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Drama

Drama

BIBLIOGRAPHY

There is a curious contradiction within theater arts: nothing of man originates from deeper or more hidden sources, and nothing surfaces to a more flamboyantly exposed and lasting arena for observation. Refracted as art may be through the prisms of a nation’s culture, customs, habits, and manners, still and all a vital pulse of universality beats. This is theater’s potential for evoking emotional response. Dance and drama depict moods and ideas, instincts even, of so private and yet so public a nature that no other aspect of civilized life seems as revelatory or explanatory. Artifacts and art works, of course, visually record the details of an ancient civilization. For example, the poses of the dance figurines excavated from the site of the Indus civilization of three thousand years ago demonstrate graphically the stylistic continuities between the pre-Vedic and present-day Indian dance, but the life of the past returns only when theater preserves it, no matter how faintly. Recorded history tells of vanished events, but in the drama, history becomes a living representation. The workings of the inner mind that created the past and breathed in its very atmosphere emerge clear and true. Poetic truth, rather than logic, determines men’s actions. Our attention is held by considering how man feels in the midst of events without requiring the dry dispassion of a scholar’s interest. Indeed, for all its license, theater gives us true value, as well as face value, because it deals with impelling forces, not surfaces. It is not without reason that science to a greater or lesser extent has always followed, rather than preceded, the artist’s intuitive dictate or that, so often, the scientist is the artist.

The dramas of ancient Greece are now in desuetude: the language dead, the choral declamation unknown, the music lost, and the dance gestures forgotten. Still, when remaining texts are staged they tell the story of the Greek past that transcends time. They give thoughts to cold marble statues; they inhabit the ruins with meaning and motive, with living yet dead people. The validity of theater lies in its power to span distances of time and space and to bridge the gaps in understanding between peoples who may be either strangers or neighbors. Theater is and is not life. It embraces man’s fantasy. If man cannot live without fantasy, and yet if he must remain loyal to reality, then theater satisfies a human need.

Freud, oddly enough, was the first interpretative critic to pinpoint the secret eternity of the Greek drama. By disclosing Oedipus’ double realization of father destruction and mother possession, Freud exposed more to drama than psychiatric content. He defined the potent wellspring within the human psyche without which art must appear as false. Before psychology, it was the artist who intuitively tapped these sources.

When dealing with the theater arts of antiquity one touches even deeper ur memories of man. One mystery is the permanent hold mudra, or gesture language, has kept over India’s dances and formerly over Sanskrit drama. To the outsider seeing and hearing an Indian performance laden with song-words performed by the musicians and the dancer-actor, the language seems sufficiently expressive of meaning. However, the performer simultaneously acts with his or her hands. Sometimes the hands illustrate the words of the song. At other times, in a linguistic counterpoint, the hands enlarge its sense or tell a different story. At still other times, the hands in a visual paronomasia will pun and countermand the musical words. Mudras are not limited to India. They spread from there throughout Asia, where they may still be seen, attenuated sometimes to little more than heightened gesture but never altogether absent. It is a general principle of Asian theater arts that hands speak while the body dances the mood of what the music suggests. Socrates, it is claimed, said to his pupils, “Speak so that I may see you.” An Asian artist might say, “Dance so that I may hear you.” Such is the linguistic interdependence between hand-formed words and sung words.

Why have mudras figured so prominently in Indian art and, by extension, in Asian art? What is their hold, at once so redundant and duplicative? Of course, the gesture of hands forming patterns in the air and spinning meanings in space is a highly delectable aspect of aesthetics. Certainly, it arouses pleasing responses. But it is the specific precision of the mudras that is so startling and so enduring. Mudras can be used by a deafmute. The mudras, in their very nature as symbolic communication, perform the functions of art.

