Different between Drama, Play and Theatre

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Drama is the prose or verse composition especially one telling a serious story that is intended for representation by actors in personalizing the characters and performing the dialogue and actions. Also drama has been defined by several scholars as follows.

According to Aristotle, Drama is an act of imitating life. Aristotle sees that human are naturally imitative, that in human beings take pleasure in imitating persons, things, and action and through this an individual is taught moral or ethical and rituals.

Brocket O, (1964) defined drama as the representation of man actions. By actions Brockett means the motivations both mental and physiological and he defined drama from the point of performance. Human actions are to be performed on the stage.

John Areydon defines drama as a lively image on human nature reproducing the passion and humorous also changes of fortune to which are subject for the delights and instructions of the mankind.

  1. J. Price (1930) defines drama as the repetition of a complete action adapted to the sympathetic attention of man developed in sensation of continuously related incidence, acted and expressed by means of speech and in a symbols, actualities and conditions of life.

Play is a form of literature written by playwright always consisting scripted dialogue between fictional characters intended for theatrical performance rather than reading. It can also refer to a written works of playwrights and their complete metrical performances.

Theatre according to American Encyclopaedia is derived from a Greek word ‘’Theotren” which means architectural structure selected or built to house not only dramatic offerings but also other types of presentation. Therefore is the physical expression of the plays script.

Origin of Drama:-

Generally nobody knows exactly where drama originated. However there exists a theory which tries to explain the origin of drama. These theories are ritual theory, storytelling theory and mimetic theory.

Ritual theory explains dram to have originated from the primitive tribes which used to perform rituals to their gods in order to be blessed. During the performance of rituals it include performer who is the maker, audiences who are the watcher or listeners, themes and performing place. Ritual has three types such as ritual of redress, life crisis rituals and luminal rituals.

The theory of storytelling argue that man is naturally a story teller and hence man likes to tell the stories about the seasonal ceremonies, hunting, battles, myths and many other. In the story there is narrator, dialogue in the story actions, distribution of roles to different characters and communication process.

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In imitation theory which was developed by Aristotle (484-322) Aristotle claim that human are naturally imitative in nature and hence imitates persons, things and actions. According to this theory dram developed through man’s curious desire for imitation in order to learn about his or her world.

Theatre is also said to have originated from rituals theory. When rituals were performed people used to come together at special places where they could all see the actual performance of these rituals. Therefore, theatre originated from a place where people went to see the performances of rituals.

Drama, play and theatre differ from each other in terms of definitions, types, elements and participants as follows;

Drama is a composition where by something creative is put together and it represents human aspects example political, economic and social. It is an interpretation of an action that is purposeful presented and action is directed to the characters. Drama is like our everyday life as it shows reality and naturalistic form, real human beings and real place for duration of time. Drama as the composition is where we get play in a written script and once it is dramatized it become theatre.

Play is written script by a playwright always consisting scripted dialogue between fictional characters intended for theatrical performances rather than reading. The thought of a playwright is presented in a written script to be performed.

Theatre is a place where drama can be performed hence it requires an empty space for the performance to take place such as building. In theatre life events are lively presented. The physical performance on the stage requires characters to represent life event and audience have to see and listen. For example in Greek theatre is the place where festivals, sacrifices and dramatic theatre takes place.

Drama and play have the same types and elements because play derived from drama where as a play is written script of the composition of drama which is intended to be performed. Where in theatre its types are derived from purpose they serve. Types of drama and its element explained as follows:-

Tragedy drama; According to Aristotle  tragedy drama is term applied to plays dealing in an elevated poetic style, serious action and maintain a mood throughout that underscores the play serious intention. Aristotle describe tragedy as imitation of an action that is serious complete in self and an action magnify. Tragedy focuses on royal events and presents terrifying events and extremely suffering using noble characters for example Oedipus the king, Antigone.

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Comedy; is a Greek word origin dealing with satiric plays of Aristophanes it is also falls funny to the individuals who think themselves are very important. Usually meant to be funny and it rebukes the weakness of human nature criticises human conduct and aim to correct. It has an epic end.

Tragic-comedy; is the mixture of tragedy and comedy it contain both elements of tragedy and those of comedy and it has happy ending.

Melo-drama; it uses music to heighten the dramatically mood. It presents the confrontation between good and evils for example the audiences sees violence on the stage but at the end good side wins.

Mixed form; It is the contemporary types of drama that mixes all types of drama thus is because of the freedom of style and techniques where writers have choices to write their work.

Theatre is the complex performing art. The performance and the purpose of theatre give its categories or types. Generally there is a lot of types of theatres but to mention few as such as:-

Religious theatre; these were initially first theatre in Greek where religious activities  such as honouring the God (Dionysus) were performed and people gathered together to witness the performance of this. Example, funeral series and cerebrating the seasons.

Dramatic theatre; these are mainly theatre where essential elements of human experiences are enacted before the audiences.

Acrobatic theatre; these are theatre where acrobatic ties are performed. The main purpose of acrobatic is to entertain and bring amusement to people before the audiences.

Elements of drama and theatre also differ. Drama has six elements while theatre has for elements. Starting with drama:-

Plot; is the overall structure of the play and the most important element of drama. It refers to the organization of all elements into a meaningful pattern it has the beginning, the middle and the end.

Characters; there are dramatic characters who present human actions. It includes physical appearances, age and size, how they behave and act and how they abide with moral value.

Theme; deals with subject matter, the overall meaning and the purpose of a play in this elements is to show drama expresses universal ideas, emotions of characters who presents human actions.

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Diction; this is the use of language to create thought or the, characters and incidence, language is used in drama for the purpose of communication and hence enables characters to import information, to help in characterization and to reveal themes.

Spectacles or stage; this gives information on where the actions occurs example living room. It informs the reader about the period of action and helps to establish the mood of action.

Audiences or reader; It is an element which shows the participants or the intended people to which a drama is composed to. Audience includes people who read and listening as well as watching the work of art.

Theatre has four elements explained as follows:-

Performer; is an individual who present himself as an acrobat demonstrating hair arriving feasts of magician doing mysterious or an actor presenting fictional events. In each instance the performer uses himself his body, his voice and his sensibilities as the media through which he communicate with the audiences.

Place; Theatre requires a playing space where people can come together to watch a performance. It is a dramatic fictional location example Architecture.

Audiences or spectacles; these are people or characters who watch the performance to which the playwright prepared in a written script example, watching an acrobat.

Theme; this is the subject matter of the performance. The thought of the playwright towards the intended audiences, what the playwright wants to communicate with the society.

Drama play differs with theatre in terms of participants. In play there are few characters is employed than in theatre. When drama is composed a written script which is play employs few characters than it due when it comes to performance which is theatre. In theatre several characters are employed to represent human action such as dancers, singers, players and other individuals who performed different roles.

Therefore, drama is the composition in which out of it we get play in a written script and once it is performed it becomes a theatre and due to this dram appears to have a close relationship with play and theatre as they both depends on each other.


American Encyclopaedia (1974), American cooperation: United state of America

Brocket, O. G. & Hildy, F. S (2007), History of theatre. Peason collocations Inc: United States of


Grabe, G. M. (1958), Aristotle on poetry and style, Ed. Hackett Publishing Company: Indiana


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