Interactive flashcards help students review their knowledge of approximately 200 terms.

a literary and artistic movement introduced by Tristan Tzara (1896–1963) in 1916 as a reaction to World War I. The principle motivation of the Dadaists was to illustrate the absurdity and chaos of the war by negating the traditional conventions of art. Performances therefore revered chaotic theory and incorporated discordant elements to showcase the inherent madness of human motivation. Their performances, or “manifestations,” took place at a number of performance venues, including the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Dadaism was eventually absorbed into surrealism.
the proper way that characters should act onstage as dictated by their disposition and social standing. This concept was central to neoclassicism, which flourished in continental Europe in the late-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
in a play, the point in which the loose ends of a plot are tied up, though the dramatic conflict may not be entirely resolved.
deus ex machina
literally, “a god emerging from a machine” (Latin). The mechane or crane used for special effects in fifth-century Greek performance would suspend an actor in midair and propel him over the playing space. Dramatists, especially euripides, often utilized the device to introduce a god who would appear at the end of the play and resolve the plot. In the bacchae, Dionysus emerges in the final moments to punish those who do not recognize his divinity. The term is used in contemporary criticism to describe a quick and contrived resolution to a play.
language spoken by characters on stage. Dialogue differs from narration because it is delivered in the first person and seeks to imitate human interaction or convey the artistic purpose of the playwright. Dialogue does not necessarily need to be grounded in realism but must be consistent with the world of the play.
the choice in language or words made by a playwright or performer in a drama to achieve a specific effect or style. Diction can also refer to a performer’s manner of speech or rhetoric, sometimes used for character development.
god of wine, revelry, and fertility; son of Zeus, supreme god of ancient Greece, and Semele, a mortal woman. The origins of Greek drama are attributed to the celebrations in his honor at civic festivals called the city Dionysia.
in contemporary theater, the individual responsible for the theatrical concept of the play and its staging. In addition to casting actors, blocking the performers onstage, and running rehearsals, the director must coordinate the contributions of the whole artistic team. Directing, as a profession, has only been acknowledged in the last few centuries, but throughout history drama has relied on individuals serving in a directorial role.
a choral ode performed in honor of the god Dionysus, composed of an improvised story by a koryphaios (chorus leader) and a traditional refrain sung and danced by a chorus. In the Poetics, Aristotle suggests that tragedy emerged from the dithyramb. Arion of Lesbos (about 620 b.c.e.), often referred to as the father of dithyrambic poetry, is credited for transforming the art into a literary form and is considered the first to keep a written record of his work.
documentary theater
also referred to as “theater of fact,” a form of theater that dramatizes political events (often quite recent) to explore issues of social and moral concern. Primary source material such as transcriptions of judicial proceedings, speeches, essays, newspaper articles, films, and photos are often incorporated directly into the theatrical script. Rolf Hochhuth (b. 1931) and Peter Weiss (1916–1982) were both early proponents of this form in Europe. In the United States, Emily Mann (b. 1952) and Moisés Kaufman (b. 1963) have also used the form.
domestic tragedy
a form of drama, popularized at the start of the eighteenth century in England, that deals with the fortunes of middle-class or mercantile characters rather than the upper class or aristocracy, which had been the traditional focus of tragedy. george lillo’s the london merchant, which deals with the moral downfall of a London apprentice,is an example of domestic tragedy.
the area on stage closest to the audience. (See upstage.)
dramatic irony
a plot device in which a character holds a position or has an expectation that is reversed or fulfilled in a way that the character did not expect but that we, as audience members or readers, have anticipated because our knowledge of events or individuals is more complete than the character’s.
dramatic structure
a textual organization based on a series of scenes, each of which is presented vividly and in detail.
dramatis personae
literally, “people in the drama” (Latin). A character list identifying important characters and their relationships, intended to help the reader or spectator understand the actions and interactions occurring onstage. In programs or playbills given to playgoers, this list often includes the names of the actors portraying the characters.
a playwright, someone who writes dramatic literature.
a theatrical professional involved in a number of activities, including the development and revival of plays. Dramaturgs are trained in dramatic theory, theater practice, and the history of drama, equipping them to serve in a number of artistic capacities. As such, production dramaturgs may serve as partner to the director, as a sounding board for ideas, an extra set of eyes in the rehearsal room, and as a researcher. Many dramaturgs also serve as critics for journals and newspapers or work as literary managers in regional theaters. In opera as well as theater, dramaturgs may serve as a translator of texts or author of subtitles. The German playwright Gotthold Lessing (1729–1781) is often credited as being the first dramaturg.
the art of playwriting, or the composition of a theatrical text or narrative; the mechanisms of storytelling, specifically how the structure and style of a play can inform the themes, motifs, and intent of the playwright. Dramaturgy encapsulates the building blocks of dramatic writing. Aristotle’s Poetics is the preeminent classical examination of the constituent parts of a drama, a rhetorical investigation of the effectiveness of a play’s dramaturgy.
drame bourgeois
a form of domestic tragedy, advocated by the French playwright and critic Denis Diderot (1713–1784), which explored social and familial problems of the middle class and departed from the restrictive tenets of neoclassicism. Diderot believed that “middle dramas” such as the drame bourgeois and comedies of virtue merited being produced in addition to traditional neoclassical comedies and tragedies.