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Ending the year with Literary Drama
December 31, 2012

So what are you doing this New Year? The web and the newspapers are replete with options of parties and picnics around town and I am sure you have already made your pick. With so much frolic in store, this edition of Book Lovers Club News dwells upon a form of ancient entertainment that has somewhat lost its popular appeal in our times. The theatre. Or rather, in our context, the Literary Drama.

The Literary Drama

Brokeback Mountain-Annie Proulx The enactment of drama in a theatre is a performance. Drama, therefore, is a performing art in the same way that dance or music is. How or why, then, is drama considered literature? Why do we study it? These are questions that baffled me when I studied Shakespeare, Ibsen and other popular playwrights in school.

Indeed, the drama is a unique genre of literature in many ways. While other forms of literature are typeset in print, not so with the drama. The script of a drama can hardly ever be separated from its performance.

While reading a novel or poem is a deeply personal reaction to the composer’s work, the reaction to a dramatic piece is often communal. The audience is a collective body that reacts to the performance on stage.

Again, the writer is the chief influencer in a novel or poem. He creates the piece as per his imagination. In the case of a dramatic performance however, the scriptwriter is just one influencer. The director and the actors interpret the script in their own ways to deliver the final performance. Thus the final theatrical performance may be quite different from the original conception of it in the playwright’s mind.

The first records of a dramatic performance are found in Egypt, 2000 years before the Common Era. This art form has had a potent lineage in almost every culture. The dramatic conventions of eastern and western cultures are distinct and often develop from different creative purposes. For example, ancient Greek and Indian dramas were religious while British Renaissance drama was entertaining.

Drama has three main forms: comedy, tragedy and satire. It has the standard literary elements of plot, characterization, action and style. By the very nature of its production, it is a complex art form and is a subject of extensive study.

Book Review Circle gossip

Between 1660 and 1710 English drama saw the rise and popularity of what is known as ‘the comedy of manners’. This period is also called the Restoration period in literary history. Drama in this period was predominantly entertaining and hence comic. It was notorious for its sexual explicitness, a quality encouraged by ardent drama patron Charles II. This period saw the introduction of women actors on British stage. The first professional woman British playwright, Aphra Behn also emerged during this period.

Book Review Circle suggested read:

Macbeth by Shakespeare, a popular English literary classic and a must read.

Test your Literary Quotient

See if you know answers to the following:
  1. Name a highly stylized classical Indian form of dance drama.
  2. Name the Greek dramatist who is credited with the introduction of an ‘actor’ for the first time in Greek drama. This ‘actor’ spoke rather than sang and simulated a character other than his own self.
  3. Name the modern Norwegian playwright who composed ‘A Doll’s House’ and is often referred to as ‘the father of realism’.


  1. Kathakali
  2. Thespis
  3. Henrik Ibsen
Do write in to me at with your comments, updates and suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you.

Ok. I will leave you to munch on that.

Happy reading till we meet again.


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