Theater arts have more tangible and instantly comprehensible importance as well. At the risk of sounding pretentious, one may say with fairness that theater houses its nation’s soul. Think, for a moment, of Chekhov and late nineteenth-century Russia, or of Shakespeare’s England, or further afield from our experience, perhaps, of Japan’s kabuki, where the noblest and most vicious attitudes of the past are enshrined. Chushingura, the tale of the 47 lordless knights, is a case in point. Not only is it a national theater piece in the sense of actual history embodying ideals through its dramatizations (its eleven acts take two days to perform), but it combines the realism and fantasy of grand theater. The drama is based on a sensational event that happened in 1701: 47 loyal retainers bided one year before avenging the unjust self-immolation of their lord and then committed mass hara-kiri. Versions of the story appeared on the kabuki and puppet stages within weeks. The dramatic masterpiece, which endures to this day, appeared a few decades later, after the astonishment and the dust of controversy had settled. The annual revival of the drama, with its magnificent recital of patience, hardships endured, difficulties surmounted, and loyalty and duty opposed to heart and affection, perpetuates many of the values and attitudes of Japanese culture.

The modern Japanese are not warriors, nor are they full of vengeance. They do not believe in eighteenth-century morality, and present society could not conceivably permit the events immortalized in the play of Chushingura. Stomachs are tenderer. But just as Americans in New York City weep as Chushingura unfolds its story, so do Japanese at their kabuki and puppet theaters. Why? Because a common chord of understanding is struck by such themes as human suffering and the righting of flagrant wrong. Thus, if one wishes to learn about another country, the theater serves to characterize cultural patterns.

One historical axiom of drama seems to be that early theater portrayed the gods; then, in a later period, the theater portrayed kings and persons of high rank. Finally and lastly, it touched on the life of the common man. The theory behind this is clear. If theater enlarges life so as to appeal to large numbers rather than to few individuals, then surely it must deal with the most exalted themes —the gods. As time sometimes proves gods less than omnipotent, and the strong power of temporal rulers is keenly felt, it follows that relationships between rulers and men have greater consequence. For instance, the fall of a king or a kingdom is more significant than the collapse of the blacksmith in the next village. It is a real mark of theatrical evolution, however, when audiences perceive that depth of feeling does not and should not depend on the importance of the character or his station in life. Drama which treated the sorrows and sufferings of common ordinary men with the same dignity as that of gods and kings and portrayed plights other than lost thrones, abandoned queens, or vengeful gods, replaced earlier drama.

In Asia, the progression from gods to kings to men is still present in its near-original state. India reflects in its theater the burden that religion presently imposes on other aspects of its culture. Many Indians have never seen a theatrical representation of anything other than the holy books Ramayana or Mahabharata. Granted that these are also epics and adventure stories, their intent as theater is spiritual elevation. An even greater number of Indians have never heard a piece of music that was not a devotional song to God, even though they have seen modern Indian movies with their songs and dances. In China, that most irreligious of countries, the classical theater is caught in its history of kings and generals of the past. In the Peking operas, they vie and contend, intrigue and counterplot, all in dark tragedy and high bright humor and to the accompaniment of raucously beautiful orchestration.

In the theatrically happier countries of China and Japan, it is possible to see the life of gods, kings, and the common man of the past as well as the present, depending on which theater is selected. One of the marvels of Asia’s theatrical world is Japan. There a wise spectator can see dances 1,500 years old. He can attend elaborately staged performances (the Japanese invented the revolving stage and the trap door) by actors whose lineage and names go back 350 years. The play in which they appear may be an adaptation of a novel a thousand years old. Age, in itself and despite the cult of antiquity so fashionable in the West, proves nothing. But in the theater it does reveal the infinitely lasting values of morality and humanity glowing in the fires of aesthetic transmutation. A foreigner can weep with sincerity at a no play in which the pivotal point of conflict is the murder of a bird. He responds to the truth, in this instance, of pity.

In Japan, where modern theater was inspired and trained by Soviet Russia, one may see reactionary plays extolling the past even at the expense of modern progress. Theatrical politics is, of course, like a football kicked toward a variety of goals.

