Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action." The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a collective form of reception.
Within the broad category of dramatic poetry, however, it is possible to make far more specific definitions of individual forms. We can, for example, go a long way toward a workable definition of a dramatic monologue, and from the time of Aristotle's "Poetics" very reasonable and workable definitions have been made fro the tree generally recognized forms of dramatic poetry: tragedy, comedy, and the historical drama. These tree forms of dramatic poetry have apparent similarities. They all have plots; these plots have agents and the agents must be invested with character. At the same time, it is obvious that the requirements for the construction of a good plot for a tragedy are not those for the construction of a good comic plot.
The verse form called the dramatic monologue developed from the soliloquy. In most cases, there is an implied listener, someone present on the scene. A very early version of the dramatic monologue - one that predates the soliloquy - can be found in the tales of the various pilgrims in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" (p.531).
Dramatic monologue in poetry, also known as a persona poem, shares many characteristics with a theatrical monologue: an audience is implied; there is no dialogue; and the poet speaks through an assumed voice—a character, a fictional identity, or a persona. Because a dramatic monologue is by definition one person’s speech, it is offered without overt analysis or commentary, placing emphasis on subjective qualities that are left to the audience to interpret.
A dramatic monologue is a poem that shares many features with a speech from a play: one person speaks, and in that speech there are clues to his/her character, the character of the implied person or people that s/he is speaking to, the situation in which it is spoken and the story that has led to this situation.
Though some dramatic poetry was published in America prior to the Civil War, it is only in the postbellum era that a veritable tradition of dramatic poetry coalesces. While poems like Lowell's "The Biglow Papers" (1848) and Poe's "The Raven" fit into the dramatic mold, and while theater and public performance were certainly critical components of antebellum American life, the theatrical and performative drive of both American poetry and culture did not fully materialize until the second half of the nineteenth century
Drama had a second beginning in the church plays of medieval Europe. Church fathers wrote religious plays as a way of staging Biblical stories during religious holidays. They often built makeshift stages on carts that were used to move around towns between performances. Typical Bible stories included the creation, Noah's ark, the crucifixion, and the apocalypse.
Although the drama as a literary type is very old, dating back, in ancient Greece, to the sixth century B.C., it did not have its beginning in England until shortly after the Norman Conquest, in the eleventh century A.D. At this time the priests, in their efforts to make some of the Bible lessons clearer to their uneducated parishioners, began introducing into the church service certain tableaux, or scenes, drawn from Bible stories. At Christmas they found it easy to represent the manger, the babe, the shepherds and the wise men, and to have the song of the angels given by the full-voiced choir.
Ancient Greek drama arose from the dithyramb, a song and dance celebration in honor of the wine god Dionysus. In the first staged plays, the dramatists added a non-chorus character that spoke to the chorus; the main plot was the tension that arose from their question and answer dialogue. (Plays in other cultures such as Ancient Egypt, China, and Japan likewise began from celebrations of gods.) Eventually, dramatists added more characters and complicated the plots. The Romans inherited and built upon the Greek dramatic form; together, the Greek tragedies and Roman comedies provided a basic foundation for European drama until as late as the 19th century (once they were rediscovered in the Renaissance).
Greece was the cradle of all the arts, consequently it is there that one must seek the origin of dramatic poetry. The Greeks, most of whom are born with a happy genius, having the taste natural to all men to see extraordinary things, being in this type of nervousness that accompanies those who have needs and who seek to fulfill them, had to make many attempts to find the dramatic. It was therefore neither to their genius nor to their research that they were beholden.
In dramatic poetry there is an effort made to set forth life and character by means of speech and action. In its highest form, this type is written in a flexible blank verse, but occasionally both rhyme and prose are mingled with it. There are many important subdivisions of the regular poetic drama. They are comedy, dramatic history, and tragedy. Besides these, two lesser forms, the farce and the melodrama, may be named. The mask and the dramatic monologue, though not classed as dramas, are also important dramatic types.