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Our word drama comes from the ancient Greek word dran, meaning to do. And that etymology is a good capsule definition, for drama is concerned with doing, with action and its consequences. In drama, it is action that reveals character and brings about conflict. But unlike the action in a short story, the action in a play is enacted before you as dialogue either printed on the page or spoken on the stage.

Long before print and long before recorded history, what we now recognise as drama had its origins in ritual. Anthropologists have studied various rituals associated with primitive cultures, rituals centred on cyclical or important events the hunt, the harvest, the summer and winter solstices, and the like. No matter what even was celebrated, what was important was its religious significance, the surrounding ritual; the reinforcing of shared values, and the elevated form of language.

These characteristics are present in early Greek religious rites, and over the ears, ritual evolved into drama. What we know about the origins of drama is based on information that has come down to us from the Ancient Greeks, in particular the works of three great 5th century tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides and the philosopher Aristotle, who later described what he saw in the theatre in his Poetics. From these beginnings in Greece, we can link the western tradition of drama to religion, ritual, and communal experience.

Drama can be subdivided into three main categories: the tragedy, the comedy, and the tragi-comedy.

contributed by Gifford, Katya

14 April 2002

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