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ENGL101: Introduction to Literary Studies

Unit 4: Drama   While elements of both poetry and narrative are present in drama, we will now encounter and account for a new dimension in cultural and literary studies: performance. Over the course of this unit, we will sample plays that exemplify different types of dramatic structure, acquainting ourselves with the basic elements of drama and the many purposes it can serve.

Unit 4 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 27 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 4.1: 8 hours

☐    Subunit 4.1.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.1.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 4.1.3: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2: 11.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2.2: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2.3: 5.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2.4: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 4.3: 7.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3.1: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 4.3.2: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3.3: 2.5 hours

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - explain contemporary drama’s roots in Greek theater; - list, compare, and contrast a host of dramatic terms necessary to understanding the nature and function of theater; and - explain the differences among a variety of genres of theater (i.e., tragedy, comedy, romance) and be able to compare and contrast forms of theater from a range of historical periods.

4.1 Basic Elements of Drama   4.1.1 Classical Roots: Greek Tragedy   - Reading: Reed College: Walter Englert’s “Ancient Greek Theater”

Link: Reed College: Walter Englert’s [“Ancient Greek
Theater”](http://academic.reed.edu/humanities/110tech/Theater.html) (HTML)  

 Instructions: Scroll down and read Englert’s introduction to
ancient Greek theater and the genre of Greek tragedy.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

4.1.2 Term Toolkit: Chorus, In Media Res, and Other Essentials to the Study of Drama and Theater   - Reading: Robert DiYanni’s Literature: “Glossary of Drama Terms” and Encyclopedia Britannica’s “In Medias Res” Link: Robert DiYanni’s Literature“Glossary of Drama Terms” (HTML) and Encyclopedia Britannica’s “In Medias Res” (HTML)

 Instructions: Scroll down and read all of DiYanni’s literary terms
for drama and *Encyclopedia Britannica*’s definition of “in medias
res.”  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyrights and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

4.1.3 The Unities of the Play   - Reading: Project Gutenberg’s version of Sophocles’ *Oedipus the King* Link: Project Gutenberg’s version of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King (PDF)

 Instructions: Scroll down and only read Sophocles’ play, *Oedipus
the King.* This Athenian tragedy was first performed in fifth
century BCE, but it explores the timeless conflict between forces of
fate and free will. Give careful consideration to the function of
irony in the play, and pay close attention to the relationships
between various characters that are presented throughout the play.
Keep this play in mind as you read *Hamlet*, too. Some critics have
pointed out thematic similarities between the two plays.  

 Terms of Use: *Oedipus The King* is in the public domain.

4.2 Drama and Communal Purpose   4.2.1 Tragedy and Ancient Greek Society   - Reading: Grant Valley State University: Dr. Mike Webster’s “Tragedy: The Basics: An Introduction to Greek Tragedy and Greek Society” Link: Grant Valley State University: Dr. Mike Webster’s “Tragedy: The Basics: An Introduction to Greek Tragedy and Greek Society” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read Dr. Webster’s introduction to Greek tragedy and
society.  

 Consider the following study questions: What makes a play a tragedy
exactly? What themes do Greek tragic plays pursue and examine?  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

4.2.2 Religious Ritual and the Mystery Plays in Medieval England   - Reading: University of Arizona: Dr. John C. Ulreich’s “Medieval Mystery Plays” Link: University of Arizona: Dr. John C. Ulreich’s “Medieval Mystery Plays” (PDF)

 Instructions: Scroll down to “Lecture 9” and select the link to
open the lecture as a PDF. Read Dr. Ulreich’s lecture, which
concerns the Medieval Mystery Plays.  

 Consider the following study questions: What are the core
components of a medieval mystery play? What makes a play a mystery
play?  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

4.2.3 Elizabethan Theatre and Class Relations   - Reading: Bartleby’s version of William Shakespeare’s *Hamlet* Link: Bartleby’s version of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (PDF)

 Instructions: Read Shakespeare’s *Hamlet*. As one of William
Shakespeare’s most famous dramatic tragedies, *Hamlet* explores
themes of treachery, incest, and moral corruption, and it has been
the inspiration for innumerable adaptations and even
psychoanalytical theories. Pay close attention to Hamlet’s shifting
thoughts and emotions. Take note of how Hamlet develops as a
personality and character throughout the play. Consider how he
attempts to reconcile his father’s death, and his mother’s and
uncle’s actions. Take notice of his treatment of Ophelia and the
soliloquies he delivers throughout the play. Give careful
consideration to Hamlet’s viewpoint on the meaning of life and
death. As you read the play, pay close attention to the language
that is used and the manner in which Hamlet considers not only the
meaning of life and the purpose of his existence but also his wry
and sometimes cutting – and darkly humorous – observations on
life.  

 Terms of Use: *Hamlet* is in the public domain.

4.2.4 Why is Hamlet a Tragedy?   The answer to this question may seem obvious, but as you will recall from your reading in subunit 4.2.1, tragedy can be defined by language and characters as much as plot.

  • Activity: Critical Essay Instructions: Print out and annotate Dr. Mike Webster’s essay “Tragedy, the Basics.” Then, return to Hamlet and take notes on any parts of the play that either support or refute the play’s status as a tragedy. Afterwards, write a 1.5-page critical essay in which you explain why or why not Hamlet should be categorized as a tragedy.

4.3 Drama in the Twentieth Century   4.3.1 Overview of Trends in Twentieth-Century Theater   - Reading: Excerpts from Bertolt Brecht’s “Modern Theater Is Epic Theater” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)

4.3.2 Post-Modern Drama   - Reading: Samuel-Beckett.net’s version of Samuel Beckett’s *Waiting for Godot*

Link: Samuel-Beckett.net’s version of Samuel Beckett’s [*Waiting for
Godot*](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Waiting-for-Godot.pdf) (PDF)  

 Instructions: Read Acts I and II of Beckett’s play. There is a link
to move on to Act II at the very bottom of the Act I page.  

 Subtitled a “tragicomedy in two acts,” *Waiting for* *Godot* is
Samuel Beckett’s Post-Modern incarnation of the dramatic form. In
the play, Beckett challenges dramatic conventions and denies the
viewers’ expectations, leaving his work open to a number of varied
interpretations. The play is widely considered to be a profound
meditation on the meaning of life and the absurd nature of existence
in the modern world. The meaning(s) of the play can be found not in
the actions that occur but instead within the discussions – which
are often circular and seemingly pointless – between the
characters.  

 Consider the following study questions: What might Godot symbolize
in this play?  Why does Godot never arrive?  

 Terms of Use: *Waiting for Godot* is in the public domain.

4.3.3 Theater Culture Today   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Introduction to Postmodern Western Theater”

Link: The Saylor Foundation’s [“Introduction to Postmodern Western
Theater”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/SAYLOR.ORG-ENGL101-POSTMODERNTHEATER.pdf)
(PDF)  

 Instructions: Read the brief entry on Postmodern Western theater.
As you read, consider the following questions: What are some of the
major differences between Modern and Post-Modern theater?  What are
some of the most common attributes of Post-Modern theater?  

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/). It is
attributed to The Saylor Foundation.