Charenton unter Anleitung des Herrn de Sade (1964; The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, 1965). However, the Brechtian influence was overshadowed—especially in the London production staged by director Peter Brook—by Weiss’s use of shocking, often physical devices, notably in each actor’s vivid portrayal of insanity. These devices were inspired by the theories and practices of Antonin Artaud, a theater visionary associated with the surrealists. Artaud dreamed of a visceral theater of cruelty, which through the use of movement and gesture would force audiences to confront their most basic desires.

Despite the great success of Marat/Sade, Weiss turned in his following plays to another type of drama just then coming to prominence in Germany, the docudrama or theater of fact, which writers created by weaving together excerpts from actual historical documents. Rolf Hochhuth’s Der Stellvertreter (1963; The Deputy, 1964) was the first such play to gain prominence. This notice was largely due to the scandal caused by its charge that Pope Pius XII, by refusing to take a moral stand, was in part guilty of the Nazi extermination of the Jews during World War II. Hochhuth in fact utilized a good deal of fictional material, while Weiss’s Die Ermittlung (1965; The Investigation, 1966) was a true docudrama, drawn entirely from official hearings about the crimes against humanity committed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Another important contribution to this movement was Heinar Kipphardt’s In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer (1964; In the Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1967), based on a government hearing that resulted in the physicist losing his security clearance.

The modern drama of Poland and Czechoslovakia, both with strong experimental traditions, gained particular attention with the coming of the theater of the absurd. Poland had a particularly powerful nonrealistic tradition, which began with Stanislaw Wyspianski’s strange mixtures of realism and fantasy, as in Wesele (1901; The Wedding, 1933). It continued with Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz’s more extreme antilogical dramas, such as Kurka wodna (1921; The Water Hen, 1988), which explored the workings of the unconscious mind, and Witold Gombrowicz’s Ionesco-like Iwona, ksiezniczka Burgunda (1938; Ivona, Princess of Burgundy, 1969), which contrasts democracy and monarchy. Next came absurdist political allegories, such as Kartoteka (1960; The Card Index, 1969) by Tadeusz Rósewicz and Tango (1964; translated 1968), by Slawomir Mrozek. The leading postwar Czech dramatist, Václav Havel, followed a similar style of grotesque political satire in such plays as Vyrozumění (1965; The Memorandum, 1967), which looked at the absurdities of life under Communist rule.

G1c Postwar Realism

After World War II, the British stage was reinvigorated primarily by a new wave of realism, more concerned with social commentary and depicting the lives of the lower classes. The writers in this movement were initially called the ‘angry young men,’ in reference to the disillusioned protagonist of the first important success in the new style, Look Back in Anger (1956) by John Osborne. Among the other leading dramatists in this movement were John Arden, whose Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance (1959) discussed class and war; Arnold Wesker, whose The Kitchen (1959) used a restaurant kitchen as a microcosm of British society; and Edward Bond, whose Saved (1965) presented so grim a picture of lower-class British life that it was banned for a time.

Many British and Irish plays of this period displayed an interest in social and political issues, though not all employed the techniques of realism. Partly inspired by Brecht’s mixed style, some plays used song and vaudeville turns to help present the most serious of social messages. They include the antiwar revue Oh What a Lovely War! (1963) by Joan Littlewood and The Hostage (1958), a study of the ongoing Irish-English conflict by Brendan Behan. Some dramatists with less specific political concerns took inspiration from Brecht’s epic style, utilizing many short scenes, a loosely organized plot, and in may cases theatrical commentary on the action. One such dramatist was Robert Bolt in his A Man for All Seasons (1960), a study of the life and death of English statesman Sir Thomas More.

G2 American Trends

In the United States, Anderson, Hellman, Odets, and Wilder continued to produce important works following World War II, but the most praised older dramatist was O’Neill. His later works, most notably Long Day’s Journey into Night (produced 1956), were brought to the stage at last in the late 1950s. But the dominant dramatists of the postwar years were Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Miller pursued the Ibsenian tradition of social drama in his most famous play, The Death of a Salesman (1949), and enriched it with some touches of expressionism and symbolism by conveying parts of the story through the main character’s memories. Williams also worked generally in the mode of realism, but in a somewhat more poetic style and stressing individual psychology more than social concerns, as can be seen in his first two major works, The Glass Menagerie (1944) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1947). William Inge in such works as Picnic (1953) and Robert Anderson in Tea and Sympathy (1953) echoed the themes and approach of Williams and Miller.

The postwar years also saw the American musical become a major force. The dominant figures were composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, whose Oklahoma! (1943) inaugurated a remarkable period in this genre. Major new works by this team appeared every two or three years. The pair also inspired a number of other artists, such as lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe, who wrote Brigadoon (1947) and My Fair Lady (1956), and composer, lyricist, and librettist Frank Loesser, who won fame for Guys and Dolls (1950).

A number of young American dramatists of the late 1950s and early 1960s wrote dramas in the absurdist style, but of these only Edward Albee established a major reputation. His early short plays The Zoo Story (1959) and The American Dream (1961) seem clearly absurdist, but his best-known work, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), is an evening-long psychological confrontation closer to Strindberg or Williams. The most popular serious American dramatists after Albee returned to the general domain of realism, as may be seen in such works as The Hot l Baltimore (1973) by Lanford Wilson or Glengarry Glen Ross (1983) by David Mamet. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child (1978) by Sam Shepard suggested hidden and menacing dimensions somewhat in the manner of Pinter.

An important African American theater emerged during the 1960s, heralded by A Raisin in the Sun (1959) by Lorraine Hansberry, the first play by an African American woman to be presented on Broadway, the center of New York City’s theater district. Most subsequent leading African American dramatists continued to work in the traditional style of American realism. They included Charles Gordone, with No Place to Be Somebody (1967); Ed Bullins, with The Taking of Miss Janie (1975); Charles Fuller, with A Soldier’s Play (1981); and August Wilson, with Fences (1985). Amiri Baraka, the most militant of these dramatists, consciously sought a drama more dependent on spectacle and indebted to African tribal ceremonies, as is evident in such plays as Slave Ship (1967). A powerful antirealistic African American drama also developed, with certain ties to expressionism and surrealism. In Funnyhouse of a Negro (1962) by Adrienne Kennedy, for example, several historical figures visit a young woman as she seeks to understand her identity. More recently The America Play (1994) by Suzan-Lori Parks relates the untold history of blacks in America through an Abraham Lincoln look-alike named Foundling Father.

Members of other minorities also made important contributions to the American theater of the 1980s and 1990s. Probably the best known of these is David Henry Hwang, the Chinese American author of M. Butterfly (1988), a play that deals not only with cultural conflict but with homosexuality. Emotional attachment between persons of the same sex, generally hidden or condemned in earlier American drama, received more direct and sympathetic treatment in plays from the mid-1960s onward. A significant early example is The Madness of Lady Bright (1964), a compassionate look at an aging homosexual by Lanford Wilson. Homosexuality is also a central theme in one of the most ambitious and powerful American dramas of the 1990s, the two-part epic Angels in America (1991, 1993) by Tony Kushner.

H Recent Developments

In most European countries the final decades of the 20th century saw more emphasis placed upon the work of directors than on that of dramatists. Some of the most prominent figures enjoyed both roles. Heiner Müller of Germany created and staged lengthy, unconventional challenges to traditional dramatic structure. Robert Wilson of the United States produced parts of his epic the CIVIL warS (1983) in five different countries. The Seven Streams of the River Ota (1996), an epic by Canada’s Robert Lepage, premiered in Québec before touring the world.

