Drama vs. Play — What's the Difference?
By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on September 18, 2023
Drama is a genre or type of performance characterized by conflict and emotion; Play is a specific written work by a playwright, designed for theatrical presentation.
Difference Between Drama and Play
Table of Contents
Drama and Play often intersect in the world of theater. Drama is a broader term encompassing a genre of storytelling with emotional arcs and conflicts. In contrast, a Play refers to the written script of such a story, designed to be performed by actors on a stage.
A Drama is not limited to the theater; it can exist in various mediums like television, movies, radio, and literature. Meanwhile, a Play is inherently designed for theatrical performances, dictating actions, dialogues, and stage directions for performers.
When someone speaks of Drama, they refer to a type of narrative that emphasizes emotional development and conflict. On the other hand, when discussing a Play, they talk about the structured and written rendition of such a story, meant for performance.
While a Drama is about bringing stories alive with emotion and tension, a Play provides the blueprint for how this can be achieved on stage. The Play is the vessel, while the Drama is the substance within.
Every Play can contain Drama, but not all Drama takes the form of a Play. Drama can be a part of various mediums, while a Play specifically refers to the theatrical representation of stories.
Genre emphasizing conflict and emotion.
Scripted work meant for theatrical performance.
Can exist in TV, movies, radio, literature.
Specifically for theater.
The substance or essence of emotional storytelling.
The structure or blueprint for theatrical storytelling.
Not always written; can be impromptu.
Always written, with directions for performance.
Can be performed or simply read/watched.
Meant to be performed on stage.
Compare with Definitions
Storytelling that captures human experiences.
The drama of the situation captivated everyone's attention.
A written theatrical composition.
Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' is a classic play.
A situation involving intense conflict or emotion.
There was so much drama at the party last night.
The act of performing a drama on stage.
The play was a hit, with nightly standing ovations.
Expressing or dealing with profound emotions.
The drama in the final scene was palpable.
A structured narrative meant for actors.
The playwright spent months perfecting his play.
A narrative emphasizing conflict and emotion.
The movie was a gripping drama about love and loss.
To occupy oneself in an activity for amusement or recreation
Children playing with toys.
Genre found in TV, film, radio, and literature.
She prefers drama series over comedies on television.
To take part in a sport or game
He's just a beginner and doesn't play well.
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance: a play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on radio or television. Considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic and the lyrical modes ever since Aristotle's Poetics (c.
To participate in betting; gamble.
A play for theatre, radio, or television
A gritty urban drama about growing up in Harlem
To behave in a teasing or joking manner; act in jest or sport
She's not angry with you.
She's just playing.
An exciting, emotional, or unexpected event or circumstance
A hostage drama
An afternoon of high drama at Wembley
To deal or behave carelessly or indifferently, especially for one's own amusement; toy
She isn't interested in you.
She's just playing with you.
A prose or verse composition, especially one telling a serious story, that is intended for representation by actors impersonating the characters and performing the dialogue and action.
To act or conduct oneself in a specified way
An investor who plays cautiously.
A serious narrative work or program for television, radio, or the cinema.
To act, especially in a dramatic production.
Theatrical plays of a particular kind or period
To perform on an instrument
Play on an accordion.
The art or practice of writing or producing dramatic works.
To emit sound or be sounded in performance
The band is playing.
A situation or succession of events in real life having the dramatic progression or emotional effect characteristic of a play
The drama of the prisoner's escape and recapture.
To be performed, as in a theater or on television
A good movie is playing tonight.
The quality or condition of being dramatic
A summit meeting full of drama.
To be received or accepted
A speech that played poorly with the voters.
A composition, normally in prose, telling a story and intended to be represented by actors impersonating the characters and speaking the dialogue
The author released her latest drama, which became a best-seller.
To move or seem to move quickly, lightly, or irregularly
The breeze played on the water.
Such a work for television, radio or the cinema (usually one that is not a comedy)
To function or discharge uninterruptedly
The fountains played in the courtyard.
Theatrical plays in general
To move or operate freely within a bounded space, as machine parts do.
