Theater Arts- Playwright Essay

Submitted By Shadowsevilfish
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Theater Arts ‘Wright’ is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder. A playwright is thus someone who crafts plays, who has ‘wrhought’ words, themes, and other elements into a dramatic form. The term playwright was coined by the English dramatist and poet Ben Jonson in his Epigram 49, To Playwright, as an insult, to suggest a mere tradesman fashioning works for the theatre. In Jonson’s time, plays were written in meter and so regarded as the provenance of poets. The term later lost this negative connotation.

The earliest Playwrights were actually Ancient Greeks. These early plays were written for annual Athenian competitions among playwrights held around the 5th century BC. Such notables as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes established forms still relied on by their modern counterparts. For the Greeks, the playwright was "poeisis" the act of making plays. So the "poet" had a different connotation than it does today. There was a hierarchy of elements for the drama; beginning with Plot (mythos), then Character (ethos), Thought (dianoia), Diction (lexis), Music (melopeia), and Spectacle (lusis). The ends of drama were plot, character, and thought, the means of drama were language and music, and the manner of presentation was spectacle. Since the myths, upon which Greek tragedy were based, were widely known, plot had to do with the arrangement and selection of materials. Character was equated with choice, as opposed to psychology, thus, character is determined by action. In tragedy, the notion of ethical choice determined character of the man. Thought had more to do with arguments, and rhetorical strategies, rather than "theme" has it would today. Language and Music were the material means of drama, much like paint and brushes are the means of the painter.

Aristotle’s definition of tragedy as "the imitation of an action that is serious.....etc." brought in the concept of mimesis from real life. The Poetics, while very brief, is highly condensed and worthy of study by any playwright today. It provides the basis of the "conflict-driven" play, a term we still tout as the sine qua non of dramaturgy. The neoclassical ideal, which was to reach its apogee in France during the 17th century, dwelled upon the "unities," of action, place, and time. This meant that the playwright had to construct the play so that its "virtual" time would not exceed 24 hours, that it would be restricted to a single setting, and that there would be no subplots. Other terms, such as verisimilitude and decorum circumscribed the subject matter significantly. For example, verisimilitude defined that characters were to based upon the ideal of a type, versus what might be considered realistic. It also prohibited actions that might not be considered possible within the limits of the unities. Decorum fitted proper protocols for behavior and language on stage. Perhaps the most schematic of all formats, the "well-made play" relied on a series of coincidences (for better or worse) that determined the action. This plot driven format was driven often by a prop device, such as letter, or glass of water, that revealed some secret information. In most cases, the character receiving