History of Drama

Dramas started as plays back with the Greeks and Romans.  With Greek dramas apparently the first tragic dramas were preformed in honor of Dionysus.  He was the Greek god of wine, fertility, and revelry.  Basically he was the party god.  The first actor and playwright was Thespis but the first playwright that had surviving work was Aeschylus.  Aeschylus added in the second actor allowing it to become more of a dramatic dialogue.

There are a few main types of dramas.  They are, social problems (The Grapes of Wrath, 1940), mental illness (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975), alcoholism (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998), disaffected youth (A Clockwork Orange, 1971), race and civil rights (The Secret Life of Bees, 2008), political (Thirteen Days, 2000), and many others.  Dramas illustrate powerful lessons and issues happening at that time.  Sometimes even showing how bad it gets, like in One Flew Over theCuckoo’s Nest.  They weren’t really getting the help that they needed.  The Secret Life of Bees illustrates the differences in social classes and how extreme the way each get treated and treat the others is. 

Dramatic movies show us the best and the worst sides of people.  One example that comes to mind is Of Mice and Men (1939 and 1992).  George kills Lennie because The mob is after him for killing Curley’s wife.  Lennie doesn’t know any better and he doesn’t know his own strength but the mob doesn’t understand that.  So George kills him as an act of mercy.  It’s the best and worse part of humans rolled into one character. 

Tennessee Williams has had many of his works turned into movies.  Many of them are set in the South or have Southern characters.  They usually involve scandalous sexual conflicts.  Unfortunelty in Hollywood the Production Code was still in effect so many of the movies are censored.  In the 1930s the film industry adopted strict guidelines about what was allowed and what was not.  It started in the late 1900s and early 1920s with a lot of Hollywood scandals with the standard elements of a drama including, murder, drugs, and sex.  When “talkies” came about, unsurprisingly, the religious leaders of America were concerned with the corruption of the youth.  Basically everything that would make you want to go see a movie wasn’t allowed.  It prohibited nudity, suggestive dances, and the ridicule of religion. It forbade the depiction of illegal drug use, venereal disease, childbirth, and miscegenation. The language section banned dozens of “offensive” words and phrases. Criminal activity could not be presented in a way that led viewers to sympathize with criminals. Murder scenes had to avoid inspiring imitation, and brutal killings could not be shown in detail. The sanctity of the marriage and the home had to be upheld. Adultery and illicit sex, although recognized as sometimes necessary to the plot, could not be explicit or justified and were not supposed to be presented as an attractive option.

Luckily Production Code’s days were numbered in 1952 when movies were finally granted free speech protection under the First Amendment. The motion picture industry officially abandoned the Code in 1968 and soon replaced it with the system of age-based ratings that still exist today (MPAA, the group that decides if a movie is G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17).

In the 1950s many well knows actors became big, like, Glenn Ford, James Dean, Bette Davis, and Marilyn Monroe.  In the 1960s politically driven dramas focusing on war were big because of the Cold War, Vietnam, Bay of Pigs, Invasion, and so many other wars and just general conflicts.  In the 1970s anti war movies, like Apocalypse Now (1979) and M*A*S*H (the movie form 1970 and also the TV show 1972-1983).  In the 1980s highly emotional themes were the big thing.  In the 1990s the dramas became ones of epic proportion.  They also mixed drama and thrillers.  Currently they are about all themes of life showcasing history and the lives of people. 

Links that I used

Production Code

Greek Dramas


Drama Movies


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