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Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance: a play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on radio or television. Considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic and the lyrical modes ever since Aristotle's Poetics (c. 335 BC)—the earliest work of dramatic theory.
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The term "drama" comes from a Greek word meaning "deed" or "act" (Classical Greek: δρᾶμα, drâma), which is derived from "I do" (Classical Greek: δράω, dráō). The two masks associated with drama represent the traditional generic division between comedy and tragedy.
In English (as was the analogous case in many other European languages), the word play or game (translating the Anglo-Saxon pleġan or Latin ludus) was the standard term for dramas until William Shakespeare's time—just as its creator was a play-maker rather than a dramatist and the building was a play-house rather than a theatre.
The use of "drama" in a more narrow sense to designate a specific type of play dates from the modern era. "Drama" in this sense refers to a play that is neither a comedy nor a tragedy—for example, Zola's Thérèse Raquin (1873) or Chekhov's Ivanov (1887). It is this narrower sense that the film and television industries, along with film studies, adopted to describe "drama" as a genre within their respective media. The term "radio drama" has been used in both senses—originally transmitted in a live performance. It may also be used to refer to the more high-brow and serious end of the dramatic output of radio.
The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a collective form of reception. The structure of dramatic texts, unlike other forms of literature, is directly influenced by this collaborative production and collective reception.
Mime is a form of drama where the action of a story is told only through the movement of the body. Drama can be combined with music: the dramatic text in opera is generally sung throughout; as for in some ballets dance "expresses or imitates emotion, character, and narrative action". Musicals include both spoken dialogue and songs; and some forms of drama have incidental music or musical accompaniment underscoring the dialogue (melodrama and Japanese Nō, for example). Closet drama is a form that is intended to be read, rather than performed. In improvisation, the drama does not pre-exist the moment of performance; performers devise a dramatic script spontaneously before an audience.
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