A situation in real life that has the characteristics of such a theatrical play
After losing my job, having a car crash, and the big row with my neighbours, I don't need any more drama.
To engage in (a game or sport)
(slang) Rumor, lying or exaggerated reaction to life or online events; melodrama; an angry dispute or scene; a situation made more complicated or worse than it should be; intrigue or spiteful interpersonal maneuvering.
To compete against in a game or sport
We play the Tigers today.
A composition, in prose or poetry, accommodated to action, and intended to exhibit a picture of human life, or to depict a series of grave or humorous actions of more than ordinary interest, tending toward some striking result. It is commonly designed to be spoken and represented by actors on the stage.
A divine pastoral drama in the Song of Solomon.
To compete in a game or sport at (a location)
The New York Yankees played Fenway Park last night.
A series of real events invested with a dramatic unity and interest.
Westward the course of empire takes its way;The four first acts already past,A fifth shall close the drama with the day;Time's noblest offspring is the last.
The drama and contrivances of God's providence.
To occupy or work at (a position) in a game
Lou Gehrig played first base.
Dramatic composition and the literature pertaining to or illustrating it; dramatic literature.
To put (a player) at a position in a sport or in a game
Let's play her at first base.
A dramatic work intended for performance by actors on a stage;
He wrote several plays but only one was produced on Broadway
To use or move (a card or piece) in a game
Play the ace of clubs.
An episode that is turbulent or highly emotional
To hit (a ball, shot, or stroke), as in tennis
Played a strong backhand.
The literary genre of works intended for the theater
To attempt to keep or gain possession or control of
No foul was called because he was playing the ball.
The quality of being arresting or highly emotional
To perform or act (a role or part) in a dramatic performance.
To assume the role of; act as
Played the peacemaker at the meeting.
To pretend to be; mimic the activities of
Played the star.
To perform (a theatrical work or part of a work)
The actors played the scene with great skill.
To present a theatrical performance or other entertainment in (a given place)
The company played Boston last week.
To bet; wager
Played ten dollars on the horse.
To make bets on
Play the races.
To perform or put into effect, especially as a jest or deception
Play a joke on a friend.
To handle; manage
Played the matter quietly.
To use or manipulate, especially for one's own interests
Played his opponents against each other.
To perform on (an instrument)
Play the guitar.
To perform (a piece) on instruments or an instrument.
To cause (a movie, audiotape, or other recording) to be presented in audible or visible form.
To discharge or direct in a certain direction
Played the water on the burning roof.
To cause to move rapidly, lightly, or irregularly
Play lights over the dance floor.
To exhaust (a hooked fish) by allowing it to pull on the line.
A literary work written for performance on the stage; a drama.
The performance of such a work.
Activity engaged in for enjoyment or recreation.
Fun or jesting
It was all done in play.
The act or manner of engaging in a game or sport
After a time-out, play resumed. The golf tournament featured expert play.
The act or manner of using a card, piece, or ball in a game or sport
My partner's play of the last trump.
His clumsy play of the rebound.
A move or an action in a game
It's your play. The runner was thrown out in a close play.
Participation in betting; gambling.
Manner of dealing with others; conduct
An attempt to obtain something; a bid
A play for sympathy.
Action, motion, or use
The play of the imagination.
Freedom or occasion for action; scope
Give full play to an artist's talents.
Movement or space for movement, as of mechanical parts.
Quick, often irregular movement or action, especially of light or color
The play of color on iridescent feathers.
A control mechanism on an audio or video player that starts or resumes the audible or visual presentation of a recording.
A geological deposit, as of oil or natural gas, considered as a prospect for commercial extraction.
(intransitive) To act in a manner such that one has fun; to engage in activities expressly for the purpose of recreation or entertainment.
They played long and hard.
To perform in (a sport); to participate in (a game).
He plays on three teams
Who's playing now?
(transitive) To compete against, in a game.
We're playing one of the top teams in the next round.
(transitive) (in the scoring of games and sports) To be the opposing score to.
Look at the score now ... 23 plays 8!
(intransitive) To take part in amorous activity; to make love.