During the 1990s Ireland maintained one of the strongest continuing traditions of new drama in Europe. Brian Friel, best known for his Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), headed a group of talented writers. This group also included Frank McGuinness, with Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (1992); Sebastian Barry, with The Steward of Christendom (1995); and Martin McDonagh, with The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1996).

The growing importance of women playwrights is one of the most significant features of recent American and British theater. Some of them are part of a recent trend toward solo performance, including Karen Finley, with her Constant State of Desire (1987), or Rachel Rosenthal, with her Pangean Dreams (1990). Others work within the general tradition of realist drama, whether in serious drama or in comedy. These playwrights include Beth Henley in Crimes of the Heart (1978), Marsha Norman in `Night, Mother (1982), Wendy Wasserstein in The Heidi Chronicles (1988) and An American Daughter (1997), and Paula Vogel in How I Learned to Drive (1996). Still others, such as Maria Irene Fornés in Fefu and Her Friends (1977) or Susan Yankowitz in Night Sky (1991) employ more avant-garde techniques. Along with such leading British dramatists as Caryl Churchill, with Top Girls (1982), Pam Gems, with Camille (1984), and Timberlake Wertenbaker, with Our Country’s Good (1988), these women have made some of the most important contributions to recent drama.
Contributed By:
Marvin Carlson

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.



Lee Strasberg

American acting teacher Lee Strasberg was best known for his association with the Actors Studio, of which he became the artistic director in 1951. Strasberg used emotion-oriented techniques to train many actors, including Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman. In 1969 Strasberg founded the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute.

Peter Basch/Globe Photos, Inc.

Acting, the representation of a character on stage, in a motion picture, or in a television production. Acting is a formalization of play. Its symbol-making process predates writing and is thought to be a universal cultural phenomenon. Most societies have designated special times and places where make-believe activities are presented before spectators. The performers who entertain the audience by transforming themselves into human, animal, or divine characters are called actors.

Makeup Transforms Boris Karloff

Actors almost always use some makeup during performances to give their features a natural look despite the bright lights illuminating the stage or set. But makeup artists also use large amounts of makeup when they need to transform an actor’s appearance radically. This interactive illustration shows British-born actor Boris Karloff as makeup transforms him from one character to another in the motion picture Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953). In the film, Karloff plays Dr. Jekyll, a scientist who discovers a potion that changes him into the maniacal Mr. Hyde.

© Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.© Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

The impulse to act appears to be instinctive in humans. It is related to the natural development of the imagination and of social skills in children. Mimicry, disguise, imitation, fantasy, and transformation are the sources of most play activity and complex games. Learning to pretend and mastering different roles allow children to find their place in the family and among their peers.


Each theatrical tradition has its own rules and conventions as to what constitutes good acting. Essentially, an actor’s talents are judged by his or her ability to effectively communicate dialogue and a sense of character to the spectator. This is normally accomplished through voice, movement, and the registration of emotion. But other artistic qualities—often difficult to describe or define—such as charm, depth of feeling, originality, plausibility, and physical attractiveness also affect the audience’s judgment.

Acting is a complex art. The professional actor’s mastery of voice projection, elocution (speaking style), diction (clarity of pronunciation), gesture, stage movement, and other abilities is only the first component of the craft. Other basic skills include the memorization of lines and cueing; manipulation of masks, costumes, and stage properties; and the embodiment of character through the expression of class status, gender, age, nationality, and temperament. Learning these skills generally takes several years. For traditional forms of Asian theater, training is often arduous. Most forms of Indian dance-drama, for example, require dedicated study beginning in early childhood to master a complex, stylized system of gestures, movements, and facial expressions.

In theater productions the actor speaks and moves in the imaginary environment of the stage, and so his or her powers of pretense must be sharply focused over an extended period of time or the entire dramatic atmosphere may collapse. Achieving a believable transformation into the character and entry into the play’s circumstances requires a constant stream of inspiration from the actor’s psyche. In many cultures, this ability to awaken the creative centers of the brain and achieve vibrant expression is the foundation of great acting. Only when the performer is properly stimulated internally can the spectator also be stirred deeply and propelled into the moment-by-moment reality of the play.

The controlled production of emotions is the actor’s special creative problem. Other artists—such as painters, sculptors, composers, or novelists—are not expected to complete a new masterpiece every night, or even every year; yet the working stage actor must perform creatively on command at an announced time and place before a live audience. Or put another way, the performing artist is forced to inhabit a character even when he or she may feel no special inspiration or artistic impulse. And since theater performances are normally repeated over several evenings or months, actors, even when successful one night, must constantly replenish, or reinspire, themselves artistically. The performer’s fear of losing certain psychic and physical energies—or growing stale in a role—has been articulated since the 1st century ad. The need to overcome this obstacle differentiates actor training from all other forms of artistic study.


Aristotle undertook the first theoretical discussion of acting in the West in his Poetics (about 330 bc). Actors in the classical Greek theater wore larger-than-life masks and heavy garments to represent mythological and historical characters. They communicated temperament and feeling primarily through speech and stylized gestures whose meaning was clear to spectators. Professional performers underwent a rigorous regimen of speech training and vocal exercise. According to Aristotle, the human voice alone could register passion and delight. He also wrote that the most convincing portrayals of distress and anger, for example, were produced by performers who truthfully felt those emotions at the moment they expressed them. Finding the true feeling in the proper place and time on stage, however, was a problem that Aristotle addressed less well. He concluded that acting was an occupation for the gifted or insane.

How to cross the artistic boundary beyond feigned emotions and flat imitation obsessed many Greek actors. In 315 bc the tragedian Polus carried the real ashes of his recently deceased son in an urn to stimulate a sense of genuine grief when he played the mythological character Electra mourning her dead brother Orestes. (At that time and for hundreds of years afterward, male actors played the parts of women.) In doing so, he moved his Athenian audience deeply, but Polus’s experiment was not easily duplicated and remained a historical curiosity.

With the decline of the Greek theater by the 3rd century bc, the art of acting almost disappeared for a thousand years in the West. Theater existed and flourished during the Roman Empire (1st century bc to 5th century ad) and in European courts and cities during the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century), but actors themselves were normally regarded as unreliable vagabonds or social outcasts. Rarely were they accorded the status of true artists or professional interpreters of dramatic texts. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries did the perception of theater and acting change.

A The Rise of Acting Technique

Edmund Kean

British actor Edmund Kean won critical acclaim for his interpretation of leading roles in plays by William Shakespeare. His last performance was in the title role of Shakespeare’s Othello in 1833.


Troupes of the commedia dell’arte, popular Italian comedy, spread throughout Europe in the early 1600s. Working without scripts on makeshift stages, the commedia companies, which included the first professional female actors, produced a new dynamic between performer and spectator. The sources of theatrical creativity sprang directly from the performers, who improvised their own words and comic actions around a basic plot and stock character types. Unlike in the literary theater or the opera, where the audience concentrated on a playwright’s speeches or on individual arias, the spectator’s interest in the commedia attached itself to the improvised and expressive accomplishments of the entire ensemble. Literary concepts and spectacular scenic displays were uncommon in commedia dell’arte, and this encouraged attention to the art of acting.

During the 17th century, when the plays of such dramatists as William Shakespeare and Molière were popular in England and France, theater integrated great dramatic literature with the excitement of professional acting. But once again the playwright’s art overshadowed the performer. It was difficult to untangle artistically the words of the dramatist from the skill of the actor speaking them. Only the historical separation of these first productions from their restagings a generation later allowed audiences to fully appreciate the actor’s art, independent of the original dialogues.

