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.

First of all, thank you for your sharp chisel approach to dramatic writing. It was a breath of fresh air to enjoy your "get to the point" style. I'm moved and grateful to have taken your course. Sincerely, Demi Nguyen

Some of the best writing advice I've ever heard. Will definitely rewatch. Thank you.

Very good class and instructor style. Planning to rewatch it.

Excellent! Thank you for the opportunity to take this class from a true Master. Please keep the program going.


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.

Jordan W.

I love the connection David is drawing between the necessity of cause and effect as the basis of drama, and the role drama plays in "relieving people of their consciousness." When we dramatize, we give people a new set of rules - a new clan - that they can trust in for a couple hours and not have to worry about the actual rules and clans that dictate their lives. This is why drama doesn't teach, or at least, why it can't *seem* to teach. Because when it teaches, it's no longer a new set of rules. It brings you back to the ones you know and were hoping to get away from.

Anastacia S.

I love being exhorted not to teach or preach but to entertain. As writers, we feel strongly about things. We need to remember this crucial lesson, lest our work become insufferable or boring.

Vickie R.

I also love listening to AM radio and have found a lot of con artists hucksters trying to get me to buy something and in the end I wound up falling for one of these "ads" and went to a crummy LA online law school that tried to double bill me by $2,000. I had to fight and scream for my f--king money back and never went back. It's even worse when they get a well known celeb to promote some con because it's easy to fall for it when MR or MS "X" is urging you to buy it on late night TV. They even urge me to buy all my groceries online so I don't have to venture outside and how "convenient" it is but by the time I get my order they gave me all SUPER HUGE BAGS OF grated CHEESE that I obviously did not order and is way too much for two people to eat. So I don't trust online orders that much either.