English majors are subject to take a variety of advanced literature courses. These higher-level courses delve into great detail about how to read various forms of writing, including fiction, poetry, essay, and drama. Writing types are broken down and explored on several different levels, instilling a great appreciation of the world of literature. With drama (also known as a play) students learn about several different components, one of which is the Elements of Drama.
The elements of drama include the plot, character, dialogue, staging, and theme. As students explore each element on an individual level, the analysis helps to see how it fits in conjunction with the other elements. Each analysis is followed by an act of synthesis, in which all of the elements are put into a relationship with one another.
The plot is the structure of a play’s action. It encompasses what happens in a play, the order of the incidents, and their arrangement and form. A traditional plot structure consists of an exposition – background information for the plot development, rising action – a set of conflicts and crises, climax – the play’s most decisive crisis, and falling action – a follow-up that generates resolution. The ultimate objective of the plot is to control the audience’s expectations about what is happening in the drama.
Some consider the plot to be the skeletal framework of a play, and the character is its vital center. Characters are what bring the play to life. They are so important because people respond and relate to them, even though they are fictional human beings. Consequently, the human qualities of characters are arguably their most engaging features. In relation to the framework, it is in conflict that characters reveal themselves and advance the plot.
Dialogue has three major functions: (1) to advance the plot; (2) to establish setting; (3) to reveal character. However, the most important and consistent objective of dialogue is to reveal the character. Dialogue is the catalyst that makes things happen, and as such, it becomes a form of action as well.
By staging, students learn about the visual details, including the actors on the stage, background scenery, props, costumes, etc. and how they increase their understanding of the play. Props like costumes and any physical objects that appear in a play can be an important dramatic symbol. The sounds and sights are also stage elements that increase our aural and visual imagination. Staging enhances the student’s appreciation of the literary composition and the dramatist’s craftsmanship.
The final Element of Drama is the theme. The theme refers to the play’s meaning or central idea. One of the most effective ways to determine the theme(s), of a play is by interpreting dialogue between the characters. Dialogue frequently represents conflicting ideas and varying viewpoints. Because there are different views, there can also be different themes. Reading dialogue can be instrumental in assessing main ideas and purpose to surmise the theme(s) of a play.