Beginning in the late 17th century, theatergoers in England learned to distinguish the treatment of Hamlet by actor-manager Thomas Betterton from other productions of Shakespeare’s play. Different stagings of classical or familiar plays sharpened spectators’ critical facilities. In addition, theater halls designed with a concern for good acoustics permitted performers to be heard differently and allowed for more subtle, natural inflections. Sophisticated systems of indoor stage lighting displayed the faces and hands of individual actors, so that the visual details of a performance could be more easily perceived and critiqued.

Among the first modern actors on the British stage in the 18th century were Charles Macklin and his student David Garrick. Macklin, who was hired because of his background in commedia-like farces and pantomime, based his celebrated Shylock (a Jewish businessman in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice) on observations of Jews in London. Essentially, Macklin added lifelike details of movement and authentic speech to written text, acting features that may not have been noticed 50 years earlier with less advanced acoustics, lighting, and other theater technology.

Garrick continued this novelty of natural acting but with still more plausibility and under better lighting conditions. Garrick practiced imitating the facial expressions of actual people and brought this mimicry to the stage. What would be a good comic turn in a fairground performance became a new expressive technique for tragedy. For example, Garrick based his portrayal of Shakespeare’s King Lear on a crazed neighbor who compulsively reenacted the accidental killing of his infant daughter. Although Macklin, in contrast to the prevailing style of the time, never dropped his character during a performance, Garrick went further by listening and reacting in character to all the dialogue around him. This standard feature of the unscripted commedia became a surprising innovation when applied to Shakespeare. Audience members could not take their eyes off Garrick.

Eighteenth-century French encyclopedist Denis Diderot, who saw Garrick on tour in Paris, became fascinated with Garrick’s abilities to rapidly portray emotional states on his face without actually feeling them. Diderot believed the less the actor felt the emotions of his character, the more artistic control he could have, and therefore, he could deliver a more consistent and stronger performance. In the essay “Le paradoxe sur le comédien” (1773; translated as “The Paradox of the Actor,” 1883), Diderot contrasted the techniques of two famous rivals, Marie-Françoise Dumesnil and Hippolyte Clairon, who performed at the Comedie Française. Dumesnil, the representative of the so-called emotional school, thought it was an actor’s duty to become the character. Although horribly uneven as a performer—she normally coasted through a play until she reached a tragic point—Dumesnil had tremendous power and emotional depth. She claimed she knew the secret of great acting: heaven. She prayed to find out who she was as a character, where she was, and what she had done. Unfortunately, her divine inspiration was frequently stimulated by alcohol. Clairon maintained she did not become her characters, she did not even play them. Instead, she created them through movement and speech. Perfecting the “look” of emotions and rehearsing endlessly, Clairon managed to develop fairly natural and reliable character portrayals. Clarion declared audiences applauded actors, not characters. What Diderot had really uncovered in his comparison of the two actors were the polarities of inspiration and technique.

Neither Macklin, Garrick, Diderot, Dumesnil, nor Clairon solved the problems of inspiration and expressiveness for other actors. For one thing, the schools and treatises they left behind were more philosophical than technical. In fact, Garrick’s natural school of acting vanished with his death. For British audiences, it was a fad associated with the actor. The truth of the matter was that Garrick and the rest could not teach their highly personal techniques.

The emotional and antiemotional acting styles of the great actors ran in cycles through the 19th century. In every country, an actor of one generation championed the first technique and was followed by a younger performer who advocated the other. So the romantic and emotive Edmund Kean followed the stately Sarah Siddons, who followed Garrick. But as limelight gave rise to gas lighting and then to electricity, more and more physical detail appeared on the stage. Costumes and scenic displays grew in complexity and size, dwarfing the actor.

B Twentieth-Century Techniques

Konstantin Stanislavsky

Russian actor, director, and writer Konstantin Stanislavsky developed a technique in which actors use personal experiences to develop an emotional reality for their characters. He cofounded the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT) in 1897 and led it for 40 years.


In 1907 Konstantin Stanislavsky, artistic director of the Moscow Art Theater in Russia, began developing a new form of actor training. Already internationally celebrated as an actor and director, Stanislavsky searched for a system to awaken the performer emotionally. His goal was to achieve the creative state of mind in the actor. Harking back to Polus, Stanislavsky thought the performer’s past emotional experiences could be truthfully relived on stage. Basing his discoveries on the preparations of great actors and his knowledge of yoga, Stanislavsky schooled his Moscow Art players in physical exercises that emphasized relaxation, concentration, and belief. According to Stanislavsky, one could reawaken and control these memories only indirectly, through the stimulation of the five senses.

Revised continually over several decades, Stanislavsky’s system in many variations became the touchstone of 20th-century actor training. Its attention to awakening truthful emotion in the actor, which registers in facial detail, made it an ideal technique for naturalistic film and television acting. Almost from the start, however, Stanislavsky’s teachings produced countertheories and opposing approaches, from both experimental and traditional directors.

In Russia, Vsevolod Meyerhold and Mikhail Chekhov, both students of Stanislavsky, designed actor-training regimes that shunned psychological stimulation for more physical and imaginative actor preparations. Avant-garde theater practitioners in the 1930s, such as German playwright Bertolt Brecht and French theorist Antonin Artaud, also challenged Stanislavsky’s theatrical orientation as overly realistic and internalized. To a large degree, Stanislavsky’s clarion call was ignored in countries where theatrical traditions were firmly entrenched, as in France and England.

Historically, Stanislavsky’s greatest success outside Russia was in the United States. The Group Theatre in the 1930s and the Actors Studio two decades later helped popularize the Russian’s ideas as the Method, which became the foundation of postwar motion-picture acting in Hollywood (see Lee Strasberg). By the 1960s directors of the alternative American theater, especially those influenced by Artaud and contemporary Polish director Jerzy Grotowski, began exploring innovative acting techniques that emphasized the external and superphysical qualities of the performer. By the late 1990s, many American acting teachers borrowed from both traditions as well as from Asian theater and modern dance.
Contributed By:
Mel Gordon

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

A Guide to Teori Drama

Oleh: Manfred Jahn

Kendali referensi: Jahn, Manfred. 2003. A Guide to Teori Drama. Bagian II Poems, Dimainkan, dan Prosa: A Guide to Teori Sastra Genre. Inggris Department, University of Cologne.

Version: 1.7.

Tanggal: August 2, 2003.

Halaman ini: ~ ame02/pppd.htm

Halaman pengantar Proyek: ~ ame02/ppp.htm

Untuk memudahkan pengindeksan global, semua paragraf dalam bagian ini diawali ‘D’ untuk ‘drama’. Jika Anda mengutip dari dokumen ini, gunakan ayat referensi (misalnya, D2.1) daripada nomor halaman.

Catatan. Bagian ini sebagian besar didasarkan pada Pfister Manfred’s The Theory of Drama (edisi Jerman pertama 1977; Inggris translation 1988).


