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A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes plays.
The word "play" is from Middle English pleye, from Old English plæġ, pleġa, plæġa ("play, exercise; sport, game; drama, applause". The word "wright" is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder (as in a wheelwright or cartwright). The words combine to indicate a person who has "wrought" words, themes, and other elements into a dramatic form—a play. (The homophone with "write" is coincidental.)
The first recorded use of the term "playwright" is from 1605,73 years before the first written record of the term "dramatist". It appears to have been first used in a pejorative sense by Ben Jonson to suggest a mere tradesman fashioning works for the theatre.
Jonson uses the word in his Epigram 49, which is thought to refer to John Marston:
Jonson described himself as a poet, not a playwright, since plays during that time were written in meter and so were regarded as the province of poets. This view was held as late as the early 19th century. The term "playwright" later again lost this negative connotation.
The earliest playwrights in Western literature with surviving works are the Ancient Greeks. These early plays were for annual Athenian competitions among play writersheld around the 5th century BC. Such notables as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes established forms still relied on by their modern counterparts. For the ancient Greeks, playwriting involved poïesis , "the act of making". This is the source of the English word poet.
In the 4th century BCE, Aristotle wrote his Poetics , in which he analyzed the principle of action or praxis as the basis for tragedy. He then considered elements of drama: plot (μύθος mythos), character (ἔθος ethos ), thought ( dianoia ), diction ( lexis ), music ( melodia ), and spectacle (opsis). Since the myths, on which Greek tragedy were based, were widely known, plot had to do with the arrangement and selection of existing material. Character was determined by choice and by action. Tragedy is mimesis—"the imitation of an action that is serious". He developed his notion of hamartia, or tragic flaw, an error in judgment by the main character or protagonist, which provides the basis for the "conflict-driven" play.
The Italian Renaissance brought about a stricter interpretation of Aristotle, as this long-lost work came to light in the late 15th century. The neoclassical ideal, which was to reach its apogee in France during the 17th century, dwelled upon the unities, of action, place, and time. This meant that the playwright had to construct the play so that its "virtual" time would not exceed 24 hours, that it would be restricted to a single setting, and that there would be no subplots. Other terms, such as verisimilitude and decorum, circumscribed the subject matter significantly. For example, verisimilitude limits of the unities. Decorum fitted proper protocols for behavior and language on stage. In France, contained too many events and actions, thus, violating the 24-hour restriction of the unity of time. Neoclassicism never had as much traction in England, and Shakespeare's plays are directly opposed to these models, while in Italy, improvised and bawdy commedia dell'arte and opera were more popular forms. In England, after the Interregnum, and restoration of the monarchy in 1660, there was a move toward neoclassical dramaturgy.
One structural unit that is still useful to playwrights today, is the "French scene", which is a scene in a play where the beginning and end are marked by a change in the makeup of the group of characters onstage, rather than by the lights going up or down or the set being changed.
Popularized in the nineteenth century by the French playwrights Eugène Scribe and Victorien Sardou, and perhaps the most schematic of all formats, the "well-made play" relies on a series of coincidences (for better or worse) that determined the action. This plot driven format is often reliant on a prop device, such as a glass of water,or letter that reveals some secret information. In most cases, the character receiving the secret information misinterprets its contents, thus setting off a chain of events. Well-made plays are thus motivated by various plot devices which lead to "discoveries" and "reversals of action," rather than being character motivated. Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House is an example of a well-made structure (built around the discovery of Krogstad's letter) that began to integrate a more realistic approach to character. The character Nora's leaving is as much motivated by "the letter" and disclosure of a "past secret" as it is by her own determination to strike out on her own. The well-made play infiltrated other forms of writing and is still seen in popular formats such as the mystery, or "whodunit."
