Arts & Entertainment, Writing

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.

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Topics include: Drama as Myth • Drama and Reason • Drama and Consciousness


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...

About the Instructor

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.

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David Mamet

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

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