D1. Teks dan kinerja

D2. Dramatis komunikasi dan komunikasi dalam bidang drama

D3. Dasar istilah-istilah teknis

D4. Shakespeare

D5. Bingkai gambar-tahap

D6. Epic drama dan epik teater

D7. Aksi analisis

D8. Karakter dan Karakterisasi

D9. Referensi

D1. Teks dan kinerja

D1.1. Seperti dalam bagian puisi tutorial ini (P1.1), bagian ini akan mulai dengan mengusulkan sebuah ‘diferensial definisi’ yang bertujuan untuk menangkap ‘kekhususan’ dari drama, dan ini kemudian akan berfungsi sebagai kerangka kerja bagi semua istilah-istilah teknis yang mengikutinya. Namun demikian, apa yang harus diperhatikan sejak awal adalah bahwa ada kemiripan keluarga yang kuat antara drama dan prosa fiksi. Kedua genre adalah jenis teks naratif, dan itu adalah karena alasan ini bahwa teori teori drama dan teks-teks naratif mencakup cukup banyak kesamaan (Richardson 1987; 1988; 1991). Memang, bila memungkinkan, rekening berikut akan meminjam dari inventaris konsep-konsep yang telah dibuat dalam apa yang sekarang dikenal sebagai ‘narratology’ (N0). Lihat juga penggolongan / taksonomi genre disajikan pada Proyek PPP Page (I2). Untuk pandangan kritis pendekatan ini dan argumen untuk membatasi prosa narasi narratology untuk melihat Genette (1988: 17).

D1.2. Dalam sebuah toko buku, Anda akan menemukan bagian drama fiksi di samping puisi dan bagian. Tapi apakah itu berarti bahwa bermain adalah jenis teks seperti novel atau puisi? Saat ini, kebanyakan ahli teori menganggap bahwa hakikat sebuah drama terletak pada orientasi terhadap kinerja publik, menuju menjadi atau menjadi ‘bermain dalam performa’ di mana karakter ‘bagian-bagian yang disahkan oleh aktor. Teks drama secara berbeda-beda dilihat sebagai panduan untuk sebuah pertunjukan, sebanding dengan cetak biru, sebuah skor musik (Krieger 1995: 78), atau bahkan resep kue kue (Searle 1975: 329). Mengenai peran penonton, reaksi penonton (tertawa, menangis dll) tidak hanya bagian integral dari suatu pertunjukan, mereka juga memiliki efek umpan balik langsung. Semua ini tercermin dalam definisi dasar Pfister.

  • Sebuah bermain adalah bentuk multimedial dirancang untuk dipentaskan dalam kinerja publik. Sebuah bermain adalah ‘multimedial’ dalam arti bahwa ia menggunakan kedua pendengaran dan media visual: sebuah drama penonton harus menggunakan mata mereka serta telinga mereka (sebuah novel, sebaliknya, adalah sebuah ‘monomedial “bentuk).

Memperluas Pfister definisi, kita akan mengatakan bahwa bermain adalah bentuk narasi multimedial karena menyajikan sebuah cerita (urutan tindakan unit).Perhatikan bahwa, berdasarkan pandangan ini, ada dua bentuk narasi utama: epik narasi (yaitu, novel dan cerpen) dan cerita-cerita dramatis.

D1.3. Mengenai kriteria pementasan publik, dua pengecualian yang harus diperhatikan: lemari pertunjukan drama dan swasta.

  • Sebuah lemari drama adalah sandiwara yang terutama dirancang untuk dibaca. Sering kali bermain ini diidentifikasi sebagai ‘dramatis puisi’. Contoh: Milton,Samson Agonistes; Shelley, Prometheus Unbound; Byron, Manfred; Browning, Pippa Passes; Barrett Browning, The Seraphim; Mann, Fiorenza.

Mengenai pertunjukan swasta, para raja Bayern seclusive Ludwig II memiliki kebiasaan memesan seluruhnya pertunjukan pribadi Wagner opera – jauh ke komposer jengkel.

D1.4. Sama seperti penerimaan sebuah drama adalah pengalaman publik kolektif, pementasan sebuah drama merupakan sebuah perusahaan kolektif, yang melibatkan kerjasama dari banyak orang, termasuk produser, sutradara, desainer, koreografer, musisi, dan, tentu saja, aktor.

  • Seorang direktur adalah orang yang bertanggung jawab atas pementasan drama, mengembangkan konsep produksi, dan melakukan latihan, juga orang yang biasanya bertanggung jawab untuk dan dikreditkan dengan produksi, biasanya ditunjuk produksi nya. (Namun, perlu diketahui bahwa, seperti melakukan, mengarahkan adalah relatif baru, yaitu, 20 derajat Celcius, profesi.)
  • Seorang produsen (juga: teater manajer) biasanya bertanggung jawab untuk mengelola aspek keuangan dari suatu produksi, mempekerjakan aktor dll produser yang baik “memiliki jenius untuk mengenali potongan besar yang berpotensi teater serta menemukan keuangan untuk itu untuk diletakkan di “(Lathan 2000).
  • Seorang manajer panggung bertanggung jawab atas kinerja beton acara, terutama untuk mengawasi dan mengkoordinasi semua kegiatan di belakang panggung.

Lihat Peter Lathan’s School Show Page di untuk yang sangat baik teater glossary istilah-istilah teknis.

Pembaca mungkin ingin melewatkan bagian-bagian berikut (pada berbagai pendekatan drama) dan berbalik langsung ke D2.

D1.5. Historis, ini berguna untuk membedakan tiga jenis atau ‘sekolah’ teori drama dan interpretasi. Untuk kemudahan, mari kita label sekolah ini ‘Puitis Drama’, ‘Studi Teater’ dan ‘Membaca Drama’. Seperti survei singkat berikut ini akan menunjukkan, mereka merupakan tahap dialektika sebuah Fichtean tesis-antitesis-sintesis siklus. Setiap sekolah, dari sudut pandang tertentu, mempunyai pandangan kuat tentang apa yang dianggap sebagai benar, palsu, menarik, penting, atau tidak penting; dan para pengikut mereka berbeda milik “komunitas interpretatif” (Ikan 1980). Dalam tiga sub-paragraf, sekolah-sekolah ini adalah daftar ringkasnya dijelaskan oleh prinsip-prinsip utama mereka, strategi penafsiran favorit mereka, kata kunci dan catchphrases mereka, dan agenda-agenda mereka.

Mengingat demikian relativitas diperkenalkan, saat ini sebagian besar mencakup pengenalan kepercayaan Drama Membaca sekolah sebagai ditetapkan dalam Pfister (1977), Scanlan (1988) dan Scolnicov dan Belanda, eds. (1991).

D1.5.1. Puitis Drama mengutamakan (dicetak) teks dramatis. Membaca teks dramatis dipandang sebagai yang unik dan bermanfaat sesuai pengalaman, terutama jika dilihat terhadap kekurangan teater, aktor, dan pertunjukan yang sebenarnya. Hanya membaca hati-hati mengeluarkan sebuah drama karya estetis penuh kualitas dan kekayaan.

  • Interpretatif strategi: dekat membaca (Brooks 1947).
  • Agenda: Dislike aktor, penonton, dan lembaga teater (tegas termasuk Renaissance teater publik).
  • Catchphrases: Puitis drama, puisi dramatis, drama sebagai sastra, teater dalam pikiran, “lebih rendah daripada yang asli”.
  • Testimonial:

Aku hampir tidak pernah pergi ke teater … meskipun saya membaca semua memainkan aku bisa. Aku tidak pergi ke teater karena saya selalu bisa melakukan produksi yang lebih baik dalam pikiran saya. … Bukankah Hamlet, terlihat dalam mimpi teater imajinasi sebagai satu membaca, bermain lebih besar daripadaHamlet ditafsirkan bahkan dengan produksi yang sempurna? (qtd. Redmond, 1991: 57-8).

D1.5.2. Theater Studies adalah pendekatan yang hak-hak istimewa kinerja di atas teks. Menurut pendekatan ini, teks drama tidak memiliki eksistensi independen apa pun. Lihat Styan (1975) untuk program eksposisi, Hornby (1977) untuk sebuah kritik terhadap pendekatan Drama Puitis, Levin (1979), Taylor (1985), Hawkins (1985 ) [semua pada teks kinerja vs isu yang terkait dengan Shakespeare].

