Dramatic Terms *Updated!* (2023)

Aristotle’s Six Elements of Drama:

PlotThe Story of the play.

Character – Any person appearing in the play

Dialogue – The spoken interactions between the characters.

Idea – The central meaning of the play. The themes.

Music – The elements that deal with sounds.

Spectacle – The overall look of the play.


Absurdist- Alsoknown as “Theatre of the Absurd.” Life is hard and then you die. Opposed the structure of realism, because absurdist’s saw reality as chaotic. Samuel Beckett is the most famous Absurdist.

Autos Sacramentales- Short allegorical plays on liturgical themes. Popular in Spain’s Golden Age, 1580-1680. Lope De Vega wrote about 400 of them.

Commedia Dell’Arte- Italian for “Comedy of Art,” it was a form of improvisational comedy that relied on stock characters and standard comedic routines. Popular in Italy from the 1500s-1700s.

Comedy-A dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion.

Epic- Epic Theatre saw plays that were large in scope, cast, length, and political/social issues. Bertolt Brecht wrote Epic plays.

Hero’s Journey– involves aprotagonist, or hero, who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed. There are several specific steps and archetypal characters that must populate this type of story. * Click here for more on the Hero’s Journey.

Masques- Short, symbolic plays for the Stuart Court. They were expensive with elaborate costumes. Ben Jonson wrote these. England, Circa 1598

Melodrama- A dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions, often with stereotyped characters. Celebrates virtue above all. Current Hollywood cinema loves Melodrama.

Miracle Play- Also called Saint’s play. A fictionalized account of the life, miracles, or martyrdom of a saint. Popular in Early Medieval Theater.

Morality Play- A drama with a strong lesson about good conduct and pious behavior. Popular during Medieval times and the Early Tudor period- the 15th and 16th Century.

(Video) Ten Dramatic Terms

Naturalism- A popular style of theatre in Europe, starting in the late 1800s.Coinciding with Realism, Naturalism focused on the illusion of reality. Trying to make theatre appear as realistic as possible. Three dimensional sets with perspective were first used. Chekhov, Ibsen and August Strindberg are all known for their Naturalistic dramas.

The Problem Play- A Child of the well-made play, Ibsen made this style of theatre popular with A Doll’s House in 1893. It is a less plot-driven, more character-based format, where characters engage in discussions, and this serves as the action of the play.

Pantomime- A type of musical comedy stage production, designed for family entertainment. Loosely based on well-known Fairy Tales.

Pantomimi- Wordless spectacular dances that rendered dramatic stories through stylized gestures. Popular in Roman theater 63 BCE.

Satire- Poking fun at social institutions or people in a clever and intelligent fashion.

Slapstick- A broad style of comedy that usually involves pratfalls and contrived plots. Much of the humor arose from one character beating another character with a prop called a “Batacchio,” which translates, in English, to Slapstick. Was popularized during the height of Commedia Dell’arte in Italy.

Tragedy-A dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or somber theme, typically that of a great person destined through a flaw of character or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or society, to downfall or destruction.

The Well-Made Play- Adheres to strict technical principles. It used conventional romantic conflicts and standard plot contrivances. In 1825, this was the theatrical norm.


Baroque- A style of European architecture, music, and art of the 17th and 18th Centuries, they followed mannerisms and is characterized by ornate detail. In theatre, it meant engaging the tensions between order and chaos, and between reality and illusion. Fantastical or comic plots with themes of duty, deception, and passion. A midsummer Night’s Dream is an example.

Expressionism- Truth (or beauty) isn’t what the eyes see, but what the mind projects. Showed the psyche of the main character rather than objective behavior. Peaked in the 1920s with Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape.

Experimental- Offers new ways of experiencing drama and reconsidering history. Does not adhere to traditional theatrical narrative tropes. May include song, dance, movement and multimedia interactions as part of the experience.

