Kinds of Drama


1. classical tragedy
protagonist of high moral standing; real time; chorus; 3 main characters (Sophocles) downfall due to fatal flaw; designed to create pathos, catharsis in audience.

2. Theater of the Absurd
From the 1950’s and 60’s, drama that shows the absurdity of the human condition. Other characteristics include bewilderment, perplexity, spiritual anguish; it portrays human beings in incomprehensible situations. The form is nonrealistic; it often abandons rational devices.

3. Morality Plays
Dramatized allegory from the 4th century in which abstractions (such as Charity, Avarice, Mercy, Greed) appear in personified form and struggle for a human soul. The central figure may represent humanity in general, as in Everyman. Morality plays are limited in scope, dealing with a single problem applicable to a certain person. Categorized as religious didactic-pedagogical, or political. They evolve into comedy by admitting realistic and farcical features by the 16th C.

4. Roman (Senecan) Drama
Tragedies written by Seneca the Younger (4 B.C. – 65 A.D): 1) Five acts, 2) chorus used to comment 3) use of stock characters, 4) action presented by report, 5) sensational themes (bloodlust, unnatural crimes) 6) exaggerated rhetorical style, including elements such as hyperbole, exaggerated comparisons, aphorisms, epigrams, and sharp dialogue, 7) lacked careful characterization but employed use of introspection and soliloquy.

5. Modern Drama
A conscious break with traditional dramatic forms, conventions, themes, and structure. Tends to be highly subjective.

6. English Medieval Drama
Includes religious dramas like Miracle Plays (dramatized Biblical stories) elaborations of liturgical services, Mystery Plays (dramatized enactment of the plan of salvation, or based on the lives of the saints). Also included: Morality Plays, folk dramas such as Robin Hood plays, sword-dance plays. Mystery Plays and Morality Plays became secularized and added comedic elements that led to Elizabethan Drama. It was “in the ruins and debris of the miracle play and morality that Elizabethan drama struck its deepest roots” (Felix E. Schelling).

7. Revenge Tragedy
Popular in Senecan drama and Elizabethan drama. Usually recounted the revenge of 1) a father for a son or vice versa, 2) presented hero’s hesitation, 3) real or pretended insanity, 4) suicide, 5) intrigue, 6) villain, 7) philosophic soliloquies, 8) sensational horrors. Hamlet and Titus Andronicus are two Shakespearean revenge tragedies.


8. Elizabethan/Jacobean drama
ca. 1550 – 1642. Developed from medieval drama: tradition of acting, and certain conventions such as buffoonery. From morality plays came comic elements. Classical drama also influenced tragedy. Our modern theater comes from Elizabethan drama. It was extremely rich in variety: tragedy, romantic tragedy, classical tragedy, comi-tragedy, historical plays, romantic comedies, comedies, masques.

9. Resoration/18th C. drama
Born 1660 when English theatres were reopened after an 18-year moratorium. It was a reaction against Puritanism. Strong French influence. Included comedy of manners, heroic drama. Plays featured taste, polish, common sense, and reason. Also a neo-classical influence.

10. Domestic tragedy
Drama that features common people dealing with personal tragedy. Ibsen, in 19th century perfected the form; Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire, Miller’s Death of a Salesman or All My Sons.


Kinds of Novels:

1. novel of incident
episodic action dominant—not plot unity or character
The Three Musketeers
Robinson Crusoe
Sherlock Holmes

2. novel of character
emphasis on character, not on plot unity

3. realistic novel
19th century novels that focus on middle class ethics and life. Slice of life writing that imitates actual day-to-day action and drama. Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser

4. romance novel
“The Novel is a picture of real life and manners, and of the times in which it was written. The Romance in lofty and elevated language, describes what has never happened nor is likely to.” Extravagant characters, remote and exotic places, highly exciting and heroic events, passionate love, or mysterious or supernatural experiences. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne; Edgar Allen Poe’s fiction.

5. Bildungsroman
A novel that follows a young person to maturity.
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

6. historical novel
A novel that examines a particular historical period and features actual characters and also fictional characters that carry the plot.
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens (French Revolution)
7. epistolary novel
A novel told through letters, emails, texts, etc.
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
84 Charring Cross Road, James Roose-Evans
Lady Susan, Jane Austen

8. picaresque novel
A novel that tells the life story of a rogue or rascal of low degree. Tends to be episodic, contain adventure, is often satiric of social classes. Realistic, focusing on petty details; uninhibited expression, 1st person narrative, realistic style; character does not develop. Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe

9. Roman a Clef
A novel about actual persons in the guise of a fictional character.
Primary Colors, Joe Klein (the Clintons and ’96 campaign);
The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand (Frank Lloyd Wright)

10. eponymous novel
A novel that features a protagonist for whom the novel is named:
Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

11. grotesque fiction
Contains bizarre, incongruous, ugly, unnatural, fantastic, abnormal (formal distortion) elements or characters. Usually characters or subjects. It is an outgrowth of the author’s interest in irrational, cosmic order, humans’ place in the universe, and the merging of comic/tragic aspects of human experience. Characters are often physically or spiritually deformed. Flannery O’Conner or Franz Kafka

12. metafiction
A work of fiction, a major concern of which is the nature of fiction itself. Many modern novelists (J.D. Salinger, Kurt Vonnegut, Ken Kesey, Norman Mailer) write novels that contain, as one of their structural and thematic dimensions, a testing of fiction itself.

13. antinovel
A contemporary movement that rejects traditional novelistic conventions. It is the literal description of experience that has not been abstracted, internalized, or anthropomorphized through metaphor. Novelists want to represent reality without imposed interpretations. No social or moral superstructure. No order. An antinovel experiments with fragmentation and dislocation supposing the reader will reconstruct reality from the disordered pieces of direct experience. Neutral, flat style (Alain Robbe-Grillet, best known novelist)