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Arts & Entertainment

Purpose of Drama (Cont'd)

David Mamet

Lesson time 8:10 min

Learn how drama functions as a form of myth, the ways in which it enlightens the complexities of humanity, and how it provides us with an outlet for expressing the issues that preoccupy us.

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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Drama is also just a form of myth. Myth is a poetic statement of an unverifiable reality, right? Myth is not false. It's just unverifiable, right? For example, Jesus Christ died for our sins. It's not false. If you're a Christian, that's the essence of your life. You just can't point to it on a sheet of paper and say, see here. But it's nonetheless true for that. So myth, again, is a statement of truth which is not verifiable, and so is drama. Drama involves us in the quest of a human being to achieve something, whether it's Willy Loman, or whether it's Dr. King, or whether it's Jesus, whether it's Moses. They all become myths. And the fact that some of them actually happen to have lived, nonetheless they become a myth. We see, yes, I understand how at every step, this human being was trying to achieve something. And they underwent traumas I could not even begin to imagine. And they doubted themselves. And they all wanted to quit. Every hero, every heroine, wants to quit. Every hero and heroine wants to give it up and say, I've had enough. I'm not equal to the task, right? But nonetheless, they found strength somewhere, and they achieved a result which elevated them to the status of a god or killed them. I've been writing drama for about 50 years. The more you look at it, the more complex you understand the human being is, including ourselves. So one way that we try to-- we have to organize the world. That's the difference between human beings and animals, because we have the capacity to use reason to organize the world. We say, if A-- if A happened then B happened, perhaps there's a relationship between them, which would enable me to reason, oh, yes, C, I shouldn't sit on a hot stove again. Or I think it's obviously-- say in 1902, it's obviously impossible for human beings to fly because they're heavier than air. Human beings will never fly. But wait a second. Birds can fly, and birds are heavier than air. Therefore, my reason tells me I can figure out, as a human being, how to get people to fly, right? So this is what separates us from the animals, right? We have the capacity to reason. We aren't just working on instinct. But reason's insufficient because reason always has the capacity to lead us down the wrong path. We become arrogant. We say, I'm reasonable, right? I marry the wrong man. I marry the wrong woman. Oh, because I'm reasonable, it's their fault. I voted for a politician. The politician didn't keep his or her promises. Oh, yeah? Well, no politician keeps his or her promises. That's why they're politicians. So when you reason ourself-- it makes sense to go fight World War I. We'll draw a line from Belgium straight down south, and we'll line up the two most advanced civilizations in the world across each other. And from 1914 to 1918, they'll kill each o...

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.

An excellent course. I really enjoyed listening and learning.

He is intelligent and inspiring. I enjoyed listening to his stories and getting his perspective on writing.

Have followed Mamet's career all my life. Tremendous honor to learn from him here. Multiple views. Learning is repetition. The virtues of video.

Inspiring. The humility and insight into artistry has given this old dog the courage to learn some new tricks. Thank you.J J W Weeks


Kevin J.

If you are a beginner this class is not for you, because Mamet is not trying to explain the fundamentals of dramatic writing. He does try, sort of, but he does not do it well because he wants to get to the deep end of the pool, as quickly as possible, and that's where he teaches this class.


Wasn't crazy about the discussion on drama freeing us from reason section. It felt very self-indulgent.

Brian B.

I want to know about that Smith Corona Sterling typewriter on the desk. It has a large dent in the right side of the ribbon cover. Is that his or is that a prop for the course? It seems unlikely that the prop house would have a damaged one when nice examples are available under $100. If it is his there must be a story behind how it got that dent andwhy he keeps it.

A Fellow S.

I think this is interesting. i like how he says that drama is an escape for consciousness and its negativity. He seems to equate conciousness and negativity on some level. Drama is a form of release. So it is only logical to say that it is unjust to use drama in some other ways other than entertainment. it is purpose is to feel good and not to educate (education can be a part of drama but it is not the main thing, and should never outshine the primary purpose). then about reason and humans was interesting too, humans interpret the world as a cause and effect, so reason or seeing world through reason can actually be our downfall cause reasonable thinking is full of distortion therefore humans are kind of insane because of it, so drama offers other ways to unhinge your mind from the thought of reason. basically it lets us deviate from the way we typically think, this is what i gathered so far.

Tolga C.

A thought, which came to mind, is that with jokes it seems to be, that we like to be tricked in a way; so if drama works like a joke and teaching is like tricking people within drama, well then it should be ok to teach a little bit, doesn´t it? Or let´s say at least in a way, so the audience feels not disrespected. Looking forward to this class and I am ready to learn.

Maritza C.

So far, I have not learned a lot from these videos, because David is very disorganized and confusing and tends to shift thoughts mid-sentence. The few important notes I wrote down include that there is a correlation between belief and action and that a person wants to achieve something, then the story follows his or her journey until the end, in which the person may have succeeded, failed, or died.


Supposing the actors who railed at a member of the audience believed that by so doing they were entertaining the other members of the audience. Must all theater-goers be treated as if they were equal?

Tara Jade B.

"Every hero wants to quit." Let's pin that. This is such a good take-home message!

A fellow student

Drama as a tool primarily for entertainment is actually completely contrary to how I generally go about it. While I agree with what he had to say about that play he used as an example (I think we all know he was referring to Hamilton), I'm not sure i agree when he says that it is not meant to teach. Drama is a unique form in that it almost forces the audience to be complicit in what is happening on stage. There is so much suspension of disbelief and implicit faith that the audience has to grant to any given theatrical production, and it is in this mindset that they open themselves up to new ideas and different systems of thinking. I think a play without a message isn't much of anything at all. I am so excited to hear him expand on this and how I can relate it to my own views on this and grow as a reuslt.

Mon M.

Thank you for openly defining the insanity of the entertaining industry. You are absolutely right when you say that the purpose of drama is to entertain, not lecture. Anything you write that has a lecturing purpose whether it’s film, tv, books, or these days, journalism, has NOTHING to do with entertainment. Write a documentary, a non fictional book, or tie yourself to a tree and set up a hunger strike if you want to lecture people, don’t force it down my throat when I paid you to make me laugh, cry, or feel.