Harlem Renaissance- was an intellectual, social, and artistic explosion centered inHarlem, New York, spanning the 1920s. At the time, it was known as the “New Negro Movement”, named after The New Negro, a 1925 anthology edited by Alain Locke.

Modernism- a style or movement in the arts that aims to break with classical and traditional forms. Modernity is often viewed as negatively impacting character’s lives.

Neo-Classicists- Critics, intellectuals, tried to imitate Greek theatre, they were rule-happy, and believed that drama should teach a moral lesson.

Post-Modern- Emerged as a reaction againstmodernist theatre. Most postmodernproductions are centered on highlighting the fallibility of definite truth, instead encouraging the audience to reach their own individual understanding.

Realism- A literary movement of the late 19th Century that saw playwrights adhering to real life situations. Focusing on everyday life of middle-class, or lower-class characters. Anton Chekhov and Henrik Ibsen modernized theatre with their realism plays.

Baroque- A style of European architecture, music, and art of the 17th and 18th Centuries, they followed mannerisms and is characterized by ornate detail. In theatre, it meant engaging the tensions between order and chaos, and between reality and illusion. Fantastical or comic plots with themes of duty, deception, and passion. A midsummer Night’s Dream is an example.


Sturm and Drang- German theatre was changed radically by the romantic movement known as Sturm and Drang, which translates to “Storm and Stress.” It idolized Shakespeare, and dismissed the neo-classical dramatic unities. Goethe’s Faust is a good example; the story is a romantic tribute to the human spirit.


Allegory- A narrative in which the story represents a specific abstraction or idea.

Allusion- A reference to a person, place, idea, or event in history or literature.

Aside- A shortspeech made by a character to the audience that other characters cannot hear.

Comic Relief- The use of humorous scenes, characters, or speeches in a drama. Lightens the darkness of the play.

Convention- Any feature of literature that has become the norm.

Denouement- (Pronounced Day-New-Maw) Literal translation- French word meaning to unknot. It is the final part of a play, movie, or televsion show, in which all strands of the plot are concluded. May include a resolution.

Diction- The playwright’s style of language. The specific choice of words.

Empathy- To feel with a character. Sympathy is to feel for a character.

Exposition- A Literary Device used to introduce background information.

Foil- A Character who, through difference or similarity, brings out a particular aspect of another character.

Foreshadowing- Ominous hints of coming events to create suspense.

Irony- Contradictions that reveal a reality that differs from what appears to be true.

-Dramatic Irony- When a character believes in a different reality from the one the audience knows to be true.

-Situational Irony- When a character’s actions create a result that is the opposite from the character’s intentions.

-Cosmic Irony- When a character believes that gods or supernatural forces are on her side, when they are actually against her.

Metaphor- A direct comparison between two things.

(Video) Dramatic Terms Presentation

Monologue- Long Speeches delivered to another character or the audience.

Perspective- The painted backgrounds of sets became more and more realistic. During Renaissance.

Play-within-a-play- A secondary drama presented by characters in the play.

Setting- All the details of time and location of the play.

Soliloquy- A speech in which a character is speaking his thoughts, revealing feelings.

Subplot- A secondary plot that is intertwined with the main plot.

Subtext- Implicit meaning under the surface of a play.

Suspension of Disbelief- The audiences willingness to accept the artificial world of the play.

Symbolism- A device where an object, event, or action is used to suggest a meaning beyond its literal .


Agon (Aww-gahn)- In classical Greek old Comedy, a scene with a debate between the two opposing forces in a play.

Antiphonal Song- Call and response style singing.

Deus Ex Machina- Latin for “god from a machine.” Refers to a playwright’s use of a forced or improbable solution to an unsolvable situation.

Harlenquinade- A British Comic theatrical genre.

Parabasis (Puh-Rob-uh-sis)- Scene in Classical Greek Comedy in which the chorus directly addresses the audience members and makes fun of them.