For example, a good amount of the communist-encouraged modern theater in China deals with the abuses of the past, such as those of widowhood or landlord cruelty. But there are also plays that express the turmoils and difficulties within the minds and hearts of present-day Chinese, as they come into conflict or agreement with communist ideals.

One surprising fact appears. Society’s immediate problems are not always to be found on the contemporary stage. For example, the postwar difficulties between the Japanese and the American occupation forces were never revealed in the theater. At the same time, the Japanese theater has reached to the core of the social problems posed by Westernization without getting lost in transient details. A somewhat similar problem was dealt with in a different way in India before its independence. There, for lack of a genuinely thriving modern theater, dramatists turned to ancient history to find the reflections or resonances that could convey the urgent message of anticolonialism.

Faubion Bowers

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barnouw, Erik; and Krishnaswamy, S. 1963 Indian Film. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Bowers, Faubion 1952 Japanese Theatre. New York: Hermitage.

Bowers, Faubion 1953 Dance in India. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Bowers, Faubion 1956 Theatre in the East. New York: Nelson.

Bowers, Faubion 1959 Broadway: USSR. New York: Nelson.

Chikamatsu, MonzaemonFour Major Plays of Chikamatsu. Translated by Donald Keene. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1961.

Ernst, Earle 1956 The Kabuki Theatre. New York: Grove; Oxford Univ. Press.

Gargi, Balwant 1962 Theatre in India. New York: Theatre Arts Books.

Kawatake, Shigetoshi 1960 History of Japanese Theatre. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.

Raghavan, V. 1963 Bhoja’s Srńgāra Prakāśa. Madras (India): Punarvasu.

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Drama

127. Drama

See also 249. LITERATURE ; 310. PERFORMING .

anagnorisis
Classical Drama, recognition or discovery, as of a disguised character, one thought to be lost, or a critical fact.
antistrophe
(in ancient Greek choral odes) 1. the response made to a preceding strophe, while the chorus is moving from left to right.
2 . the movement of the chorus. Cf. strophe . See also 409. VERSE . antistrophic, antistrophal , adj.
catastasis
the climax of a play or other dramatic representation; that part preceding the catastrophe, where the action is at its height.
catharsis
(in the Aristotelian concept of art, especially with reference to tragic drama) the purging of the emotions, traditionally said to be those of pity and fear. See also 334. PSYCHOLOGY .
choreodrama
a drama expressed in dance or with dance as an integral part of its content and form.
constructivism
the theories, attitudes, and techniques of a group of Soviet writers of the 1920s who attempted to reconcile ideological beliefs with technical achievement, especially in stage design, where effects produced were geometrical and nonrepresentational. constructivist , n., adj.
denouement
the final resolution of the plot, following the climax.
deus ex machina
the device of resolving dramatic action by the introduction of an unexpected, improbable, or forced character or incident.
deuteragonist
Greek Drama, the role that is second in importance to that of the protagonist, or main character.
dramalogue
a dramatic monologue.
dramaturgy
the art of writing or producing plays. dramaturge, dramaturgist , n.
duodrama
a play or drama for two characters or actors.
duologue
a dialogue for two people, especially as a complete dramatic performance or as part of one.
epilogue
1 . the final section of a literary work, often added by way of explanation, comment, etc.
2 . a closing speech in a play, often delivered after the completion of the main action. epilogistic , adj.
epitasis
the main action of a drama, leading up to the catastrophe. Cf. protasis .
exode
1 . Greek Drama, the catastrophe or conclusion of a play.
2 . Roman Drama, a comical or satirical piece added at the end of a play.
histrionics, histrionism
the occupation of actors; playacting.
melodrama
1 . a sensational drama with events and emotions extravagantly expressed.
2 . an opera or a stage play with songs and music, often of a romantic nature. melodramatic , adj.
monodrama
a drama written for one actor or character. monodramatic , adj.
peripeteia, peripetia, peripety
Literature. a sudden change in the course of events, especially in dramatic works.
photodrama
a photoplay or dramatic narrative illustrated with or related through photographs.
protagonist
the principal character in the drama.
protasis
Classical Drama, the first part of a play, when the characters are introduced. Cf. epitasis . See also 186. GRAMMAR ; 422. WISDOM . protatic, adj.
soliloquy
a speech in which a character reveals his thoughts to the audience but not to other characters in the play. soliloquist, n.
stagecraft
the art or skill of producing or staging plays.
stichomythia
dialogue in single alternating lines, as found in ancient Greek drama. stichomythic , adj.
strophe
that part of the ancient Greek choral odes sung by the chorus while moving from right to left. Cf. antistrophe . strophic , adj.
tetralogy
Greek Drama, a series of four dramas, three of them tragedies and one a satyr-play; hence, any series of four related works, literary, dramatic, operatic, etc.
theatrics
the art of the theater or of acting. theatrical , n., adj.
theatromania
a mania for the theater.

