Through the centuries, the conventions of drama have been altered in many different ways. These conventions are the setting, plot, characters and staging. The main factor which has been a dominant force during the changes of conventions has been the society. The society present during the time in which a play was written had a direct influence on the plot and characters. This is because drama is defined as a representation of life.
Four plays which have been selected from Greek, Elizabethan, Restoration and Modern times can be analysed to show and represent the changes of drama. These plays are “Oedipus the King”, “Macbeth”, “The Way of the World” and “A Doll’s House”.
The early origins of drama came from the Greek. Drama in Greece,450BC was not readily available to the society. Plays were only put on twice a year during great religious celebrations. At these festivals, where the plays were performed competitively, the main focus of theme was about the Gods. These Gods were superior to everyone and represented wealth and power. The fact that they were immortal signified their importance and dominance. Greek drama was also based on the aspects of tragedy and dramatic irony. The tragedy meant that the play often ended with a noble person being destroyed by the Gods. The noble person was led by his own downfalls or flaws which often resulted in his death. This is evident in the story of “Oedipus the King” where Oedipus tries to outwit the prophecy which the Gods predicted, but fails to do so and ends up in exile. The interesting technique of the dramatic irony in Greek plays meant that the audience had prior knowledge of the play and knew the events that will take place before the characters. The staging of plays in Greece took place in huge amphitheatres the size of large sports stadiums. These were used to accommodate the whole city. Despite the enormous amount of people watching the plays, the acoustics in the amphitheatre were excellent, so good that you could hear a pin drop. All the characters acting in the play had to wear bold and bright masks on their face which concealed their own features. The main purpose of these masks was to help the audience distinguish the type of character from their expression. Such elaborate masks were used because of the large number of people sitting near the back unable to have a clear view of the actors. Due to some of the crowd sitting far away, all actions and gestures were made to be larger-than-life and over-emphasised. Another important and unique aspect to Greek theatre was that they consisted of a chorus. This chorus, was able to express the action happening throughout the play with song and dance. Scenes of violence were never acted out, so the chorus became quite vital in providing a means of interpretation to the audience. Besides the chorus speaking in patterned verse, the dialogue of Greek plays were in everyday prose.
Elizabethan theatre was another period of drama which occurred during the sixteenth century. Most plays written during this time focused on kings and royalty. This was because they were very influential in society when the play was written. Though Elizabethan plays were still based on tragedies, writers (particularly Shakespear) were able to develop some comedy into the story line. The audience found this comedy to be amusing not only in the dialogue but also because of the fact that men played the roles of women. Along with comedy and tragedy, other important story lines at the time were deceit, death and murder. The staging of Elizabethan theatre was situated at places like the globe in London where the audience was seated around three sides of a platform projected into their midst. This was commonly known as an apron stage. It was by this type of stage that enabled a closer, more personal feel between the actors and audience. The audience of the Elizabethan theatre was...
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