Pasos- Humorous sketches written in prose, used as comic interludes between scenes of longer dramatic works. Popularized in 1560 in Spain by Lope de Rueda.

Quem Quaeritis- Translates to, “whom do you seek?” Tropes. Tropes were simple but dramatic ceremonial elaborations of parts of the Christian Church service or liturgy. Popular in Early Medieval Theater, 925

Raking- The angling of the stage. How the terms upstage and downstage originated.


Sotie- The word comes from ”sot” which means “fools.” These are short satirical plays made up of fools who made observations on contemporary events. Popular in France during their Renaissance.


Antagonist- Character in direct conflict with the protagonist.

Dynamic Character- A Character that goes through a lot of changes.

Foil- A character who serves as a contrast to the protagonist, either opposes or mirrors them to push them toward action.

Protagonist- The Main Character in a play. Literally translates as “one who is willing to suffer.” *Fun fact: A Protagonist is always the character that goes through the biggest change.*

Static or Flat Character: A character that doesn’t change.

Stock Characters:

-Pantalone- A form of Commedia dell’arte stock character. A miser, a letch, a dirty old woman.

-Il Dottore- Another stock character: often a friend of the Pantalone, a gossip. A doctor, or professional of some kind.

-Harlequin- Another stock character: a servant who knows more than the master.

*THE THREE UNITIES* Neo-classicist principle: Unity of Time, Place, and Action.

-Unity of Time- Play must take place within a twenty-four hour period of time.

-Unity of Place- Play should be in one location, or in locations that could easily be reached within the unity of time.

-Unity of Action- Play should have one main action and be either Comedy or Tragedy.

Click Here for more thorough info on some of these definitions


(Video) Drama Terms


What are the important terms at a drama? ›

There are four main forms of drama. They are comedy, tragedy, tragicomedy and melodrama. All these types have the common characteristics of drama genre; they are, plot, characters, conflict, music and dialogue.

What are the 10 elements of drama? ›

Role and character, relationships, situation, voice, movement, focus, tension, space, time, language, symbol, audience, mood and atmosphere.

What are the 6 Characterisation skills in drama? ›

They are: plot, character, thought, diction, melody, and spectacle.

What are the 3 types of dramatic? ›

There are four types of drama, they are comedy, tragedy, tragicomedy and melodrama. These genres originated in different times, but each of them has its own characteristics. However, all of them have their place in modern culture and should be appreciated. Read the article and freshen up your knowledge of drama!

What type of word is dramatic? ›

dramatic adjective (EXCITING)

What are the 4 types of drama? ›

Tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, and melodrama are the four main types of drama.

What are the 7 elements of dramatic? ›

What is Freytag's Pyramid? Devised by 19th century German playwright Gustav Freytag, Freytag's Pyramid is a paradigm of dramatic structure outlining the seven key steps in successful storytelling: exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and denouement.

What are the 5 dramatic elements? ›

Plot, character, tension, language and spectacle are evident in all of the best plays, TV shows and films. These elements form the basis of any great drama and it is interesting to see how different artists use them to tell a story.

What are the 8 types of drama? ›

Forms of Drama
  • Comedy.
  • Tragedy.
  • Mask Drama.
  • Dance Drama.
  • Musical Drama (Opera)
  • Dramatized Drama.
  • Mime.

What are the 7 drama strategies? ›

They can enhance performance skills such as character development and storytelling and be used across the curriculum to actively involve students in their own learning.
  • 3D Living Pictures. ...
  • Action Clip. ...
  • Conscience Alley. ...
  • Cross-Cutting. ...
  • Developing Freeze Frames. ...
  • Flashbacks and Flash Forwards. ...
  • Forum Theatre. ...
  • Freeze Frames.

What are the 4 purposes of drama? ›

expressing the need for social change, communicating a universal theme, recreating and interpreting information, ideas, and emotions.