  • Interpretatif strategi: Menganalisis kinerja sebagai produk dari kondisi teater; sosiologi drama; tahap tahap kode dan semiotika; tahap sejarah drama; dinamika kolaboratif kepengarangan.
  • Agenda: Membangun disiplin yang berbeda; menyerang Puitis Drama (D1.5.1) untuk mencari kesalahan dalam konstruksi plot yang pemirsa yang tidak pernah memperhatikan.
  • Slogannya: Sebuah drama itu “datang untuk hidup” dalam kinerja.
  • Testimonial:

Sebelum memperkenalkan drama dalam buku ini kepada pembaca, saya ingin membuat beberapa pengamatan singkat pada penulisan dramatis dan saya sendiri sikap tertentu itu. Meskipun dramawan juga mungkin seorang laki-laki surat, mampu menghasilkan novel, puisi, esai, kritik, saya percaya bahwa drama tidak hanya cabang sastra, tetapi seni kecil yang terpisah, dengan nilai-nilai khas sendiri dan teknis. (Dan satu hari, jika saya diselamatkan, saya berharap untuk menghadapi masalah ini cukup panjang, jika hanya sebagai protes terhadap omong kosong kita sering ditawarkan oleh para profesor dan dosen sastra yang menulis tentang drama tanpa memahami Theatre.) Saya harap bahwa bermain di buku ini dapat dinikmati oleh pembaca, tapi aku harus menekankan fakta bahwa mereka tidak ditulis untuk dibaca tetapi untuk dimainkan di teater, di mana jika benar diproduksi dan bertindak mereka datang hidup. Sebuah permainan yang belum pernah menemukan sebuah teater, aktor, penonton, bukan benar-benar bermain sama sekali. Seorang dramawan adalah seorang penulis yang bekerja di dan untuk Theatre. (Ini adalah fakta penting bahwa semua dramawan besar memainkan peran aktif dalam produksi-produksi pertama mereka bermain, dan tidak pernah menerima peran legendaris sayu penulis kecil yang semua orang di rumah bermain mengabaikan.) Jika ada Cezannes dari Teater, bekerja sepanjang seluruh hidup, disalahpahami dan diabaikan, saya untuk satu belum pernah mendengar tentang mereka. Seorang dramawan harus memiliki aktor dan khalayak untuk mewujudkan dirinya sendiri: sehingga ia harus datang untuk berdamai dengan Teater zamannya. (Priestley 1948: vii)

Banyak teoretisi komentar pada kenyataan bahwa kinerja analisis adalah usaha yang sangat sulit. Sebuah malam pembukaan drama ini berbeda dengan pertunjukan terakhir, kinerja tidak dapat dihentikan dalam Tentu saja, tidak ada halaman untuk kembali ke atau untuk melompat, referensi dan interpretasi keduanya sulit untuk mendokumentasikan dan sulit untuk memverifikasi (seharusnya semua referensi tersebut didasarkan pada rekaman video?). Pertimbangkan yang berikut komentar skeptis oleh Laurence Lerner:

Aku percaya bahwa karya Shakespeare benar-benar bermain, dan mengambil kehidupan mereka dalam kinerja [. . .]. Tapi sulit untuk mengetahui bagaimana untuk bertindak berdasarkan keyakinan ini. [. . .] Ada dua jenis teater yang berpusat pada kritik. Ada upaya oleh para ahli untuk menulis tentang aktor besar di masa lalu: hal ini sering menarik, tetapi saya belum pernah menemukan bahwa mereka memberitahu kita apa-apa tentang Shakespeare. Bahkan ada sesuatu yang menyeramkan tentang pembahasan mengenai pejabat dari Garrick atau Kean atau Booth, mati sebelum kritikus yang pernah pergi ke teater. Kemudian ada pemberitahuan tekan memainkan: tapi tidak terlalu ineluctably ini tetap di sini dan sekarang – atau lebih tepatnya di sana dan kemudian? Apakah kita peduli apa Miss Spinks seperti sebagai Hermia, atau Mr Binks sebagai Theseus, dalam kinerja kami nyaris tidak ingat atau pernah melihat? (Lerner 1967: 14)

D1.5.3. Membaca Drama adalah sebuah pendekatan yang menyatakan bahwa Puitis Studi Teater Drama dan sekolah tidak perlu didasarkan pada posisi bias.Sebaliknya, Reading Drama mengasumsikan ideal penerima yang adalah seorang pembaca dan theatergoer – seorang pembaca yang menghargai teks dengan maksud untuk memungkinkan atau kinerja aktual, dan theatergoer yang (kembali) menghargai kinerja melalui nya pengetahuan dan kembali -pembacaan teks. Teks diterima baik sebagai bagian dari sastra dan sebagai panduan untuk performa gerakan dari “halaman ke tahap” dianggap sama pentingnya dengan yang dari “panggung ke halaman” (Berger 1989). Seperti seorang direktur, pembaca teks drama harus menjadi salah satu “yang mampu membawa eksplisit dan implisit banyak tanda-tanda dan sinyal yang ada dalam teks sastra hidup dalam imajinasinya” (Pfister 1988: 13). Program teks: Ubersfeld (1977) [sebuah studi yang berjudul Lire le theatre],Elam (1980), Pfister (1984 [1977]), Scolnicov dan Belanda, eds. (1991) [kumpulan esai berjudul Membaca Dimainkan], Scanlan ( 1988) [sebuah penelitian berjudul Membaca Drama; penulis mengklaim bahwa “kekayaan drama berpengalaman paling penuh saat bersamaan pembaca menyadari dimensi struktural dan kinerja dari drama” (hal. iii)], Berger (1989) [bagus diskusi tentang Studi Teater Drama vs Membaca perdebatan, diilustrasikan dengan mengacu pada “Shakespeare on Stage dan Page”].

  • Strategi penafsiran: yang berorientasi pada kinerja analisis tekstual atau “berpusat pada tahap membaca”, “audisi dan visualisasi imajiner” (Berger, 1989: 28); pemeriksaan playscript’s “actability” dan “realizability”; membandingkan pembacaan bermain untuk pembacaan novel. Contoh: Goodman dan Burk Tahun 1996 tentang Churchill’s Top Girls.
  • Agenda: rehabilitasi sebagian teks sebagai sebuah karya sastra; lintas-disiplin pertukaran antara kritikus, teoretisi, dan praktisi teater.
  • Slogannya: virtual kinerja (Issacharoff 1989: 4; Alter 1990: ch. III.3).
  • Kesaksian:

Krapp’s Last Tape saham ambiguitas formal dari semua drama: itu sekaligus teks yang akan membaca dan membaca ulang dan panduan untuk live performance. […] Memang, kesadaran pembaca kinerja yang potensial sebagian merupakan makna teks, jika kita ingin memahami drama, kita harus membaca dengan imajinasi visual terutama aktif (Campbell, 1978: 187).

