For other uses, see Play (disambiguation).

Play – literature / theatre

A play (noun) is a common form of literature, usually consisting chiefly of dialog between characters, and usually intended for performance rather than reading. However, many scholars study plays in this more academic manner, particularly classical plays such as those of Shakespeare (rare authors, notably George Bernard Shaw, have had little preference whether their plays were performed or read). The term play refers both to the written works of dramatists and to the complete theatrical performances of such.

Plays are generally performed in a theatre by actors. To better communicate a unified interpretation of the text in question, productions are usually overseen by directors, who often put their own unique interpretation on the production. (See theatre and related topics for more detailed information on the process of producing plays for performance.)

The interpretive nature of drama is what makes it so appealing to so many performers and audience members alike — because a playwright is incapable of presenting the play in its intended format (a performance) without the aid of the actors and a director (though he may choose to take any of these roles himself — Molière, for example, often acted in his own plays), a play is by definition undergoing constant rebirth and renewal as new experiences and interpretations are brought by new contributors.

One kind of play, the closet drama, is written in a dramatic form but is not intended for performance. It consists of dialogue between characters, but it is meant to be read, either silently to oneself or aloud to a group in a "closet" (a private domestic room).

Plays are written in a variety of genres. There are six basic genres of plays:

  1. Tragedy - a play in which a hero comes to a sad end due to fate, a fatal flaw or the work of the gods
  2. Comedy - a play in which, despite hindrances and problems along the way, everything works out happily at the end. This usually includes funny material, even jokes.
  3. Domestic drama - a play that reflects the world of the domestic, the family and the relationships that emerge out of the ordinary happenings of life.
  4. Tragicomedy - a play that contains elements of both tragedy and comedy.
  5. Melodrama - a play of heightened emotion in which a hero and often a heroine overcome a villain to right wrong. Usually has a happy ending.
  6. Symbolic - a play in which the characters and the actions have symbolic function and the main concern is the development of ideas

See also


Play – games

Play is a notoriously difficult theoretical concept. Rather than having a single meaning play is best seen as descriptive of a range of activities that can be ascribed to humans and non-humans.

When play is structured and goal orientated it is often though of as a game. Play can also be seen as the activity of rehearsing life events in a safe context e.g. young animals play fighting. These and other concepts or rhetorics of play are discussed at length by Brian Sutton-Smith in the book The Ambiguity of Play.

The seminal text in play studies is Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga. This work popularised the notion of the Magic Circle as a conceptual space in which play occurs. That is, the state in which the various actions in play have meaning e.g. kicking (and only kicking) a ball in one direction or another, using physical force to impede another player (in a way which might be illegal outside the context of the game).

The second ‘great work’ in play theory is Man, Play and Games by Roger Caillois. This work extends and in large parts disputes the theories put forward by Huizinga.

A notable contemporary play theorist is Jesper Jull who works on both pure play theory and the application of this theory to Computer game studies. The theory of play and its relationship with rules and game design is also extensively discussed by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman in their book: Rules of Play : Game Design Fundamentals.

In computer games the word game play is often used to decribe the concept of play.

Play – music

The act of making music with an instrument.


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