Literary Term Play

Literary Term Play

A play is a piece of writing performed by actors in theatre, TV, and radio. It’s a form of entertainment where actors pretend to be different characters and speak lines that tell a tale. Plays have settings like a house or a forest. Play often has a plot—a series of events that happen to the characters. People watch plays in theaters to enjoy the actors’ stories and performances. 

In English literature, play types can vary based on different categorizations. Still, they generally fall into several main categories:

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  • Tragedy: These plays typically involve serious themes. Tragedy ends in the downfall or death of the protagonist due to a tragic flaw. Examples include Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” or Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”
  • Comedy: Comedies aim to entertain and amuse the audience, often through humor, wit, and lighthearted situations. They usually end happily. Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a classic example.
  • Tragicomedy: This genre combines elements of tragedy and comedy. Tragicomedy blends serious and humorous elements in the same play. An example is Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
  • Drama: A broad category that focuses on serious themes and conflicts but doesn’t necessarily adhere strictly to the structure of tragedy. Drama explores societal issues, personal struggles, or moral dilemmas.
  • Melodrama: Melodrama is a play with exaggerated emotions, simplified characters (often portraying clear heroes and villains), and intense conflicts. Melodramas aim to evoke strong emotions from the audience and often have a clear sense of morality.

Here are the characteristics of a play:

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  • Scripted Dialogue: Plays typically involve scripted dialogue, where characters communicate through lines written by a playwright.
  • Theatrical Setting: They are designed to be performed in a theatrical setting, whether on stage or in a designated performance space.
  • Characters: Plays feature characters who interact, drive the plot, and convey the story to the audience through their actions and dialogue.
  • Conflict: They often revolve around a central conflict or tension that drives the narrative forward and engages the audience.
  • Plot and Structure: Plays have a structured storyline, often following an arc with a beginning, middle, and end. They may include acts, scenes, or other divisions.
  • Themes: Like any form of literature, plays explore various themes, ranging from love and betrayal to societal issues, political commentary, or moral dilemmas.
  • Stage Directions: Plays include stage directions that guide actors on movements, emotions, and interactions with the set and props.
  • Performance: They are intended for live performance, with actors interpreting the characters and bringing them to life for an audience.

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  • Engagement: Plays aim to engage the audience emotionally, intellectually, or even physically, making them active participants in the storytelling process.
  • Entertainment and/or Education: While primarily entertainment, plays can also serve educational or informative purposes by conveying messages on certain topics or issues.
Riya Akter
Riya Akter
Hey, This is Riya Akter Setu, B.A (Hons) & M.A in English from National University.


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