Pertimbangkan juga Berger resep untuk ‘imajiner audisi’:

Kami berlatih imajiner audisi ketika, dalam sebuah dialog antara A dan B, kita membayangkan efek pidato A pada B; mendengarkan dengan B A telinga, kita menuliskan hasil audit ini dalam account kita membuat bahasa B. Tetapi kita juga dapat […] mendengarkan bahasa B dengan B telinga. […] Sebagai pembaca kita bergabung B […] dalam memantau tindakan sambutannya. Perspektif ini mengkonversi B pidato untuk terus diri interpretasi atau-interogasi […]. (Berger 1989: 46)

Dalam pandangan penulis, Membaca Drama menyajikan sintesis yang paling menjanjikan. Bukan hanya karena paling apodictic dari pendekatan yang tercantum di atas, tetapi juga mendorong pertukaran lintas disiplin antara teori teori drama dan prosa naratif (narratology) bahwa rekening berikut sebagian besar dibangun di atas.

D1.5.4. Secara ringkas, pendekatan Drama Membaca membuat sketsa di atas menunjukkan bahwa seseorang harus sadar baik kesamaan dan kekhususan, terutama mengenai definisi seseorang bermain di satu pihak dan “epik narasi ‘(novel, cerita pendek) pada lain. Di antara berbagai aspek yang dapat dipertimbangkan di sini adalah (1) bagaimana genre masing-masing diterima (kriteria penerimaan), (2) apa yang sedang mereka tentang (a tematik kriteria), dan (3) apa hak dan kewajiban mereka menawarkan penulis .

  • Kesamaan: Apa novel dan drama mempunyai kesamaan adalah bahwa mereka berdua narasi genre. Dunia cerita drama ini tidak berbeda dalam prinsip dari dunia narasi lain. Dimainkan punya cerita dan plot (D7.2), dan bahkan jika mereka tidak secara harfiah “menceritakan” kisah mereka, tellability dan kriteria experientiality yang dramatis juga sebagai epik yang. Selain itu, sebagai Chatman (1990: 9) menunjukkan dengan tepat, drama mempunyai “double kronologi ‘dari semua narasi presentasi (durasi aksi dan durasi resepsi). Mereka juga mengakui yang biasa manipulasi temporal ( “anachronies”).
  • Perbedaan: Perbedaan utama antara kedua genre adalah bahwa novel (dan playscripts) yang dibaca oleh pembaca ketika memainkan adalah multimedial pertunjukan di depan khalayak. Perbedaan tambahan sebagian besar soal pilihan gaya daripada perbedaan tajam dalam bentuk natura. Hal ini lebih mudahbagi seorang novelis untuk memberikan informasi mengenai latar belakang sejarah dan pengetahuan negara, untuk secara spasial mobile ( ‘maha’), untuk mempresentasikan otoritatif dan ringkasan rekening (sering kali dengan menggunakan sebuah ‘narator mahatahu’), untuk menyaring cerita melalui titik pandang dari satu atau lebih karakter, dan untuk mengekspresikan karakter rahasia kehidupan batin. Ada setara dramatis ini, tetapi mereka semua harus diimpor melalui konvensi khusus (seperti solilokui, ‘alter-ego karakter’, dll) yang khususnya kurang alamiah dari bentuk-bentuk epik yang mapan.

Lihat Goffman (1974: 149-155); juga narratology bagian dari tutorial ini, terutama bagian di authorial narasi (N3.3.1), sudut pandang / focalization (N3.2), ringkasan, narasi mode (N5.3.1), dalam dilihat (N8.8).

D2. Dramatis komunikasi dan komunikasi dalam bidang drama

D2.1. Saat Pfister (1988) dan Chatman (1990) menunjukkan, drama adalah bentuk narasi yang mewakili atau ‘menceritakan’ cerita, kadang-kadang secara harfiah begitu. Grafik berikut menunjukkan bahwa komunikasi naratif pada umumnya melibatkan beberapa tingkat. Setiap tingkat komunikasi datang dengan seperangkat sendiri addressers dan addressees (yaitu, pengirim dan penerima, pencerita (periwayat) dan khalayak).

  • Tingkat nonfictional komunikasi adalah menetapkan tingkat terluar yang pragmatis (communicational) ruang di mana seorang penulis (dramawan, dramawan) menulis teks drama. Teks ini digunakan oleh seorang direktur, bekerjasama dengan produser, aktor, komposer, dll, untuk panggung pertunjukan.Dalam arti, dramawan adalah ‘primer’ penulis, sementara direktur dan / dia kolaborator sebagai ‘penulis sekunder’. Addressees pada tingkat ini adalah salah satu pembaca teks drama atau anggota penonton dalam performa yang sebenarnya. Tingkat adalah ‘nonfictional’ karena semua agen yang terlibat adalah orang-orang nyata.
  • Tingkat fiksi mediasi adalah tingkat menengah yang diaktifkan dalam ‘epik drama’ (D2.2, D6) saja, yaitu, terutama dalam memainkan yang menggunakan narator tokoh yang bertindak sebagai kasir, sejarawan atau komentator (misalnya, Shakespeare’s Pericles , Shaffer’s Amadeus). Sejak periwayat bersifat fiktif addressers, rekan-rekan mereka adalah fiktif addressees atau – narratologically berbicara – ‘narratees’.
  • Tingkat fiksi tindakan adalah tingkat di mana karakter berkomunikasi satu sama lain. Seperti telah diakui dalam pidato-teori tindakan (Austin 1962, Searle, 1974), berbicara merupakan jenis khusus bertindak – tindakan pidato. Maka perbedaan dapat dibuat antara ‘ucapan’ (pidato, dialog, dll) dan ‘nonverbal action’ (mime, isyarat, gerakan, dll).

Kehidupan nyata orang dapat menempati lebih dari satu agen posisi dalam model ini. Banyak dramawan (Albee, Ayckbourn, Pinter) ganda sebagai direktur.Mungkin kontemporer yang paling terkenal penulis-direktur-desainer-koreografer-pemain dalam adegan teater Inggris adalah Steven Berkoff.

Seperti pada model dan narratological perlakuan terhadap narasi tertanam (N2.4), tingkat tambahan harus digunakan untuk menangkap struktur dari sebuah ‘bermain-dalam-the-main’ (seperti yang terjadi pada, misalnya, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Taming dari Shrew dan Midsummer Night’s Dream).

D2.2. Perbedaan antara bermain yang melakukan atau tidak menggunakan tingkat mediasi narasi mengarah ke perbedaan antara epik dan absolut drama (Pfister 1988: ch. 1.2.3):

  • Drama mutlak adalah jenis drama yang tidak menggunakan tingkat mediasi fiktif, sebuah drama yang membuat narator tidak menggunakan angka, chorus karakter, cerita-tahap internal manajer, atau lainnya ‘epik’ unsur-unsur (yang akan ditentukan secara lebih rinci di bawah ini). Para penonton menyaksikan aksi bermain seolah-olah hal itu terjadi ‘mutlak’, yaitu, seakan-akan ada secara independen dari penulis baik, atau narator, atau, pada kenyataannya, para penonton itu sendiri. Contoh: Hamlet, dan banyak lainnya. Bagi Pfister, ini adalah bentuk prototipe drama.
  • Epik drama, sebaliknya, adalah salah satu yang membuat penggunaan ‘epik perangkat’ seperti yang tercantum di atas, terutama seorang narator atau tokoh kasir. Ini adalah ‘epik’ dalam arti bahwa, sama seperti dalam prosa fiksi, ada yang terlihat dan / atau terdengar narator tokoh yang kehadirannya menciptakan tingkat komunikasi yang berbeda (yang tingkat menengah yang ditunjukkan pada D2.1) lengkap dengan alamat, pengaturan, dan baris waktu. Contoh: Shakespeare, Pericles (Gower adalah heterodiegetic narator, N3.1.5); Shaffer, Amadeus (Salieri adalah sebuah homodiegetic narator). Epic drama berkaitan erat dengan konsep Brecht sebuah ‘teater epik’ (D6.1).

