Dramatic genre: what it is, characteristics, types, structure, authors, origin and more. 


What is the dramatic genre?

It is one of the oldest established genres in the literary world, being one of the most important sources of artistic exponents who have developed this genre throughout history in different contexts, times and places in the world.

The dramatic genre is a genre composed of a great variety of subgenres that support the representations of some event or conflict in the life of the human being through a dialogue in which the characters guide the life of a figure constructed by the author of the dramatic composition.

What is the dramatic genre

Meaning of the dramatic genre

The term -drama-, of the dramatic genre, is a name that covers all types of literary creation in which the author, who in this case is called playwright, is the one who creates and develops a series of written events in a defined space and time, where the facts and characters symbolize a conflict and event of the human condition. Since it comes from the Greek word that refers to “to do”, although it has also been considered as “to act”.

Definition of dramatic genre

We speak of the dramatic genre as one of the genres of literature in which the artistic compositions that are made are intended for representation on stage. The theater becomes the stage of the drama that will have the performance of the characters, music, decorative elements, etc., which build the atmosphere of space and time given by the dramatic work.

What are its subgenres?

The subgenres of the dramatic genre are: the entremés, the melodrama, the comedy, the drama, the tragedy, the sacramental or liturgical (biblical) auto sacramental, the sainete, the opera, the paso and the tragicomedy. Go to the following link to learn more about each of them.


It is a dramatic subgenre that has had a great importance in different artistic spheres through which it resorts to different resources with the intention of provoking laughter and amusement in the public. Comedy plays are characterized mainly because their denouement is a happy ending. It often deals with different moments in the life of the human being and uses different resources through which it can also expose mockery and satire.


It is a subgenre that is characterized by having a highly complex plot in which conflictive situations are represented in which feelings, thoughts and ideas of the characters are confronted. It is possible to find a great variety of formats that work drama in different spaces, such as cinema, theater and television, as well as literature. It usually includes an unhappy event in which the ending is not happy, in addition to a sensitive dye in which it connects with the reader or spectator.


It is a type of creation that is mainly focused on amusing the audience. It owes its name to the fact that it is included in the development of a longer work, however, it is not related to it. In this way, the entremés is presented, dividing the play that is presented to interrupt and entertain the audience through characters that often tend to be characterized by belonging to the popular classes of society.


This type of play is characterized by intervening in a dramatic piece of greater length through which it expresses the emotions of a character, in combination with music. It is also possible to find a melodrama in different artistic fields with the intention of provoking emotions in the audience through different resources. The commotion in the audience is one of the most important elements of melodrama.


It consists of a type of writing selected for comic and funny representation. One of its characteristics is that it usually has an extremely short length and is usually based on a real life experience, although by its spontaneity and personification it is able to amuse the audience, either by its strangeness or novelty. Often the passage contains an intention of visibility in front of some aspect or fact of social and/or political implication, so that it can be associated as a form of social criticism.


It is a jocular piece of the dramatic genre that is represented in a single act. It usually has a popular and costumbrista tone that allows it to reflect central aspects of a culture and tradition with respect to a specific region or town. In Spain, the sainete took place during the intermissions of longer plays. Nowadays, a sainete is known as a play with a comic style that includes popular characters or figures.


These are works of the dramatic genre that are characterized by dealing with complex themes in which the characters face a series of fatal and conflicting events. Among the most recurrent themes are madness, heartbreak, death, among others, suffered by the protagonist throughout the story. It is one of the most important dramatic subgenres in literature and has been taken to different artistic fields in which pain and sadness are also fundamental keys to connect with the audience.


As its name indicates, it is a dramatic subgenre that contains distinguishable elements of tragedy and comedy. To this extent, tragicomedy is a type of literary work in which the characters are taken to different situations in which they are confronted, also, with different emotions, which is why it can bring the reader or audience to the brink of laughter or tears. Generally, it has characters characterized by strong emotions in which they go through confusing or exaggerated situations.


Often also referred to as liturgical drama. It is a subgenre that focuses on the theatrical representation of a short play with religious content. In this way, auto sacramentals usually relate the life of sacred figures within a religion, as it is mainly in the Catholic religion with the representation of the life of the Virgin, for example. These types of plays are usually performed during important festivities in open spaces or inside the church.


