Drama Definition and Elements of Drama in Literature


To quote Aristotle, drama may be called “imitated human action”. But since his meaning of “imitation” is in doubt, this phrase is not as simple or clear as it seems to be. According to Prof. J.M. Manly, there are three elements in the drama

  • A story
  • Told in action
  • By actors who impersonate the characters of the story.

Or a simple definition of drama may be given in the words of Professor Schelling; who calls it “a picture or representation of human life in that succession and change of events that we call story, told by means of dialogue and presenting in action the successive emotions involved”.


Since every drama is a well-knit story, every scene in it forms an organic part of the whole. No irrelevant or superfluous details can be introduced in a play as they will distract the reader’s attention.

In other words, every scene in a play must have an importance of its own. It must be closely connected with the main theme of the drama and should thus form an indispensable part of the main framework.

It is therefore very essential that every scene should be studied critically so as to estimate its importance. Thus the dramatic significance of a scene may be based on any of the following elements:

1. Characterization
2. Plot-interest
3. Style or language
4. Any other aspect of dramatic significance


Every scene should be studied from the point of view of the dramatist’s art of characterization. It may here be mentioned that there are five ways open to a dramatist for displaying characters.

  1.  In judging a character, we should consider carefully all that is said about him by others.
  2. When a character himself says anything, we must carefully study the circumstances in which his speeches are made. In other words, we should always make allowances for the force of circumstances to influence human behaviour.
  3. No character should be interpreted by single or detached incidents. Before forming a general estimate about a character, all possible details should be taken into consideration.
  4. A study in character contrasts and is always helpful in judging a character fully.
  5. The development of every character from the scene to the scene must be carefully watched. Sometimes characters change greatly with the passage of time.


It is quite obvious that the plot forms an indispensable part of the drama, for it is mainly through action that a character is revealed.

A plot may be defined as a planned series of inter-related actions progressing because of the interplay of one force upon another, though a struggle of opposing forces to a climax and a denouement.

It is therefore very essential that we should watch the development of the plot in a play as it progresses from scene to scene. We should try to estimate the importance of every scene as an organic part of the whole.

Every scene should carry the story further, and give us information about the necessary details. In other words, every scene should be studied as an important screw of the past structural machinery of the play. The opening scenes have always a special significance of their own.


While discussing the dramatic significance of a scene proper attention must be paid to its style. A scene may be written in a prosaic or poetic style.

Other Aspects

Another point of view from which a scene may be studied is whether it can be successfully staged or not.