From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In this way conventional or stock characters are developed, such as the dissipated son, the rich and miserly uncle, the cruel father, the intriguing servant, and so on, which are used over and over again. Comedies of manners are of a quiet and domestic character and deal with the follies of society. The term has about gone out of use, except when referring to the comedy of the last century. " --The Art of Playwriting (1890) by Alfred Hennequin
Plays are performed at a variety of levels, from London's West End and Broadway in New York City to community theatre, as well as university or school productions. A stage play is a play performed, and written to be performed, on stage rather than broadcast or made into a movie. Stage plays are those performed on any stage before an audience. There are rare dramatists, notably George Bernard Shaw, who have had little preference as to whether their plays were performed or read. The term "play" can refer to both the written texts of playwrights and to their complete theatrical performance.
A playwright, also known as a dramatist, is a person who writes dramatic literature or drama. These works may be written specifically to be performed by actors or they may be closet dramas or literary works written using dramatic forms but not meant for performance.
The term is not a variant spelling of playwrite, but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder (as in a wheelwright or cartwright). Hence the prefix and the suffix combine to indicate someone who crafts plays. The homophone with write is in this case coincidental.
The earliest playwrights in Western literature with surviving works are the Ancient Greeks, some of their earliest plays having been written around the 5th century BC. Such notables as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes established forms that are still relied on by their modern counterparts.
While the most famous playwright in the English language is William Shakespeare, whose classic tragedies, comedies, and histories are still being performed hundreds of years after they were written, the term 'playwright' appears to have been coined by Ben Jonson in his Epigram 49, To Playwright, as an insult, to imply an inferior hack-writer for the theatre. He always described himself as a poet, since plays during that time period were always written in meter and so regarded as the provenance of poets. This view was held even as late as the early 19th Century. However, it later lost this negative connotation.
- List of basic theatre topics
- List of films based on stage plays or musicals
- List of plays made into feature films
- Script (comic)