|The great actor Edwin Booth as Hamlet, circa 1870|
The Muse Of Literature welcomes you to the World Of Drama.
Drama has a noble and ancient history. Its roots are planted firmly in religion and spirituality; they reach back in time to periods that antedate those of the ancient Greeks. Here the Muse Of Literature follows in the footsteps of that tradition.
A good place to begin our exploration of drama is to consider a few dramatic genres as described by no less a dramatist than Shakespeare...and he ought to know.
Believing Hamlet to be mad, the dotard Polonius patronizes him by enumerating the catalog of dramatic genres performed by a troop of itinerate actors hired to put on a play at Elsinor castle. It's the play that will "catch the conscience of the King."
Shakespeare has Polonius describe the actors in these words:
The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy,
history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral,
tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene
individable, or poem unlimited...
—Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2
Well, maybe Shakespeare was only kidding.
According to The Muse Of Literature, drama is:
A promotional poster for a performance of Hamlet featuring the great 19th century actor Thomas Keene as Hamlet
Just as all literature is not drama, all drama is not literature. The pages in this section of Electricka's web are limited to topics and works that conform to The Muse's definition of Literature.
The pages in this section of Electricka's web are further limited by The Muse Of Literature's approach to drama. One might summarize this approach by saying that that The Muse is primarily concerned with Dramatic Literature, that is, with dramas as written and read, and only secondarily with dramatization or performance art. In other words, The Muse is not primarily concerned with playacting, theatrical performances, and theater as a production art.
Why is The Muse is not primarily interested in performance? Because Literature is the domain of The Muse Of Literature and performance is not a literary domain. Literature must be written and read to be literature, and acting. directing, set design, lighting, or other aspects of theater are not writing or reading. Nor is writing for the theater, as such, the domain of literature.
On the other hand, plays are usually written before they are enacted, and sometimes after; some of the best works of literature have been produced that way. Such works consist of scripts or related materials that have been written for performance and printed so that they are available for reading. Witness the plays of Classical Greece, in which The Muse is intensely interested. ; witness the plays of Shakespeare. Therefore, The Muse is interested in theater, stage, and performance arts, but only secondarily, and only insofar as they impact the literature produced in connection with plays.
|Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet|
What does The Muse mean by Dramatic Literature? What is the connection between Dramatic Literature and the theater?
Like poetry, drama is essentially a performance art, with inherent affinities for the stage. Experience has amply demonstrated that dramatic arts—performance art—can be high art. Witness classical Greek drama; witness the modern stage. The world of the theater has much to recommend it to artists and art-minded acolytes. Some of the best artistic work of ancient and modern times has come out of it.
Yet, having noted this, despite many and deep connections between theater and drama, it is important to remember that drama is not synonymous with theater; it is important to keep the two subjects apart, at least while thinking about them. Why? Partly because the theatrical world is (and has been) as much an industry as an art form; and partly because performance is spectacle, not literature. A theatrical performance is not a written work intended for reading, as is literature; reading is an altogether different kind of experience.
The Muse Of Literature has chosen to follow the high road, to treat the topic of drama from the point of view of literature and not to emphasize it as performance art.
|The great Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet around the turn of the 19th century|
The Muse Of Literature is primarily interested in those aspects of drama that emphasize literature. The Muse addresses all aspects of literature that are within the scope of literature as an aesthetic medium. When other muses are involved—The Muse Of Language Arts for linguistics and writing, The Muse Of Film for screenplays, etc.—the responsibility for the exploration will be shared as appropriate.
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