(transitive) To act as the indicated role, especially in a performance.
He plays the King, and she’s the Queen.
No part of the brain plays the role of permanent memory.
To produce music or theatre.
To produce music.
To produce music using a musical instrument.
I've practiced the piano off and on, but I still can't play very well.
To produce music (or a specified song or musical style) using (a specified musical instrument).
I'll play the piano and you sing.
Can you play an instrument?
We especially like to play jazz together.
Play a song for me.
Do you know how to play Für Elise?
My son thinks he can play music.
To use a device to watch or listen to the indicated recording.
You can play the DVD now.
To be performed; to be shown.
His latest film is playing in the local theatre tomorrow.
To perform in or at; to give performances in or at.
(transitive) To act or perform (a play).
To play a comedy
(multiple senses) To behave in a particular way.
(copulative) Contrary to fact, to give an appearance of being.
(intransitive) To act with levity or thoughtlessness; to trifle; to be careless.
(intransitive) To act; to behave; to practice deception.
(transitive) To bring into sportive or wanton action; to exhibit in action; to execute.
To play tricks
To kid; to joke; say something for amusement.
To move in any manner; especially, to move regularly with alternate or reciprocating motion; to operate.
The fountain plays.
He played the torch beam around the room.
(intransitive) To move to and fro.
(transitive) To put in action or motion.
To play cannon upon a fortification
To play a trump in a card game
(transitive) To keep in play, as a hooked fish in order to land it.
To manipulate, deceive, or swindle someone.
You played me!
Activity for amusement only, especially among the young.
Children learn through play.
(uncountable) Similar activity in young animals, as they explore their environment and learn new skills.
This kind of play helps the young lion cubs develop their hunting skills.
(uncountable) The conduct, or course, of a game.
Play was very slow in the first half.
After the rain break, play resumed at 3 o'clock.
The game was abandoned after 20 minutes' play
(uncountable) An individual's performance in a sport or game.
His play has improved a lot this season.
(countable) A short sequence of action within a game.
That was a great play by the Mudchester Rovers forward.
An action carried out when it is one's turn to play.
(countable) A literary composition, intended to be represented by actors impersonating the characters and speaking the dialogue.
This book contains all of Shakespeare's plays.
(countable) A theatrical performance featuring actors.
We saw a two-act play in the theatre.
(countable) An attempt to move forward, as in a plan or strategy, for example by a business, investor, or political party.
ABC Widgets makes a play in the bicycle market with its bid to take over Acme Sprockets.
Turpin signals the Metric Party's long-term play for housing reform
(countable) A geological formation that contains an accumulation or prospect of hydrocarbons or other resources.
(uncountable) Movement (of a pattern of light etc.)
The play of light and shadow across the boy's face
(uncountable) The extent to which a part of a mechanism can move freely, as for example lash, backlash, or slack.
No wonder the fanbelt is slipping: there’s too much play in it.
Too much play in a steering wheel may be dangerous.
Sexual activity or sexual role-playing.
(countable) An instance of watching or listening to digital media.
(countable) A button that, when pressed, causes media to be played.
Activity relating to martial combat or fighting.
To engage in sport or lively recreation; to exercise for the sake of amusement; to frolic; to spot.
As Cannace was playing in her walk.
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to-day,Had he thy reason, would he skip and play!
And some, the darlings of their Lord,Play smiling with the flame and sword.
To act with levity or thoughtlessness; to trifle; to be careless.
"Nay," quod this monk, "I have no lust to pleye."
Men are apt to play with their healths.
To contend, or take part, in a game; as, to play ball; hence, to gamble; as, he played for heavy stakes.
To perform on an instrument of music; as, to play on a flute.
One that . . . can play well on an instrument.
Play, my friend, and charm the charmer.
To act; to behave; to practice deception.
His mother played false with a smith.
To move in any manner; especially, to move regularly with alternate or reciprocating motion; to operate; to act; as, the fountain plays.
The heart beats, the blood circulates, the lungs play.
To move gayly; to wanton; to disport.
Even as the waving sedges play with wind.
The setting sunPlays on their shining arms and burnished helmets.