Contemporary playwrights in the United States often do not reach the same level of fame or cultural importance as others did in the past.[ citation needed ] No longer the only outlet for serious drama or entertaining comedies, theatrical productions must use ticket sales as a source of income, which has caused many of them to reduce the number of new works being produced. For example, Playwrights Horizons produced only six plays in the 2002–03 seasons, compared with thirty-one in 1973–74. As revivals and large-scale production musicals become the de rigueur of Broadway (and even Off-Broadway) productions, playwrights find it difficult to earn a living in the business, let alone achieve major successes.[ citation needed ]
In an effort to develop new American voices in playwriting, a phenomenon known as new play development [ citation needed ] began to emerge in the early-to-mid-1980s, and continues through today. Many regional theatres have hired dramaturges and literary managers in an effort to showcase various festivals for new work, or bring in playwrights for residencies.[ citation needed ] Funding through national organizations, such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Theatre Communications Group, encouraged the partnerships of professional theatre companies and emerging playwrights.[ citation needed ]
New Dramatists and The Lark theatre in New York City, for example, will often have a "cold" reading of a script in an informal sitdown setting.[ citation needed ] A cold reading means that the actors haven't rehearsed the work, or may be seeing it for the first time, and usually, the technical requirements are minimal.[ citation needed ] Shenandoah and the O'Neill Festival offer summer retreats for playwrights to develop their work with directors and actors in a totally "devoted" setting.[ citation needed ]
The 1990s saw the formation of playwriting collectives like 13P and Clubbed Thumb who have gathered members together to produce, rather than develop, new works.[ citation needed ] This has been a reaction to the "developed to death" notion in which the play never gets produced, but goes through endless readings and critiques that after a certain point in New York go through some kind of assiduous development process, and rare is the play that shows up on a producer's desk that gains any traction.[ citation needed ] On Broadway, this has happened with Mamet's Race (2009) and Martin McDonagh's A Behanding in Spokane (2010), although these shows were packaged with stars (Christopher Walken in the latter) and with playwrights who are well established in the profession.[ citation needed ]
Benjamin Jonson was an English playwright and poet, whose artistry exerted a lasting influence upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours. He is best known for the satirical plays Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone, or The Fox, The Alchemist (1610) and Bartholomew Fair (1614) and for his lyric and epigrammatic poetry. "He is generally regarded as the second most important English dramatist, after William Shakespeare, during the reign of James I."
Jean Racine, baptismal name Jean-Baptiste Racine, was a French dramatist, one of the three great playwrights of 17th-century France, along with Molière and Corneille, and an important literary figure in the Western tradition. Racine was primarily a tragedian, producing such "examples of neoclassical perfection" as Phèdre, Andromaque, and Athalie. He did write one comedy, Les Plaideurs, and a muted tragedy, Esther for the young.
Tragedy is a form of drama based on human suffering and, mainly, the terrible or sorrowful events that befall a main character. Traditionally, the intention of tragedy is to invoke an accompanying catharsis, or a "pain [that] awakens pleasure", for the audience. While many cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, the term tragedy often refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of Western civilization. That tradition has been multiple and discontinuous, yet the term has often been used to invoke a powerful effect of cultural identity and historical continuity—"the Greeks and the Elizabethans, in one cultural form; Hellenes and Christians, in a common activity," as Raymond Williams puts it.
Theatre techniques are procedures that facilitate a successful presentation of a play. They also include any practices that advance and enhance the understanding the audience brings to the action and the acting by the cast on stage.
Tragicomedy is a literary genre that blends aspects of both tragic and comic forms. Most often seen in dramatic literature, the term can describe either a tragic play which contains enough comic elements to lighten the overall mood or a serious play with a happy ending. Tragicomedy, as its name implies, invokes the intended response of both the tragedy and the comedy in the audience, the former being a genre based on human suffering that invokes an accompanying catharsis and the latter being a genre intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter.
Drama was introduced to Britain from Europe by the Romans, and auditoriums were constructed across the country for this purpose.
A Greek chorus, or simply chorus, in the context of Ancient Greek tragedy, comedy, satyr plays, and modern works inspired by them, is a homogeneous, non-individualised group of performers, who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action. The chorus consisted of between 12 and 50 players, who variously danced, sang or spoke their lines in unison, and sometimes wore masks.
Greek tragedy is a form of theatre from Ancient Greece and Anatolia. It reached its most significant form in Athens in the 5th century BC, the works of which are sometimes called Attic tragedy. Greek tragedy is widely believed to be an extension of the ancient rites carried out in honor of Dionysus, and it heavily influenced the theatre of Ancient Rome and the Renaissance. Tragic plots were most often based upon myths from the oral traditions of archaic epics. In tragic theatre, however, these narratives were presented by actors. The most acclaimed Greek tragedians are Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. These tragedians often explored many themes around human nature, mainly as a way of connecting with the audience but also as way of bringing the audience into the play.
