Purpose of Drama

David Mamet

Lesson time 12:22 min

Trying to understand drama? Look no further than everyday life. David teaches you how to recognize drama at its best—when it seeks to simply entertain, not teach.

David Mamet
Teaches Dramatic Writing
The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.
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The purpose of drama. That's a really, really good question. That's a really good question. There's an old-- I'm Jewish. My people have only been Jewish about 5,000-6,000 years, so we're kind of getting used to it. So there's an old joke about there's an international flight, and this terrorist breaks in with a submachine gun. And he says, OK, who's a Jew? And a little old guy at the back says, that's a really interesting question. So that's kind of how I feel about drama. I think the purpose of drama is to define the clan. And the reason I think this is I have been watching a lot of football games lately. And also my Chicago Cubs finally won after 108 years in the best ballgame anyone's ever seen. And I realized that what these sports rooting does is it defines the clan. Not just Green Bay versus Atlanta, but football fans. The fans get together. They get to scream at the referee. You evil swine, are you blind, blah, blah, blah. But they're united in their love of the rules. Because if there weren't any rules, the guy would just come out with brass knuckles and bang and get the ball over the-- So they're united, and that which unites the clan is the rules. Drama has rules. We're given a premise. The hero wants something, to find the cause of the plague on Thebes or to free the Jews or to establish civil rights or to fly the Atlantic. We get it. We're going to follow his or her journey until the end. And the end is going to be surprising and inevitable, just like in a great football game. The perfect game is the last game of the World Series. It comes down to the final three seconds, and then they have to call it off because the field's no good. Or the Green Bay's playing, and the guy kicks the final field goal. They have to call it back because it was a time out. That's the perfect-- our consciousness is freed We're relieved of the burden of our consciousness. So one way we've always done this is through getting into trouble. That's what human beings do. With the sex and drugs, booze, sports, and drama. So here's what happens. The end of the day, what do we human beings do? We gather around the campfire. That's what human beings always do at the end of the day. Today the campfire is called a computer or a television, whatever. We may not sit in the same place. But watching the young people today, while they're watching they're all talking to each other around the campfire. Did you see that? Drama goes back to the beginning of civilization around the campfire, where the tribe comes together and they say, my God, did you see what blah-blah did with that mountain lion today? And the other guy says, I'll tell you one better than that. When I was young-- and we tell stories that unite the tribe. We reinforce our tribal unity. We say, this is how we do things here. And w...

Write great drama

David Mamet sat in on a poker game full of thieves and left with the inspiration for American Buffalo. Now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Glengarry Glen Ross takes you through his process for turning life’s strangest moments into dramatic art. In his writing class, he’ll teach you the rules of drama, the nuances of dialogue, and the skills to develop your own voice and create your masterpiece.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Loved it! Have admired David Mamet's work for decades. Inspiring. A true Master class.

David is a class act! I feel like I've known him for years and would be friends with him immediately. He is truly an inspiration and I'm so glad I participated in watching his Master Class.

David is one of the best teachers on the Masterclass.com site.



Ivette D.

I love this lesson. It is damn simple. We always want to make things happen to teach or should I say I do... AND I feel relieved of the burden - only because I inadvertently learn something when I watch a play or drama doesn't mean that I have to come from that place as a writer. THANK YOU Mamet!

Kelli W.

I enjoyed the simplicity of the concept, pure entertainment. It is very difficult to unpack one's thoughts and stay the course of entertainment.

Leonidas M.

Dr. Robert Ford : [Closing monologue] Good evening. Since I was a child... I always loved a good story. I believed that stories helped us to ennoble ourselves, to fix what was broken in us, and to help us become the people we dreamed of being. Lies that told a deeper truth. I always thought I could play some small part in the grand tradition. And for my pains... I got this. A prison of our own sins. 'Cause you don't want to change, or cannot change. Because you're only human after all. But then I realized someone was paying attention, someone who could change. So I began to compose a new story for them. It begins with the birth of a new people and the choices they will have to make. And the people, they will decide to become. And we'll have all those things that you have always enjoyed: surprises and violence. It begins in times of war, with a villain, named Wyatt. And a killing. This time by choice. I'm sad to say, this will be my last story. An old friend once told me something that gave me comfort. Something he had read. He said that Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin never died, they simply became music. So I hope you will enjoy this last piece... very much.

Rob S.

Um, stories developed as teaching tools. Grimm's tales, Aesop, etc. While I agree drama is to entertain, it is also able to teach.

Tom M.

Mamet's online course, along with Sorkin's gave me the tools I needed to write a play, something I once thought I'd spend my life doing (a lifetime ago) - with an old writing partner from childhood. We're rewriting it now and hope to have it performed in the spring. These courses are part of a great learning experience - I'm looking forward to attending one of Robert McKee's Story conferences in March.

Zippy B.

Brilliant! Mamet is witty and wise and engaging. I could listen to him all day long!

Rosemary D.

Reviewing the principles and purpose of Drama relaxed my mind, which has been torn apart from one end of L.A. to the other by the Furies after I journeyed into the search for a writing careering order to find my soul...

Bobbi !.

At first somewhat perplexed by this notion that drama is not to be a tool to teach or influence. The films and books that have made the greatest impressions on me have done just that. It's clear now that their common purpose was to tell a story, and it was my personal connection to the story that defined the impact it had on me, not any intended lesson or agenda.

Mitchell F.

I've learned that an audience yearns to be entertained no matter how meaningful a story may seem to be. David Mamet is right -- the teacher shows up when the student is ready to learn.

A fellow student

The purpose of drama is to entertain, not to teach. Leasson learned ! Thanks Mr. Mamet.