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drama

drama Art form, probably derived from primitive religious rituals. In the West, drama developed into a sophisticated art form in 5th-century bc Greece with the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes. Greek drama followed the unity of action, defined by Aristotle in his Poetics. Classical Roman drama relied heavily on Greek models, and these in turn strongly influenced Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, such as the plays of Thomas Kyd, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare. In Spain, Lope de Vega established the comedia, written in verse with three acts. Neo-classicism flourished in the reign of Louis XIV with the tragedies of Corneille and Racine. The comedies of Molière reflected the influence of the Commedia dell'arte. Twentieth-century drama received its impetus from the naturalism of Chekhov, Ibsen and Strindberg. The verse dramas of T. S. Eliot marked the beginnings of modernism. These experiments were extended by Epic Theatre, Theatre of Cruelty and Theatre of the Absurd. Surrealism influenced the work of Pirandello and Samuel Beckett. See also Chinese theatre; comedy; Indian theatre; Japanese theatre; tragedy

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drama

dra·ma / ˈdrämə/ • n. 1. a play for theater, radio, or television: a gritty urban drama about growing up in Harlem. ∎  such works as a genre or style of literature: Renaissance drama. 2. an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances: a hostage drama | an afternoon of high drama at Fenway Park.

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drama

drama XVII. — late L. drāma — Gr. drāma, -at- deed, action, play (esp. tragedy), f. drân do, act.
So dramatic XVI. dramaturge playwright. XIX. — F. — Gr. dramatourgós, f. dramat- + *erg- WORK. Hence dramatist XVII, dramatize XVIII.

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Dráma

Dráma (drä´mä), city (1991 pop. 38,546), capital of Dráma prefecture, NE Greece, in Macedonia. It is the trade center for a tobacco-producing region.

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Drama

DRAMA

This entry includes four subentries:

ENGLISH GERMAN ITALIAN SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE

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Drama

Drama (religious): see THEATRE AND DRAMA.

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drama

drama. See theatre.

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drama

dramaAlabama, clamour (US clamor), crammer, gamma, glamour (US glamor), gnamma, grammar, hammer, jammer, lamber, mamma, rammer, shammer, slammer, stammer, yammer •Padma • magma • drachma •Alma, halma, Palma •Cranmer • asthma • mahatma •miasma, plasma •jackhammer • sledgehammer •yellowhammer • windjammer •flimflammer • programmer •amah, armour (US armor), Atacama, Brahma, Bramah, charmer, cyclorama, dharma, diorama, disarmer, drama, embalmer, farmer, Kama, karma, lama, llama, Matsuyama, panorama, Parma, pranayama, Rama, Samar, Surinamer, Vasco da Gama, Yama, Yokohama •snake-charmer • docudrama •melodrama •contemner, dilemma, Emma, emmer, Jemma, lemma, maremma, stemma, tremor •Elmer, Selma, Thelma, Velma •Mesmer •claimer, defamer, framer, proclaimer, Shema, tamer

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