In his own time, William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was rated as merely one among many talented playwrights and poets, but since the late 17th century has been considered the supreme playwright and poet of the English language.
The well-made play is a dramatic genre from nineteenth-century theatre first codified by French dramatist Eugène Scribe. Dramatists Victorien Sardou, Alexandre Dumas, fils, and Emile Augier wrote within the genre, each putting a distinct spin on the style. The well-made play was a popular form of entertainment. By the mid-19th century, however, it had already entered into common use as a derogatory term. Henrik Ibsen and the other realistic dramatists of the later 19th century built upon its technique of careful construction and preparation of effects in the genre problem play. "Through their example", Marvin Carlson explains, "the well-made play became and still remains the traditional model of play construction."
17th-century French literature was written throughout the Grand Siècle of France, spanning the reigns of Henry IV of France, the Regency of Marie de Medici, Louis XIII of France, the Regency of Anne of Austria and the reign of Louis XIV of France. The literature of this period is often equated with the Classicism of Louis XIV's long reign, during which France led Europe in political and cultural development; its authors expounded the classical ideals of order, clarity, proportion and good taste. In reality, 17th-century French literature encompasses far more than just the classicist masterpieces of Jean Racine and Madame de La Fayette.
Shakespeare's plays are a canon of approximately 39 dramatic works written by English poet, playwright, and actor William Shakespeare. The exact number of plays—as well as their classifications as tragedy, history, or comedy—is a matter of scholarly debate. Shakespeare's plays are widely regarded as being among the greatest in the English language and are continually performed around the world. The plays have been translated into every major living language.
This article is an overview of the theatre of France.
Sturm und Drang was a proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music that occurred between the late 1760s and early 1780s. Within the movement, individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment and associated aesthetic movements. The period is named for Friedrich Maximilian Klinger's play of the same name, which was first performed by Abel Seyler's famed theatrical company in 1777.
Catiline His Conspiracy is a Jacobean tragedy written by Ben Jonson. It is one of the two Roman tragedies that Jonson hoped would cement his dramatic achievement and reputation, the other being Sejanus His Fall (1603).
The architectural form of theatre in Rome has been linked to later, more well-known examples from the 1st century B.C.E. to the 3rd Century C.E. The Theatre of ancient Rome referred to as a period of time in which theatrical practice and performance took place in Rome has been linked back even further to the 4th century B.C.E., following the state’s transition from monarchy to republic. Theatre during this era is generally separated into genres of tragedy and comedy, which are represented by a particular style of architecture and stage play, and conveyed to an audience purely as a form of entertainment and control. When it came to the audience, Romans favored entertainment and performance over tragedy and drama, displaying a more modern form of theatre that is still used in contemporary times. 'Spectacle' became an essential part of an everyday Romans expectations when it came to Theatre. Some works by Plautus, Terence, and Seneca the Younger that survive to this day, highlight the different aspects of Roman society and culture at the time, including advancements in Roman literature and theatre.Theatre during this period of time would come to represent an important aspect of Roman society during the republican and imperial periods of Rome.
Lucy Thurber is an American playwright based in New York City. She is the recipient of the first Gary Bonasorte Memorial Prize for Playwriting, a Lilly Award and a 2014 OBIE Award for The Hill Town Plays.
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance: a play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on radio or television. Considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic and the lyrical modes ever since Aristotle's Poetics —the earliest work of dramatic theory.
In The Blood is a play written by Suzan-Lori Parks which premiered at The Joseph Papp Public Theater in 1999. Parks borrowed many aspects from Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter, and wanted to create a play based on the novel. She originally wanted to call the play Fucking A, but scrapped the idea. She later wrote the story based on the main character from The Scarlet Letter, and turned the story into more modern era, and changed the title to In The Blood. She later wrote a different play that she did title Fucking A.
Stephen Karam is an American playwright and screenwriter. His plays Sons of the Prophet, a comedy-drama about a Lebanese-American family, and The Humans were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012 and 2016, respectively. The Humans won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play.