Opera is one of the most important and widespread subgenres around the world. It consists of a play that in addition to the theatrical representation usually includes music and singing, so that the characters express their thoughts, ideas, emotions and feelings through song, whose music is performed by an orchestra that plays live while the plot of the play unfolds. It is distinguished from other dramatic formats by the poetic content through which its characters dialogue.


It is a subgenre that contains instrumental sections, which may be accompanied by solos, duets or choirs. The music is an important part of the staging, although it also has fragments spoken by the characters. Currently, zarzuela is one of the most important representations of musical theater with entertaining themes that allow us to learn more about the tradition of a particular region, as well as its festivities, customs and, in general, its culture.

What is the function of the dramatic genre?

One of the definitive features of this genre has to do with the fact that it is intended to be performed, so that it occupies everything that is written for the theater. It is a composition that, although it can be read, takes as its object the representation of its text on a stage that opens its entrance to the public to which the composition will be destined. The representation of the texts will be carried out by actors who will be directed by the director of the play.

History How did the dramatic genre arise?

The origin of this literary genre dates back to ancient Greece, where theatrical performances were often related to high cults to Dionysus, considered the god of joy and wine, so their representation had a sacred character to this god. At first, these representations consisted of a series of hymns that were dedicated to the divinity, but soon began to add songs and movements that would give rise to this literary genre.

The first playwrights to be known in Greece were Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides, who laid the foundations of this genre for posterity. This is how the genre began to develop later in Rome, where playwrights from this area such as Plautus, Seneca and Terence will emerge. However, the dramatic genre will experience a strong success during the Middle Ages, mainly in its first period, since the plays become extinct, eliminating the totality of the works created in Greece.

It was around the eleventh and twelfth centuries that the task of reinventing theater on the European continent began, which gave birth to a series of comedy plays written in Latin and performed in religious environments, especially monasteries, but soon moved on to other stages such as universities and theaters. Unlike the Greek plays, these were not designed as a theater for the people. At this stage they concentrate on the representation of Gospel scenes inside the churches, written in the vulgar language and taking place within the liturgy of Christmas, the Resurrection and the Epiphany as three of the most important events.

History How did the dramatic genre

Characteristics of the dramatic genre

These are the key characteristics of this genre, it is important to keep in mind that they are not rules that remain in all subgenres of this, but may vary according to the forms of composition, intention and times of previous and contemporary authors.

Thematic of the drama

One of the most important factors of the dramatic genre has to do with the fact that the themes that it writes and represents are universal themes that can be crossed by diverse situations and that can be part of the daily life of the human being. This is why many of the themes are developed in values or elements such as revenge, social injustice, love, deception, generosity, etc. Its communicative objective carries a message.

Absence of narrator

Unlike other literary genres, there is no narrator but everything is explained from the voices of the characters of the dramatic work, which, from interactions and conversations, are giving course to the work and its composition, telling what is happening and thus, executing the corresponding actions.


An essential aspect of the dramatic genre is the action, since within its compositions, there is neither a narrator nor comments by the playwright, so that everything is seen by the spectator in the course of events. The basis of the dramatic work is what happens, the actions that develop each of the characters depending on the situation and the experience and character building that takes place. Hence the importance of the interpretation by actors, as each one gives life to the characters of the play.


One of the most important characteristics of the dramatic genre is the dialogue that must be built in their works and which allows the elimination of the figure of the narrator. It is a determining factor that distinguishes it from the narrative genre and other genres of literature.

Absence of descriptions

Although in the dramatic genre there are a series of annotations that are indications and precisions about the setting and the characters, there are no descriptions about space or time, even of the characters, since in this genre the action predominates and there is no room for descriptions, since everything the audience sees reflects what these details could be.

Form of writing

Although drama can be written in prose or verse, nowadays these plays are usually written in prose to facilitate the representation and contextual understanding of the people who observe and listen to it. However, it was during the Golden Age that drama was written entirely in verse.

Structure of the dramatic genre

The compositions that are part of this type of genre have a defined structure that allows them to handle the position of sequences to represent the public, this facilitates the understanding of the representation in the eyes of the spectator, following the following points:


It is the initial part of the play in which relevant information about the play is presented. It will include the place where the events take place and possibly the main characters or protagonists. Often the plays are divided into a series of acts or scenes that build the whole play, the first act corresponds to this stage of the presentation of the play.

