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  • Closet drama

    Closet drama


    • A closet drama is a play that is not intended to be performed onstage, but read by a solitary reader or, sometimes, out loud in a small group. The dichotomy between private 'closet' drama (designed for reading) and public 'stage' drama (designed for performance in a commercial theater setting) dates from the late eighteenth century. The practice of circulating plays in written form (printed or handwritten) for literary audiences predates this period, however.

      Any drama in a written form that does not depend to any significant degree upon improvisation for its effect can be read as literature without being performed. Closet dramas (or closet plays) are traditionally defined in narrower terms as belonging to a genre of dramatic writing unconcerned with stage technique and seldom (if ever) produced for the stage. "Although the term sometimes carries a negative connotation, implying that such works either lack sufficient theatrical qualities to warrant staging or require theatrical effects beyond the capacity of most (if not all) theaters, closet dramas through the ages have had a variety of dramatic features and purposes not tied to successful stage performance." Stageability is only one aspect of closet drama: historically, playwrights might choose the genre of 'closet' dramatic writing to avoid censorship of their works, for example in the case of political tragedies. Closet drama has also been used as a mode of dramatic writing for those without access to the commercial playhouse, and in this context has become closely associated with early modern women's writing.

      The philosophical dialogues of ancient Greek and Roman writers such as Plato (see Socratic dialogue) were written in the form of conversations between "characters" and are in this respect similar to closet drama, many of which feature little action but are often rich in philosophical rhetoric.

      Beginning with Friedrich von Schlegel, many have argued that the tragedies of Seneca the Younger in the first century AD were written to be recited at small parties rather than performed. Although that theory has become widely pervasive in the history of theater, there is no evidence to support the contention that his plays were intended to be read or recited at small gatherings of the wealthy. The emperor Nero, a pupil of Seneca, may have performed in some of them. Some of the drama of the Middle Ages was of the closet-drama type, such as the drama of Hroswitha of Gandersheim and debate poems in quasi-dramatic form, such as The Debate of Body and Soul.



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