Genres of Drama in Literature - All About Drama

Mofizur Rahman

  Genres of Drama in Literature - All About Drama

All About DRAMA (Genres) An ABC of English Literature

Genres of Drama in Literature - All About Drama, an abc of english literature full book pdf,basic english literature questions,basic knowledge


Genres in Drama


A literary form intended to be performed on stage through action and dialogues.

Elements of Drama

The elements that make a drama are:-

  1. A story;
  2. Enactment on stage through action (physical movements) and dialogues;
  3. Collaborative performance of the characters for the production; (However, monodrama is produced by only one character)
  4. Meant for a collective reception of an audience;
  5. A plot comprising a beginning or exposition, middle or climax and end or denouement; (see Exposition, Climax and Denouement)
  6. Conflict of one or the other kind;
  7. Prose or verse or a mixture of them is its medium.

It is also called “play”. The theatrical performance is called drama; the text (or script) is also called drama.

Classifications of Drama

Basically it is of two types:-

  1. Comedy
  2. Tragedy.

  1. Romantic Comedy
  2. Comedy of Humours
  3. Comedy of Manners
  4. Restoration Comedy


  1. Heroic Tragedy
  2. Senecan Tragedy
  3. Tragi-comedy
  4.  Revenge Tragedy


Definition Comedy

A kind of drama which begins with adversity or discord but ends in happiness. Its aim is to correct the follies and frivolities of the individuals of a particular society through laughter and ridicule.

Its main features are:-

  • Its primary purpose is to amuse the audience.
  • It exposes follies and ridicules vices.
  • Its action moves from disorder to order.
  • Its tone is generally playful.
  • Its plot presents conflict of some kind.

Best known comedy writers

  • Aristophanes
  • Shakespeare
  • Ben Jonson and
  • Bernard Shaw

They are among the best known comedy writers.

Comedies are of various types:-

  1. Romantic comedy
  2. Comedy of humours
  3. Comedy of manners
  4. Restoration comedy
  5. Burlesque
  6. Farce
  7. Black-comedy
  8. High comedy
  9. Low comedy
  10. Comedy of ideas, etc.

A few of them are discussed here:

Romantic Comedy

A form of comedy which deals with love, often love at first sight, as its main theme. It starts with some problems that make the union of the lovers difficult. However, the problems are finally solved and the play ends with the lovers' happy union. Shakespeare's As You Like It is a romantic comedy.

Comedy of Humours

A comedy in which characters behave according to their respective humours (temperaments) - choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic. Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour and Every Man out of His Humour are two famous comedies of this type. [see Humours]

Comedy of Manners

A comedy which portrays the ridiculóus behaviour pattern of the individuals of an aristocratic society. It traditionally focuses on the infidelity, intrigue, immorality, jealousy, coarseness, etc. of an artificial society. The Way of the World by Congreve and The School for Scandal by Sheridan are examples of it.

Restoration Comedy

A kind of comedy written in the Restoration Period (1660-1700). It is identical to the comedy of manners aš it also ridicules the manners, conventions, faithlessness and intrigues of the members of the upper class society of the Restoration Period of England.

Wycherley, Etherege, Congreve, Vanbrugh and Farquhar are the five famous writers of the Restoration comedy. Farquhar's Recruiting Officer, Congreve's Love for Love and Double Dealer and Vanbrugh's Provoked Wife are bright examples of the Restoration comedy.

Black-comedy or Dark-comedy

A kind of drama which portrays the meaninglessness of human existence. It reflects the world view that life is a “tragic farce”because it is controlled by fate or fortune. So this kind of comedy laughs at human predicaments which hide a bitter frustration. Black-comedy is identical to dark-comedy.

Pinter's Homecoming, Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Winter's Tale and Joe Orton's Loot are examples of black-comedy or dark-comedy.

Comedy of Ideas

A form of comedy which presents certain ideas or theories in dramatic form. George Bernard Shaw is the pioneer of “comedy of ideas”. His Arms and the Man, Man and Superman and Apple Cart are well-known examples of it.

High Comedy:

A kind of comedy of manners which demands a certain urbane taste and intellectual effort on the part of the audience. Shakespeare's As You Like It, Much Ado about Nothing, Shaw's Pygmalion and Congreve's Way of the World are a few examples of the high comedy.

Low Comedy

A form of crude comedy which uses clownishness, fight, quarrel, coarse joke, and the like, to provoke cheap laughter.Low comedy is not recognized as a separate type of comedy but is found in various types of comedy or tragedy. The porter scene in Macbeth and the grave digging scene in Hamlet are examples of low comedy.


Definition of  Tragedy

A form of drama which presents the fall of a superior human being for a mistake of some kind. 

Aristotle's definition is given below:-

“Tragedy is ... a representation of an action that is worth serious attention, complete in itself, and of some amplitude; in language enriched by variety of artistic devices appropriate to the several parts of the play; presented in the form of action, not narration; by means of pity and fear bringing about the purgation of such emotions.”(Poetics, Chapter VI)

The common features of the tragedy are:-

  • Its story involves serious aspect of mankind and demands serious attention.
  • It usually shows a highly reputed person's fall into misery for a flaw in his her character.
  • The action moves from order to disorder.
  • It aims at purgation of pity and fear of the audience.
  • There must be a conflict in it.
  • Its tone is serious.

