Historical Background Of Classical Drama And Its Features

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Drama has changed throughout the years some dramas survived and some got lost in history. Drama has been always a great way to communicate and express emotions and feelings. Since Drama faced several periods from the day it was created, here is a piece of brief information about its history and features.

Firstly, Drama started with the Greeks and Romans. In fact, the term drama comes from a Greek word meaning ‘action’ which is derived from ‘I do’ (En.wikipedia.org, n.d.) 1. We need to define drama to understand what classical drama is. Robert Longley said ‘In literature, a drama is a portrayal of fictional or non-fictional events through the performance of written dialogue (either prose or poetry)” (Longley, 2019)2. Classical drama begins by honouring the god of wine, Dionysus, in March around the 5th and 4th centuries BC in Dionysia. The drama back then revolved around the Greek gods and religion.

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Moreover, The Greek drama originally was knowing to have three types: comedy, tragedy, and satire combined by a chorus, costumes, masks, and other characteristics all of which would have been staged in an open area. The first master of comedy was the playwright Aristophanes whereas in tragedy were Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Satire according to Cambridge is a way of criticizing people or ideas in a humorous way, especially in order to make a political point. ‘Satire began with the ancient Greeks but came into its own in ancient Rome, where the ‘fathers’ of satire, Horace and Juvenal, had their names given to the two basic types of satire” (Applebee 584).

Secondly, the Roman drama was introduced to the Greek drama around 250 BCE. The Roman drama kept the same themes as the Greeks but added to it some of their own important themes. Furthermore, Romans edited the plays, for example, by putting a music element like orchestra instead of the choruses and dividing the stories into episodes.

Then many years after creating tragedy and comedy, Medieval Drama brought something different to the theatre despite the fact that the Christian church originally opposed theatre. While the earlier periods where more for educational purposes, the main propose for this period was entertainment. If the Greek drama started duo to the worship of Dionysus, the medieval times’ drama started for the Christian religion. Eventually, the two were jointly included in the renaissance drama knowing also as the Elizabethan drama. At that time, not only comedy and tragedy were renewed but also the first Elizabethan playhouse was opened. One of the famous plays in that era was William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Following the eighteenth century, there was a huge decline in drama because of “the Licensing Act of 1737 which curtailed the freedom of expression of dramatists’ (NEOEnglish, n.d.). Furthermore, some of Shakespeare’s dramas were rewritten to suit the style of those days. After that in the nineteenth century, Melodrama, which literally means song drama, and Romantic plays were highly popular. The first melodrama drama was Thomas Holcroft’s A Tale of Mystery. In Romantic drama, Johann Wolfgang was well known for his plays. Lastly, the nineteenth-century drama paved the way for modern drama.

Finally, some features of drama that were not mentioned above. First, Plot is Consists of rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Second, Characters are the ones who move the plot and explain the story, for example, in the story of an hour the one who told the protagonist, Louise, about her husband’s death was Richard, the husband’s friend. Third, the Sitting is where and when the events happened. Then Tragicomedy is a mix between comedy and Tragedy where the protagonist faces a problem and it ends in an unexpected way.

In conclusion, drama faced many changes from the past until now. Some of its features developed and some stayed immutable. I think no matter the change is drama still has the same main object, which is affecting the audience and making a difference inside them in the end. It is beautiful how people developed something and maintain it until now.


  1. En.wikipedia.org. (n.d.). Drama. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drama [Accessed 16 Feb. 2020].
  2. Longley, R. (2019). What Is Drama? Literary Definition and Examples. [online] ThoughtCo. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/drama-literary-definition-4171972 [Accessed 16 Feb. 2020]. Wikipedia
  3. Dictionary.cambridge.org. (n.d.). SATIRE | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary. [online] Available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/satire [Accessed 16 Feb. 2020].
  4. NEOEnglish. (n.d.). The Eighteenth Century Drama. [online] Available at: https://neoenglish.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/the-eighteenth-century-drama/ [Accessed 16 Feb. 2020].


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