What are the 7 types of characters? ›

7 Character Roles in Stories. If we categorize character types by the role they play in a narrative, we can hone in on seven distinct varieties: the protagonist, the antagonist, the love interest, the confidant, deuteragonists, tertiary characters, and the foil. 1.

What are the 4 types of characterization? ›

An acronym, PAIRS, can help you recall the five methods of characterization: physical description, action, inner thoughts, reactions, and speech.

What are the rules of drama? ›

We are going to learn about the 4 basic rules of drama which include: Yes and, Show don't tell, Be in the moment, and be Real. These 4 rules will help you with acting, improv and even giving a speech.

What are the 8 dramatic elements? ›

Actors manipulate dramatic elements to shape and enhance meaning. The dramatic elements for VCE Drama are climax, conflict, contrast, mood, rhythm, sound, space and tension. Click the arrows in these interactive flashcards to recall the definitions.

What are the 4 drama skills? ›

4 Drama Techniques to Always Remember
  • Vocal Dynamics. Your lines are just words until you deliver them, but unless your voice is well-trained, they'll still fall flat or sound forced. ...
  • Body Language and Mannerisms. ...
  • Use and Awareness of Space. ...
  • Improvisational Techniques.
23 Sept 2014

What is drama example? ›

Types of Drama in Literature

Tragedy: A tragedy is a type of drama that can be described as serious in nature and often includes a catastrophic ending. William Shakespeare's famous play Romeo and Juliet is an example of a tragedy.

What is a dramatic speech called? ›

Dramatic monologue (druh-MAT-ik MON-uh-log) is a literary form where the writer takes on the voice of a character and speaks through them. Although dramatic monologues also occur in theater and prose, the term most frequently refers to a poetic form where the poet creates a character who speaks without interruption.

What is the meaning of dramatic play? ›

What is dramatic play? It's the kind of play where kids take on roles and act them out as a way of exploring themselves and their surroundings. By pretending to be someone—or something—else, children can learn new ways to express themselves, share thoughts and ideas, and even get in touch with their feelings.

How do you use dramatic in a sentence? ›

He is a genuine dramatic personage under whose mask is a live actor who plays his role.

What are the 3 features of drama? ›

However, the four important factors, including perspective of life, political view, sense of humor and moral value are used to analyze a drama. On the other hand, some imperative aspects of drama are setting, theme, structure, dramatic irony and characterization.

What is the full meaning of drama? ›

dra·​ma ˈdräm-ə ˈdram- : a written work that tells a story through action and speech and is meant to be acted on a stage : play. : a play, movie, or television production with a serious tone or subject. : dramatic art, literature, or affairs.

What are the 6 parts of drama? ›

The 6 Aristotelean elements are plot, character, thought, diction, spectacle, and song. Below are the definitions I utilize to better understand the way in which each element helps me build a play.

What are the types of dramatic action? ›

  • Cause-to-effect - traditionally, this is the most commonly used. ...
  • Character - Incidents are held together because they center around one person. ...
  • Idea - Scenes are linked largely because they illustrate aspects of a larger theme or argument.

How is a drama structure? ›

The structure is how the plot or story of a play is laid out, including a beginning, a middle and an end. Plays may also include subplots , which are smaller stories that allow the audience to follow the journey of different characters and events within the plot.

What is nature of drama? ›

Drama is a composition in prose form that presents a story entirely told in dialogue and action and written with the intention of its eventual performance before an audience. DRAMA. Drama has a two-fold nature: LITERATURE and THEATRE.

What is action in drama? ›

action: the movement or development of the plot or story in a play; the sense of forward movement created by the sense of time and/or the physical and psychological motivations of characters.

WHAT IS elements in drama? ›

Aristotle came up with six elements to a drama: plot, characters, thought, diction, music, and spectacle.

