Definition of Play

Play is a literary form of writing for theatre, which narrates a story with elements of conflicts, tensions, and actions through dialogues of characters. For dramatic significance, it is divided into acts and scenes. The writers present their feelings, emotions, and ideas through their characters and make them speak.

The playwright uses various dramatic elements to create more profound meanings and enhance understanding of the audience. Also, they insert text, apart from the actual dialogues of the characters, to unfold the description of characters on stage, their natural action, and psychological intentions. In this way, the writers make their texts emotive, lifelike and thought-provoking.

Etymologically, ‘play’ is derived from the Greek word ‘paizo’ which means “to act” or “to perform.”

Elements of Play

A play has certain elements such as,

  1. Plot: It refers to the order of the events that occur in the play.
  2. Characters: The characters form a crucial part of the story and are interwoven with the plot of the play.
  3. Dialogue: It refers to the conversation or interactions between the characters in the play.
  4. Setting: It refers to the time and place where a story is set. It is one of the important parts of the play.
  5. Conflict: It refers to the challenge main characters need to solve to achieve their goals.
  6. Resolution: It is the unfolding or the solution to a complex issue in a story.

Types of Plays

There are many types of plays such as,

  1. Tragedy: These types of plays end on a tragic note and most likely a character’s death.
  2. Comedy: These types of plays are meant to amuse the audience, and they end on a happy note.
  3. Domestic Play: These types of plays are based on the normal life of family and friends.
  4. Tragicomedy: It is a fictional work comprises of both tragedy as well as comedy.
  5. Melodrama: This type of has often exaggerated characters and episodes with songs and music for an emotive appeal to the audiences.

Examples of Play from Literature

Example #1

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Macbeth is a famous tragic play first published in 1623. The play centers around the character of Macbeth, whose desire to become the king of Scotland at any cost and it becomes the reason for his tragic downfall. At the outset, he is seen as a brave and loyal Thane to King Duncan. However, after hearing the prophecies of the witches, he becomes paranoid and greedy. Tempted by prophecies of the witches and with his wife’s motivation, he brutally kills King Duncan and becomes the king himself. Supernatural creatures also play a vital role in the play. They attack his weakness and tempt him to kill everyone who comes on his way to possess the crown. Out of greed, he also kills his friend, Banquo, Lady Macduff and her children and many other innocent souls to reach his goal. However, his evil deeds and greed pay him off in the form of his tragic demise. Hence, the play is the best example of tragedy because of the tragic flaw and moral weakness of the main character become the cause of his eventual downfall.

Example #2

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Sophocles, a famous Greek tragedian, wrote Oedipus Rex which is one of the famous Greek tragedies till date. The tragic play recounts the story of Oedipus, who becomes the king of Thebes, and unknowingly fulfills the prophecy by murdering his father, Laius, and marry his mother, Jocasta.  The play opens when the King of Thebes, Oedipus addressing his people who are confused by an infliction, which is swiping them off. Therefore, they gather at the king’s court to ask him to rescue them from this plague. According to the oracle, this plague is caused because the people of Thebes have not arrested and punished the murderer of their late king. Believing in the oracle, Oedipus promises to find and punish the culprit. He tries to investigate and soon finds out the bitter truth from the Oracle Tiresias. Overcome with guilt and grief over his ill fate, Oedipus blinds himself.  Thus, this tragic play highlights the role of fate and chance which brings a disastrous end for their victims.

Example #3

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

A famous tragicomedy by William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice was first published between 1596 and 1599. It was first performed in 1605. Shakespeare successfully blends the aspects of tragedy and comedy in this fictional work. The play centers on the character of Antonio, a Venetian merchant. He takes a loan from a Jew, Shylock, to help his friend, Bassanio to marry Portia, a wealthy lady who lives in Belmont. He gives them three thousand ducats with no interest. Shylock puts a condition that if Antonio fails to return the amount he has to give a pound of his flesh and Antonio agrees, believing that his ships will return on time. Then they leave for Belmont where Bassanio wins Portia’s hand. Antonio fails to return the loan and Shylock almost prepares to cut out Antonio’s heart. But, Portia, a lawyer stands with Antonio and saves him from Shylock. This play is a perfect tragicomedy. The writer has presented unremitting tragedy in the first three acts. However, the last two acts comprise the restorative comedy.

Functions of the Play

A play functions as a tool to give reveal to one’s thoughts through performance in front of the live audience. Writers skillfully feature certain situations to make the audience laugh at funny incidents as well as feel pity and fear for unfortunate circumstances or incidents. It enables the audience to understand and feel a lot out of less description. Also, it is a convenient way to present different characters and their inner thoughts in dramas. Moreover, it enables the writers to dramatize the story in a way that events and characters are easily brought to life through a theatrical performance.