All fame is foreign but of true desert,Plays round the head, but comes not to the heart.
To act on the stage; to personate a character.
A lord will hear your play to-night.
Courts are theaters where some men play.
Art thou alive?Or is it fantasy that plays upon our eyesight.
To put in action or motion; as, to play cannon upon a fortification; to play a trump.
First Peace and Silence all disputes control,Then Order plays the soul.
To perform music upon; as, to play the flute or the organ.
To perform, as a piece of music, on an instrument; as, to play a waltz on the violin.
To bring into sportive or wanton action; to exhibit in action; to execute; as, to play tricks.
Nature hereWantoned as in her prime, and played at willHer virgin fancies.
To act or perform (a play); to represent in music action; as, to play a comedy; also, to act in the character of; to represent by acting; to simulate; to behave like; as, to play King Lear; to play the woman.
Thou canst play the rational if thou wilt.
To engage in, or go together with, as a contest for amusement or for a wager or prize; as, to play a game at baseball.
To keep in play, as a hooked fish, in order to land it.
Amusement; sport; frolic; gambols.
Any exercise, or series of actions, intended for amusement or diversion; a game.
John naturally loved rough play.
The act or practice of contending for victory, amusement, or a prize, as at dice, cards, or billiards; gaming; as, to lose a fortune in play.
Action; use; employment; exercise; practice; as, fair play; sword play; a play of wit.
A dramatic composition; a comedy or tragedy; a composition in which characters are represented by dialogue and action.
A play ought to be a just image of human nature.
The representation or exhibition of a comedy or tragedy; as, he attends ever play.
Performance on an instrument of music.
Motion; movement, regular or irregular; as, the play of a wheel or piston; hence, also, room for motion; free and easy action.
The joints are let exactly into one another, that they have no play between them.
Hence, liberty of acting; room for enlargement or display; scope; as, to give full play to mirth.
I, with two more to help me,Will hold the foe in play.
A dramatic work intended for performance by actors on a stage;
He wrote several plays but only one was produced on Broadway
A theatrical performance of a drama;
The play lasted two hours
A preset plan of action in team sports;
The coach drew up the plays for her team
A deliberate coordinated movement requiring dexterity and skill;
He made a great maneuver
The runner was out on a play by the shortstop
A state in which action is feasible;
The ball was still in play
Insiders said the company's stock was in play
Utilization or exercise;
The play of the imagination
An attempt to get something;
They made a futile play for power
He made a bid to gain attention
Play by children that is guided more by imagination than by fixed rules;
Freud believed in the utility of play to a small child
(in games or plays or other performances) the time during which play proceeds;
Rain stopped play in the 4th inning
The removal of constraints;
He gave free rein to his impulses
They gave full play to the artist's talent
A weak and tremulous light;
The shimmer of colors on iridescent feathers
The play of light on the water
Verbal wit (often at another's expense but not to be taken seriously);
He became a figure of fun
Movement or space for movement;
There was too much play in the steering wheel
Gay or light-hearted recreational activity for diversion or amusement;
It was all done in play
Their frolic in the surf threatened to become ugly
The act of playing for stakes in the hope of winning (including the payment of a price for a chance to win a prize);
His gambling cost him a fortune
There was heavy play at the blackjack table
The activity of doing something in an agreed succession;
It is my turn
It is still my play
The act using a sword (or other weapon) vigorously and skillfully
Participate in games or sport;
We played hockey all afternoon
Pele played for the Brazilian teams in many important matches
Act or have an effect in a specified way or with a specific effect or outcome;
This factor played only a minor part in his decision
This development played into her hands
I played no role in your dismissal
Play on an instrument;
The band played all night long
Play a role or part;
Gielgud played Hamlet
She wants to act Lady Macbeth, but she is too young for the role
She played the servant to her husband's master
Be at play; be engaged in playful activity; amuse oneself in a way characteristic of children;
The kids were playing outside all day
I used to play with trucks as a little girl
Replay (as a melody);
Play it again, Sam
She played the third movement very beautifully
Perform music on (a musical instrument);
He plays the flute
Can you play on this old recorder?