What are the 4 types of literature? ›

In the landscape of literature, there are four major genres: poetry, drama, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

What are the 9 stage positions in drama? ›

​What are the 9 Stage Directions? The 9 stage directions are center stage, center stage left, center stage right, upstage, upstage left, upstage right, downstage, downstage left, and downstage right.

What are the 8 physical skills in drama? ›

Physical skills include:
  • body language.
  • eye contact.
  • facial expressions.
  • gait.
  • gesture.
  • pace.
  • quality of movement.
  • space.

What are the 8 vocal skills in drama? ›

Vocal skills include:
  • accent.
  • emphasis.
  • pace and rhythm.
  • pause.
  • pitch.
  • quality.
  • resonance.
  • tone.

What is drama and its type? ›

Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance: a play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on radio or television. Considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic and the lyrical modes ever since Aristotle's Poetics (c.

What is origin of drama? ›

The earliest origins of drama are to be found in Athens where ancient hymns, called dithyrambs, were sung in honor of the god Dionysus. These hymns were later adapted for choral processions in which participants would dress up in costumes and masks.

What is language of drama? ›

The Language of Drama is about the critical strategies that can be used to understand the dynamic processes of writing, reading, dramaturgy, rehearsal, production and reception of drama performance in both the classroom and the professional theatre.

What is a character set Class 6? ›

A character set defines the valid characters that can be used in source programs or interpreted when a program is running. The source character set is the set of characters available for the source text.

Who is a character in a play? ›

The characters in a film, book, or play are the people that it is about.

What is a character role? ›

Character role refers to the part that one plays in the story. As you probably know, the most important role in any story is the protagonist (which we'll discuss below). This means all other roles stem from their relationship to the protagonist.

What are the 14 character types? ›

Here's a list of 14 character archetypes:
  • The Leader.
  • The Outsider.
  • The Caregiver.
  • The Rebel.
  • The Mentor.
  • The Professor.
  • The Warrior.
  • The Hunk.

What are 5 methods of Analysing character? ›

The task of analysing a character can be undertaken in many ways. To help you get started, here is one approach to consider. In this model, the analysis can be divided into five characteristics that can be studied in a systematic process.
Analysing characters in English texts
  • Physical. ...
  • Speech. ...
  • Demographic. ...
  • Emotional. ...
  • Traits.
21 Oct 2019

How do you act on a stage? ›

Stage Acting Tips
  1. Voice. Your use of your voice is critical. ...
  2. Physicality. Likewise, the back row needs to be able to read your body, face, and physical expression as clearly as your voice. ...
  3. Focus. ...
  4. Read the play. ...
  5. Syntax. ...
  6. Crack Out the Dictionary. ...
  7. Research. ...
  8. Learning Lines Before Rehearsals?
25 Sept 2020

What are the 4 elements of Theatre? ›

Let's take a closer look at the four elements required to create theatre: script, process, product, and audience.

What are the 5 elements of dramatic? ›

Plot, character, tension, language and spectacle are evident in all of the best plays, TV shows and films. These elements form the basis of any great drama and it is interesting to see how different artists use them to tell a story.

What are the 4 types of tension in drama? ›

There are four main forms of tension: the tension of the task, the tension of relationships, the tension of surprise and the tension of mystery.

What are the 20 types of drama? ›

Forms of Drama
  • Comedy.
  • Tragedy.
  • Mask Drama.
  • Dance Drama.
  • Musical Drama (Opera)
  • Dramatized Drama.
  • Mime.

What is a form of drama? ›

A form is the method you select to tell your story and explore themes when presenting your work. For example, you may choose to present a piece of work in the form of a mime, where the actors don't speak, or as Physical theatre, where abstract movements symbolise relationships.

What is a drama story? ›

In literature, a drama is the portrayal of fictional or non-fictional events through the performance of written dialog (either prose or poetry). Dramas can be performed on stage, on film, or the radio. Dramas are typically called plays, and their creators are known as “playwrights” or “dramatists.”


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