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Introduction to Theatre Online Course

Dr. Eric W. Trumbull, Professor, Theatre/Speech

Last revision date: August 31, 2006


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Types of Drama / Plays: Mixed

Resource: Wilson/Goldfarb, Chapter 7

Other Serious forms:

Heroic Drama

Retains parts of tragedy --

heroic or noble characters

verse (heroic verse) -- where the kind of drama got its name -- heroic verse consists of "couplets" -- two rhyming lines of iambic pentameter -- and other elevated language

extreme situations

but differs from tragedy because:

usually has a happy ending

generally optimistic view, even if ending is sad

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Seriocomic Forms

A. "melodrama" --

Comes from "Music drama"
Good and evil are most clearly defined.
Evil is overcome by good.

Entanglement of the protagonist in a series of circumstances threatening him or her; eventually rescued or escapes. Most tv series.

Many movies:

Wronged innocence is vindicated and evil chastised.

Like tragedy -- serious action.
Like comedy -- happy ending.


B. Domestic / Bourgeois Drama

Deals with "ordinary" people, from everyday life. Has in the last 150 years replaced both classical tragedy and "heroic" drama as the predominant form of serious drama

C. Tragi-Comedy

More complex than melodrama.

Ends happily, but raises complex issues of love, friendship, cowardice, courage, and death; societal norms, morality concealed identities, misinformation, and coincidence, last-minute revelations.

Many modern plays called tragi-comedy.

Able to send conflicting messages: laugh, but situation and ending can still be disquieting (MASH, Bonnie and Clyde)


D. Mixed Forms: Mingling of forms (some of these are not specifically mentioned in your textbook)


Theatre of the Absurd -- Ionesco -- tragic farce, anti-play.

Ghelderode -- burlesque mystery, tragedy for the music hall.

Pinter -- has been called comedy of menace --associated with Theatre of the Absurd

Theatre of Cruelty -- Artaud

The Epic Theatre of Bertolt Brecht

Biomechanics / constructivist of Meyerhold

Futurism, Dada, Surrealism


Two playwrights that W/G mention as having roots in alternative theatre, David Mamet and Sam Shepard, have often been called "super-realism," "extra-realism," "magic realism."

This is indicative of modern times --
Uncertainty about nature of things and beliefs

Perhaps clearer labels could come, so that we can discuss more clearly, will become evident in the future.

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Last revision date: August 31, 2006