Pretend to have certain qualities or state of mind;
He acted the idiot
She plays deaf when the news are bad
Move or seem to move quickly, lightly, or irregularly;
The spotlights played on the politicians
Bet or wager (money);
He played $20 on the new horse
She plays the races
Engage in recreational activities rather than work; occupy oneself in a diversion;
On weekends I play
The students all recreate alike
Pretend to be somebody in the framework of a game or playful activity;
Let's play like I am mommy
Play cowboy and Indians
Emit recorded sound;
The tape was playing for hours
The stereo was playing Beethoven when I entered
Perform on a certain location;
The prodigy played Carnegie Hall at the age of 16
She has been playing on Broadway for years
Put (a card or piece) into play during a game, or act strategically as if in a card game;
He is playing his cards close to his chest
The Democrats still have some cards to play before they will concede the electoral victory
Engage in an activity as if it were a game rather than take it seriously;
They played games on their opponents
Play the stockmarket
Play with her feelings
Toy with an idea
Behave in a certain way;
Play it safe
Cause to emit recorded sounds;
They ran the tapes over and over again
Can you play my favorite record?
Manipulate manually or in one's mind or imagination;
She played nervously with her wedding ring
Don't fiddle with the screws
He played with the idea of running for the Senate
Use to one's advantage;
She plays on her clients' emotions
Consider not very seriously;
He is trifling with her
She plays with the thought of moving to Tasmania
Be received or accepted or interpreted in a specific way;
This speech didn't play well with the American public
His remarks played to the suspicions of the committee
Behave carelessly or indifferently;
Play about with a young girl's affection
Cause to move or operate freely within a bounded space;
The engine has a wheel that is playing in a rack
Perform on a stage or theater;
She acts in this play
He acted in `Julius Caesar'
I played in `A Christmas Carol'
What's playing in the local movie theater?
`Cats' has been playing on Broadway for many years
Cause to happen or to occur as a consequence;
I cannot work a miracle
Play a joke
The rain brought relief to the drought-stricken area
Discharge or direct or be discharged or directed as if in a continuous stream;
Play water from a hose
The fountains played all day
Play the reaces
Play the casinos in Trouville
Stake on the outcome of an issue;
I bet $100 on that new horse
She played all her money on the dark horse
Shoot or hit in a particular manner;
She played a good backhand last night
Use or move;
I had to play my queen
Employ in a game or in a specific position;
They played him on first base
Contend against an opponent in a sport, game, or battle;
Princeton plays Yale this weekend
Charlie likes to play Mary
Exhaust by allowing to pull on the line;
Play a hooked fish
Directions and dialogues for theatrical performance.
The director adjusted certain scenes in the play for better impact.
A piece presented in a theater or broadcast for radio.
The radio station aired a mystery play every week.
Are all plays dramas?
No, plays can be comedies, tragedies, histories, or dramas.
Can a movie be considered a play?
No, a movie is a film, but it can have drama as a genre.
Is drama always scripted?
No, drama can be impromptu, but plays are always scripted.
What's the main difference between drama and play?
Drama is a genre; play is a scripted work for theatrical presentation.
Can a drama exist outside of theater?
Yes, drama can be in movies, TV shows, and even in real-life situations.
Can a comedy be a drama?
While they're different genres, a piece can have elements of both.
What's more specific, drama or play?
Play is more specific, referring to a scripted theatrical work.
What's the key element in drama?
Conflict and emotional development are key in drama.
Do all plays get performed?
No, some plays are written but never performed on stage.
Is drama always serious?
No, drama emphasizes emotion and conflict, but it can have light moments.
Who writes plays?
Playwrights write plays.
Are all plays meant for large theaters?
No, plays can be designed for any venue, from large theaters to small rooms.
Can one actor perform a play?
Yes, there are one-person plays known as monologues or solo performances.
Can a drama be a musical?
Yes, musicals can be dramas if they emphasize conflict and emotion.
How long is a typical play?
Play lengths vary, from short 10-minute plays to multi-hour epics.
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Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.