Reading Drama: GED Test Prep
Like fiction and poetry, drama has its own conventions and forms. Understanding these conventions and forms can help you understand the drama excerpts you will find on the GED Language Arts, Reading Exam. This article reviews the elements of drama and strategies for understanding this genre.
Before books and movies, even before language, people were acting out their experiences. Drama is the oldest form of storytelling and one of the oldest ways of making sense of the human experience.
How Drama Is Different
Drama has the same elements of fiction: plot, character, setting, point of view, tone, language and style, symbolism, and theme. However, drama differs from poetry and prose in a number of significant ways. The most obvious and important difference is that drama is meant to be performed; it is literature that is designed for a live audience. (The exception is a small minority of plays called closet dramas, which are plays meant only to be read, not performed.) This makes plays the most immediate and energetic genre of literature, because there is an active exchange of energy and emotion during the performance.
In drama, action is the driving force of the plot. "The essence of a play is action," said Aristotle, the first literary critic of the Western world. Because of the immediacy of a play and the short time span in which the action must occur, things happen more quickly than they might in a novel. There is less time for digressions; everything must be related to the unfolding of events on the stage.
Drama also presents us with a unique point of view. Because there is no narrator, the story isn't filtered through someone's point of view. Even if there is a narrator on stage telling us the story, we still see the action for ourselves. This dramatic point of view allows us to come to our own conclusions about the characters and their actions.
The action of a play takes place in a real physical space, so setting is particularly important in drama. The setting might be realistic, minimalist, or symbolic; the play can occur in "real time" or take place over several years in the characters' lives. For example, in Samuel Beckett's famous play Waiting for Godot, the stage is intentionally bare. The stage directions call only for a tree and a low mound on which one of the characters sits. The emptiness on stage reflects the emptiness that echoes throughout the play: the characters wait, and wait, and do nothing; they wait for someone who does not come.
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