The conflict is going to develop, is announced in this part with the presentation of opposing positions that are discovered in the course of events or pass explicitly. This may vary according to the style of the playwright, but in general may include the situation of the protagonist, his purpose, the problem and the opposition of the two opposing forces.


This second part, also known as the crux of the play, usually takes up a greater amount of time, since it is also the one that culminates with the moment of greatest tension of the whole play and where the situations begin to get complicated for the characters according to the plot of the play. It will be the second act and ends when the climax is reached. If there is no conflict, there is no drama.

Thus, the conflict progresses until it reaches a duel or confrontation of the characters, this moment of tension shows, at the same time, a contradiction, the opposition of visions, etc.


It is the final part of the play in which all the conflicts and events raised at the beginning and developed in the knot of the play are resolved. Everything is resolved or it is implied that it will be resolved at some point, since some plays may end with open endings in which it is the audience that will determine in its mind the termination of the events.

In the denouement of the play, the solution may be given by the elimination of the obstacle or even the disappearance of the protagonist. At this stage the vision of the author, the vision of the characters, the confrontation of the human being with the destiny to which he surrenders, the understanding of the environment, the execution of free will, the victory of one over the other, etc., are exposed.

Elements of the dramatic genre

This genre has several elements that must be taken into account. These are:


The type of text that is developed in this genre is one of the main ways to distinguish it from other literary genres, since it uses several forms of expression and in them, a series of divisions, as follows:


This is a resource also used in other literary genres but fundamental for the dramatic genre, since it allows conversation between two or more characters.


Through this mode of expression the character speaks in his solitude, enters into the conscience and takes shape everything that disturbs the tranquility. It is a reflection that takes place in front of the audience through which his thoughts and feelings are exposed.


Although similar to the monologue, in this type of expression the character has a reflection of his own based on what is happening in his environment. It is a conversation and discussion with himself, with a thing or another being that cannot speak. It is an uninterrupted discourse.


It is a mechanism of communication between one or more characters that is used when something is said or commented on the play and of which the other characters pretend not to know.


Also known as -voice-over-, it refers to what is spoken when not on stage.

Parts of the dramatic genre


Temporary unit that opens with the rise of the curtain and ends with its closing.


Refers to a section of the text that is determined by the partial change of scene elements.


It is the section of the play that is marked from the entrance and exit of the actors.

Another important aspect of the dramatic genre are the annotations, which can be made on the action or on the characters. In the first case, they will be indications about the space in which the action takes place, the time, the context and so on, as well as the sounds for the scene and the effects, the lighting conditions to determine the place and time of the day, and so on. As for the annotations on the characters, these usually indicate aspects such as the type of costumes, gestures, voice tones, movements, intentionality of expression, general attitude, body position, reactions, among other key data for the correct or guided interpretation of the author and director.


They are the ones who perform the actions from the scripts and develop the language. They can be divided into three sections: the protagonists who act according to the author’s approach, the antagonists who act in the opposite way in relation to the protagonist, and the secondary characters who accompany the first two throughout the story.


It refers to the space that is built for the representation of the scenes proposed in the composition. Thus it will have sets, which are all the elements to set the space and time of the play, the costumes, which will be the clothes worn by the characters, the lighting that causes the intention of representing a day or night scene, storms and others, and finally the music, which with the sound effects complements the environment.

Authors of the dramatic genre

Authors and most important works of the dramatic genre

The main authors will be Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides, being the main exponents of the first compositions of the dramatic genre in Greece. Later in Rome there will be Plautus, Terence and Seneca. Other outstanding authors throughout history are Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Antón Chéjov, Bertolt Brecht, William Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Emilio Carballido, Elena Garro, Rodolfo Usigli, Hugo Argüelles, José Zorrilla, Federico García Lorca, Henrik Ibsen, Jean Baptiste Poquelin “Moliere”, among others.

As for works of this genre, we can highlight the most representative of the genre such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, “Antigone” by Bertolt Brecht, “Life is a Dream”, “Blood Wedding”, “A Doll’s House”, “Oedipus Rex”, among others.