There are several kinds of tragedy

  1. Tragi-comedy
  2. Heroic Tragedy
  3. Senecan tragedy
  4. Revenge tragedy


A kind of play in which tragic and comic scenes are mingled. It violates the classical rules of pure tragedy or pure comedy on the logic that human life is neither absolutely sad nor absolutely happy.

According to the classical theory of drama, grand themes and upper class characters are appropriate to tragedy; low subjects and low people are fit for comedy. A typical tragedy needs a serious plot which usually results in death. Quite contrary to it, a typical comedy needs a commonplace love story which ends in happiness.

But there are plays in which low and high characters act together, common and serious events happen alternately or tragic and comic events are intermingled. Such a play is called tragi-comedy. Often quoted examples of the tragi-comedy are Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, Cymbeline and Tempest.

Heroic Tragedy

A kind of drama written in grand and lofty style to show a disastrous end of a conflict between love and honour or love and duty. It developed in England during Restoration period. John Dryden is the pioneer of this kind of tragedy.

Its features are

  • It is composed in heroic couplets.
  • Its subject is about national foundations, mythological events, or grand issues.
  • Its hero is powerful, decisive, and domineering even when he is wrong.
  • It attempts to present epic grandeur in dramatic form.

Best heroic tragedy & Writer's 

  • The Indian Emperor
  • The Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards and
  • All for Love written by Dryden and
  • The Black Prince written by Roger Boyle
  • All of are good examples of heroic tragedy.

Revenge Tragedy

Revenge. tragedy is a kind of tragedy that presents a quest for vengeance and results in bloodshed and mutilation. It is modelled on the Senecan tragedy. It was popular in England during the late 16th and 17th centuries with the Elizabethans and Jacobeans.

The essential elements of this kind of tragedy are

  • Its plot is about a secret murder, usually of a benevolent ruler.
  • The ghost of the-murdered person visits younger kinsman and reveals the truth.
  • The younger kinsman, usually a son, starts a quest for revenge.
  • The story involves disguise, intrigue, insanity, incest, adultery, rape, infanticide, suicide and gruesome murders on the stage.
  • Its typical characters are: a ghost, a cruel tyrant, a faithful male servant, a reliable female,etc.
  • It aims at exploring corruption in court, evil of absolute power and court intrigues.
  • Its highly rhetorical style is marked by the use of epigram, stichomythia (sharp dialogues), hyperboles, etc.
  • Its action is markedly sensational.
  • It uses philosophical soliloquies.

Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, John Webster's Duchess of Malfi and Shakespeare's Hamlet are famous revenge tragedies. Revenge tragedy and Senecan tragedy are famous almost similar only with the difference that revenge tragedy allows murders on the stage while Senecan tragedy reports off-stage murders.


A kind of drama that provides sensational entertainment. It impersonates disproportionate virtue or extreme evil and presents horror and bloodshed, thrills and violence, witches and vampires on the stage. Examples of this type are Douglas Jerrold's Black-Eyed

Susan, Boucicault's Ten Nights in a Bar Room, 'Augustin Daly's Under the Gaslight, etc. Plays and novels may contain melodramatic elements even if they are not pure melodrama.



A play with a single character. In this kind of play only one character enacts the drama on the stage. Closet Drama (also called Dramatic Poem):-

A kind of play for reading, not for performing on stage. Milton's Samson Agonistes and Thomas Hardy's Dynasts are examples of closet drama.


A short entertaining play of the Middle Ages. It was staged between the Acts of a longer play or between the courses of a feast.

Morality Play

A medieval dramatic form which allegorically presents an ideal Christian life on stage.

Miracle Play

A kind of medieval play which deals with the miraculous events of the life of a saint.

Mysterious Play

A medieval form of play which is based on the Biblical stories.

The Theatre of the Absurd

A literary movement in Europe between 1940 and 1989. It encouraged a new kind of plays on the theme of the Absurd or meaninglessness of life. These plays reflect Albert Camus' philosophy of the Absurd which he introduced in his essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus” (Le Mythe de Sisyphe, 1942).

Camus argues in the essay that man's quest for understanding the meaning of life results in futility. He compares human existence with that of Sisyphus who, in Greek Mythology, was given an eternal punishment of rolling a large stone up a hill only to see it roll down to the bottom. [see The Myth of Sisyphus]

Main Characteristics:-

  • It focuses on human conditions according to “existential”philosophy.
  • It has no plot structure in traditional sense; has as plot is illogical, often arbitrary and lacks Aristotelian wholeness.
  • Its plot is both comic and tragic-two aspects of the same situation.
  • Nothingness, absence and unresolved mysteries are its main themes.
  • Here characters make abortive attempts to search for the meaning of life and death and the existence of God. They range from clowns to realistic figures.
  • Here time often moves spirally, instead of its usual linear movement.
  • Its dialogues are fragmented, repetitive and often nonsensical.
  • Pauses are frequently used in it to intensify tension.
  • It presents no resolution at the end. It leaves the audience to “draw his own conclusions, make his own errors”.

Best Absurd Dramatist & Books

  • Jean Genet's The Maid (1954)
  • Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano (1950)
  • Arthur Adamov's Ping-Pong (1955)
  • Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (1954) and Endgame (1958)
  • Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party (1957)
  • The Caretaker(1959)and Edward Albee's The Zoo Story(1959) are the well-known absurdist plays.

Post a Comment


Post a Comment (0)

#buttons=(Ok, Go it!) #days=(20)

Our website uses cookies to enhance your experience. Learn More
Ok, Go it!