D2.3. Meskipun, dalam keadaan biasa, istilah orang, karakter dan tokoh yang sering digunakan tanpa pandang bulu, wacana teoretis modern membuat usaha untuk menjadi lebih jelas dan akurat.

  • Seseorang adalah kehidupan nyata orang; orang yang menempati suatu tempat di tingkat nonfictional komunikasi. Penulis, sutradara, aktor, dan penonton adalah orang-orang.
  • Seorang tokoh bukanlah kehidupan nyata orang tetapi hanya sebuah “kertas yang” (Barthes 1975 [1966]), suatu makhluk yang diciptakan oleh seorang pengarang dan hanya ada dalam teks fiksi, biasanya pada tingkat tindakan. Contoh: karakter dalam drama Hamlet oleh Shakespeare.
  • Seorang aktor adalah orang yang, dalam performa, impersonates karakter.
  • Juga sosok jenis yang diciptakan oleh teks fiksi. Seringkali istilah ini digunakan hanya sebagai variasi dari ‘karakter’; namun, beberapa teoretikus menggunakannya dengan referensi khusus kepada narator (pada tingkat mediasi fiktif). Sebagai contoh, Gower adalah ‘sosok narator’ dalam Pericles karya Shakespeare.

Dengan cara latihan, memilih setiap bermain, Anda tahu dan tempat seluruh nyata dan fiksi agen ke slot fungsional dari model membuat sketsa di D2.1. Memberi saran tentang bagaimana untuk menangani drama sejarah, yaitu ketika protagonis drama juga merupakan sejarah orang (misalnya, Shaffer’s Amadeus).

D3. Dasar istilah-istilah teknis

D3.1. Divisi utama dalam playscript atau kinerja adalah tindakan dan adegan-adegan:

  • bertindak unit utama (atau divisi struktural) dari teks yang dramatis. Banyak drama klasik dibagi menjadi lima tindakan; drama paling modern memiliki dua, untuk memungkinkan untuk istirahat. Biasanya, suatu tindakan terdiri dari urutan unit tindakan lebih kecil yang disebut adegan. Format populer lainnya adalah tiga babak drama dan satu babak play.
  • Tindakan unit adegan dalam sebuah tindakan. Biasanya, transisi dari satu adegan melibatkan lain tahap baru situasi dan episode baru, yang ditandai baik oleh perubahan waktu dan / atau lokasi, atau dengan panggung kosong, atau dengan memasukkan karakter atau pergi panggung. Sebuah adegan Perancis (yang disebut setelah praktek drama klasik Perancis 17c) didefinisikan semata-mata oleh kombinasi baru (atau ‘konfigurasi’, Pfister 1984: 5.3.3) karakter.

Praktek kritis, bertindak dan adegan-adegan yang biasanya disebut sebagai I.1, IV.3 (alternatif, 1.1, 4.3) dll (baca: Act 1, Scene 1 dll). Lihat Wallis dan Shepherd (1998: 91-97) untuk diskusi mengenai pola distribusi karakter dan “adegan Prancis analisis ‘dari The Tempest. Juga Pfister 1984: 6.4.2.

D3.2. Karakter dan pengaturan utama adalah ‘existents’ (Chatman 1978) fiksi yang dramatis. Ada dua istilah yang secara khusus mengacu pada pengaturan-fitur terkait seperti digambarkan dalam pertunjukan:

  • Objek-objek dan menetapkan latar belakang sebuah panggung membuat pemandangan (misalnya, meja, sofa, tiga dinding ruangan). Dalam playscript, himpunan biasanya digambarkan dalam blok awal arah panggung.
  • properti / props Secara umum, himpunan dapat dipindah-pindahkan objek yang dibutuhkan oleh para aktor. Dalam berorientasi teknis atau ( ‘actorly’) playscript, disposisi dari benda-benda ini kadang-kadang dijelaskan dalam bagian tekstual yang disebut ‘properti plot’. Sementara banyak alat peraga yang cukup realistis dekorasi, beberapa karakteristik berfungsi sebagai atribut (kalung mutiara, sebuah pipa, sebuah mahkota), beberapa mendorong atau memotivasi tindakan (sebotol wiski, pedang, pistol), dan beberapa mungkin memiliki simbolis kaya nilai (cermin di Richard II).

D3.3. Berfokus pada playscript, kita dapat melihat bahwa itu subdivides menjadi dua jenis teks: teks primer dan teks sekunder (istilah yang diciptakan oleh Ingarden 1931: ch. 30):

  • Teks utama dari playscript terdiri dari pidato dari karakter, termasuk prolognya dan epilogues, jika ada. Sebuah prolog adalah pidato pengantar (D6.4.1.);Sebuah epilog adalah penutup pidato.
  • Teks sekunder yang playscript tekstual terdiri dari semua elemen yang tidak termasuk dalam teks utama; khusus, drama judul, subjudul, catatan sejarah, dramatis personae, arah panggung, pidato awalan dll

Dalam istilah yang diperkenalkan oleh Genette (1997 [1987]), elemen teks sekunder seperti pengantar dan ‘postfaces’, dedikasi, judul, dramatis personae, catatan tekstual dll peritextual elemen (terletak di pinggiran dari teks).

D3.4. Berikut adalah elemen utama dari teks utama:

  • Sebuah pidato ucapan satu pembicara, baik dalam dialog, monolog, atau ke samping.
  • Sebuah dialog urutan percakapan ‘berubah’ dipertukarkan antara dua atau lebih speaker atau ‘lawan bicara’. Istilah yang lebih spesifik dialog ini kadang-kadang digunakan untuk merujuk kepada dialog antara tepat dua pembicara.
  • monolog pidato panjang di mana seorang karakter berbicara kepada dirinya sendiri. Sering kali, hanya satu karakter di panggung selama monolog, dalam hal ini salah satu juga berbicara tentang sebuah solilokui (dari bahasa Latin solus, ‘sendiri’). Monolog dan Soliloquies melayani sejumlah fungsi dramatis: mereka latar depan yang monologist / yg bercakap seorang diri; mereka menyediakan transisi (atau jembatan) antara layar; mereka membuka sumber informasi dan eksposisi, dan mereka membiarkan penonton mengetahui sesuatu dari pikiran pribadi, motif , dan rencana karakter. Biasanya, mereka juga ‘pidato besar’ yang merupakan drama dramatis poin tinggi, terutama di Shakespeare. Untuk alasan ini, mereka kadang-kadang dibandingkan dengan opera aria.
  • selain Sebuah pernyataan yang tidak terdengar oleh karakter lain di atas panggung. Ada tiga jenis asides: monologis, dialogis, dan spectatores iklan.
    • Sebuah monologis samping adalah ucapan yang terjadi dalam suatu dialog, tetapi tidak dimaksudkan untuk didengarkan oleh salah satu pembicara lawan bicara (itu adalah ‘monologis’ karena pada dasarnya merupakan komunikasi diri). Contoh:

Raja. Tapi sekarang, sepupuku Hamlet, dan anakku —

Hamlet. [Selain] Sedikit lebih dari kerabat, dan kurang baik.

Raja. Bagaimana mungkin bahwa awan masih tergantung pada Anda? (I.2.65)

Raja Claudius’s dua putaran berturut-turut sebenarnya. Dia tidak mendengar komentar sarkastis Hamlet.

