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The muses of drama pay homage to Goethe . (Chalk drawing: Angelika Kauffmann , 1792)

Drama ( ancient Greek δρᾶμα dráma , action ') is an umbrella term for texts with distributed roles . The drama is in addition to the epic and the lyric one of the three basic literary genres .


Sometimes the term drama is taken very broadly and includes all theater plays, opera texts, ballet scenarios, radio play manuscripts or scripts; sometimes it is used as a limitation, for example only for spoken theater or only for the "upscale" (or on the contrary for the particularly exciting or sentimental ) plays. Drama is theater based on text , in contrast to improvised impromptu theater .

The main characteristic of the drama according to Aristotle is the representation of the plot through dialogues . This is how it differs from the narrative epic in antiquity - since modern times it differs mainly from the novel . According to modern understanding, dramas are written to be performed by actors in the theater. In addition to the dialogue texts, they often contain instructions for the actors and, since the 19th century, for the director . The reading drama is a special form of drama that is not primarily intended to be performed, but to be read like a novel.

The plot of a drama is often in acts and these in turn are divided into scenes or appearances . If there are several decorations per act, there is sometimes an additional division into pictures . The classic French drama ( Racine , Corneille ) is divided into five acts. The Italian tradition, which is strongly linked to opera (cf. Metastasio ), prefers three acts. The form of the one-act play emerged from interludes between the acts of the three- to five-act dramas.


The European drama originated in ancient Greece in the 5th century BC. In Athens: Aeschylus , Sophocles and Euripides were the most important poets of the tragedy . In the following century, Aristotle's poetics divided drama into tragedy and the later comedy . His theory of catharsis became groundbreaking for the history of European drama.

The spiritual game of the Middle Ages is neither tragedy nor comedy. Only since the Renaissance has the ancient drama been further developed. For a long time, verse drama was the predominant genre. More recently, free prose has predominated in the spoken pieces . - It cannot be taken for granted that a drama is spoken. The opera from around 1600 saw itself as a rebirth of the classical Greek drama (see Florentine Camerata ).

While the Spanish and English drama around 1600 ( Lope de Vega , Shakespeare ) were still offshoots of a medieval theater tradition without a theoretical background, the French classical period reflected on ancient drama and laid down strict rules for it ( doctrine classique , rule drama ), for example the so-called three Aristotelian units . Since then, drama theories have played an important role in society in that they try to establish or combat norms.

Since the 18th century terms such as drama , comedy , tragicomedy , touching comedy , Civil tragedy with overlapping meanings in use. Since the 19th century, melodrama , which has particularly emotional or exciting plot, is often shortened to the term drama.

Sometimes the drama is distinguished from other types of theater. Johann Wolfgang Goethe distinguished it from tragedy (the more modern drama was determined by “wanting”, the older tragedy by “should”), Gustav Freytag distinguished it from acting (as a less prominent genre). Both tried to use the term drama to describe a "serious" theater that was not a classic tragedy.

From the theater theory of the 20th century, subdivisions such as social drama , analytical drama or closed and open form in drama originate . During this time, new media have led to new forms of drama, such as radio drama or film drama .

The role play in psychodrama is not a dramatic text, but a therapy method .

In the last few decades many forms of theater without drama text have become established, which are also summarized under the catchphrase post-dramatic theater . Conversely, the strict distinction between improvised and written dialogue is softened by forms of role play on the Internet ( chat ).

See also


  1. From antiquity to German classic. ISBN 978-3-8252-1565-1
  2. From romance to the present. ISBN 978-3-8252-1566-8

Web links

Wiktionary: Drama  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations