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.

The message I needed most was cutting what needs to be cut to make the story better. I'm at a place in my own story where I need to do exactly that.

Encouraged me to keep going and not give up.

Magnificent, David expresses himself in a way that is both amusing and inspiring , love you man!

David Mammet opened up and revealed himself as well as his true opinions on the craft of writing. His class was as entertaining as it was insightful.


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.

A fellow student

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.

A fellow student

This is dreadful - I am three lessons is and all I've got so far is a lot of tosh, and that David Mamet likes to hear himself talk!

Ramona H.

"Drama... a stepchild of religion," David Mamet. I blinked quite a few times during this lesson. Absolutely awesome.

Ludwig M.

Awesome - what a revelation! Drama does never teach. You're tricking the audience if you try do so. I love this class!


What would books be without some sort of myth? what would life be without myths? Curiosity is the key. Our forever quest for deception and the truth. It gives us reasons.

Vickie R.

While I "think" I believe in G-d, (seeing ghostly midsts at a German church and creepy music--the speaker systems outside my house), I'm not so sure anymore what I believe and who is right? ANd who really knows anyway? Although I did try getting God on my speed dial but he didn't call me back for some reason? Then at 5 when I had this genius idea to steal a Herhsey bar and stick it in my underwear, I got caught by the store manager and my religious Chrisitan pal's mother scared me to DEATH by saying, "VICKIE RUBINSON you have sinned in the eyes of the LORD!" That saying was worse than going to JAIL! So I don't trust anyone who is too religious to the left or the right. I'm just a moderate. I'm not sure and no one can force me to change my mind. Also I've found these people who act overly self righteous and religous often have something to hide. Almost every overly religious person I'v met never believed in a "gray" area of life. It was either all black or white and no in-between. Life isn't that easy. Not everyone is all good or all bad. I have my nice side...I feed five stray cats every night without fail, I take care of my mom with cong heart failure, I walk the dog who also has congestive heart failure and no teeth. So I do my part in society, yet I'm also no angel and never claimed to be.