  • Sebuah dialogis samping, sebaliknya, adalah sebuah komentar yang ditujukan kepada pendengar tertentu, namun didengar oleh orang lain sekarang (yaitu, oleh siapa pun kecuali yang dimaksud pendengar).
  • Sebuah iklan spectatores samping ditujukan langsung kepada penonton (melewati konvensi yang tidak kelihatan ‘dinding keempat’, lihat D5.5 dan Pfister 1988: Contoh:

[Sekarang, masukkan, di kepala tangga, Sir Thomas More.]

Steward. Itu Sir Thomas More.

MORE: Anggur silahkan, Matius?

Steward: Ada di sana, Sir Thomas. (Bolt, A Man For All Seasons)

Pejabat pidato pertama adalah sebuah iklan samping spectatores, mengidentifikasi karakter yang baru saja masuk. Asides iklan spectatores adalah tipikal dari epik drama (D6).

  • Sebuah petunjuk panggung tersirat indikasi, dalam pidato karakter, dari beberapa properti atau perilaku yang harus dimengerti kepada penonton.Misalnya, “Aku akan mencukur habis jenggot saya” berarti, bahkan dalam ketiadaan arah panggung yang eksplisit (D3.5), bahwa pembicara harus memiliki janggut. Tahap tersirat arah sangat penting dalam Shakespeare karena (a) dalam karya Shakespeare waktu itu tidak ada preseden bagi arah panggung seperti yang kita kenal mereka hari ini, (b) sebagian besar orang yang membeli salinan asli (D4.5.3) dari teks telah melihat drama dan ingat tindakannya, dan (c) tidak perlu untuk menggambarkan pemandangan dan lain-lain karena rumah-rumahan dari periode (Teater Globe) memberikan latar belakang standar. Lihat D4, di bawah ini, juga Shakespeare penggunaan ‘verbal dekorasi’, D4.4). Contoh:
    • Catesby. Raja marah: lihat, dia menggerogoti bibir. (Richard II IV.2.27)
    • Gloucester. Dengan jenis dewa, ’tis dilakukan paling ignobly

Memetik saya oleh jenggot. (King Lear III.6.34)

D3.5. Dan di sini adalah elemen utama dari teks sekunder:

  • dramatis personae Daftar (atau cast) karakter. peritextual Ini adalah elemen biasanya disertai oleh eksplisit singkat yang menunjukkan karakterisasi peran, status sosial, dan sebagainya ( “JELLABY, seorang kepala pelayan, setengah baya”, Stoppard, Arcadia). Sering kali karakter hanya terdaftar dalam urutan tampil mereka, tetapi pengaturan lain juga sering. Misalnya, dramatis personae dapat mencerminkan hierarki masyarakat aristokrasi, daftar raja dan sanak keluarganya dulu, lalu adipati dan earl, maka warga negara biasa, dan kemudian para pengemis dan pelacur.
  • pidato awalan, pidato pos Nama pembicara, memperkenalkan sebuah pidato. Ini adalah setara dramatis ‘atributif wacana’ atau ‘pidato tag’ dalam teori narasi(N8.2).
  • petunjuk panggung (juga didascaly (sg.) atau Didascalia (jamak) setelah istilah Yunani dan Perancis, cf. Issacharoff 1989: ch. 3) deskriptif atau teks naratif teks sekunder (biasanya ditetapkan dalam huruf miring), baik (a) menggambarkan set, pemandangan, perlengkapan, kostum, karakter, atau (b)menceritakan peristiwa dan perilaku karakter (seperti gerakan mereka). Untuk narratological definisi dari istilah deskripsi, adegan, dan ringkasan laporan melihat D8.6 dan N5. 3,1. Dalam kinerja, arah panggung biasanya dapat diterjemahkan ke dalam properti atau tindakan fisik yang langsung dapat dimengerti kepada penonton. (Tahap arah yang tidak dapat begitu diterjemahkan, atau yang jelas ditujukan kepada pembaca saja disebut petunjuk tahap otonom(Issacharoff 1989: 20). Pada praktek beragam luas penulis untuk menggunakan panjang atau pendek, tegas preskriptif atau hanya sugestif arah panggung, lihat Pfister (1988: bab. 2.1.3). Untuk tipologi yang sangat rinci dari arah panggung, lihat Aston dan Savona (1991). Secara umum, kewenangan dari arah panggung adalah masalah yang sangat kontroversial (Carlson 1991). Contoh:
    • Duduk di meja, menghadap depan […] seorang lelaki tua wearish: KRAPP. Celana panjang hitam berkarat sempit terlalu pendek untuknya.White […] wajah. Ungu hidung. Teratur rambut beruban. Bercukur. (Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape 9) [A set panggung deskriptif arah pada awal bermain. Perhatikan bahwa (dihilangkan) dari kata kerja elips berupa kalimat atau miliki.]
    • Sesaat KRAPP tetap bergerak, heaves napas besar, melihat jam tangannya, meraba-raba dalam saku, mengeluarkan sebuah amplop, menempatkan kembali, meraba-raba, mengeluarkan serenceng kunci kecil, menaikkan itu ke matanya, memilih kunci, bangkit dan bergerak ke depan meja. (Krapp’s Last Tape 9) [A narasi petunjuk panggung, menceritakan karakter non-verbal action.]
    • Carlson (1991: 40): Permainan [Shaw Candida] berakhir dengan tahap yang terkenal dengan jelas arah menular hanya untuk para pembaca: “Mereka berpelukan. Namun, mereka tidak mengetahui rahasia di hati penyair”. [Sebuah tahap otonom arah.]

D3.6. Perhatikan bahwa arah panggung mungkin berupa ‘readerly’, melayani kebutuhan pembaca biasa, atau ‘actorly’, melayani kebutuhan praktisi teater. Saat ini, kebanyakan playscripts dicetak adalah versi readerly, teks sekunder yang menggambarkan tahap dan tindakan dari sudut pandang penonton dan umumnya menghindari jargon teknis. Sebaliknya, ‘bertindak edisi’ diterbitkan oleh Samuel berdedikasi actorly perancis teks, berisi istilah-istilah seperti ‘panggung kiri’, ‘memperlakukan dgn kasar benar’, ‘pusat downstage’ dll, sering disingkat SL, USR, DSC, dll – ini adalah arah yang menganggap sudut pandang aktor menghadap penonton. (Lihat D5.4 untuk sketsa area panggung.)

D3.7. Menganalisis arah tahap pendahuluan berikut:

Ada pesta di Conways, ini malam musim gugur tahun 1919, tetapi kita tidak dapat melihatnya, hanya mendengarnya. Yang dapat kita lihat pada awalnya adalah cahaya dari lorong masuk melalui tirai gerbang lengkung di sebelah kanan ruangan, dan sedikit cahaya api merah di sisi lain. […]Dan sekarang Hazel strip dalam, menyalakan lampu. Kita melihat bahwa dia adalah tinggi, emas makhluk muda, mengenakan gaun yang terbaik untuk pesta ini. […] Dengan semua tergesa-gesa sembrono seorang anak dia [CAROL] poni bawah semua ini, dan mulai berbicara, meskipun dia tidak memiliki napas kiri. Dan sekarang – setelah menambahkan bahwa CAROL adalah orang muda yang menawan hati – kita dapat meninggalkan mereka untuk menjelaskan diri mereka sendiri. (Priestley, Waktu dan Conways)

Pertanyaan 1: Apakah ini readerly atau tahap actorly arah?

Pertanyaan 2: Siapa pembicara dari arah panggung? Write a brief essay discussing the communicative status of stage directions, presenting an argument that upholds our model of narrative communication, and the distinction between absolute drama and epic drama (see Issacharoff 1989: ch. 3; Carlson 1991; Suchy 1991).

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