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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A playwright, also known as a dramatist, is a person who writes dramatic literature or drama. These works are usually written to be performed in front of a live audience by actors. They may also be closet dramas or literary works written using dramatic forms but not meant for performance.

The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder (as in a wheelwright or cartwright). Hence the prefix and the suffix combine to indicate someone who has wrought words, themes, and other elements into a dramatic form, someone who crafts plays. The homophone with write is in this case entirely coincidental.


Early playwrights

The earliest playwrights in Western literature with surviving works are the Ancient Greeks. These early plays were written for annual Athenian competitions between playwrights[1] held around the 5th century BC. Such notables as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes established forms that are still relied on by their modern counterparts.

The term playwright appears to have been coined by Ben Jonson in his Epigram 49, To Playwright,[2] as an insult, to suggest a mere tradesman fashioning works for the theatre. He always described himself as a poet, since plays during that time were always written in meter and so regarded as the provenance of poets. This view was held even as late as the early 19th century. The term later lost this negative connotation.

Contemporary playwrights

Contemporary playwrights often do not reach the same level of fame or cultural importance that they have in the past, since the theatre is no longer the only outlet for serious drama or entertaining comedies, and must compete with films and television for an audience. In addition, the perilous state of funding for the arts in the U.S. and a growing reliance on ticket sales as a source of income for non-profit theatres has caused many of them to reduce the number of new works they produce. For example, Playwrights Horizons produced only six plays in the 2002-03 seasons, compared with thirty-one in 1973-74.[3] As revivals and large-scale production musicals become the de rigueur Broadway (and even Off-Broadway) production, it has become much more difficult for playwrights to make a living in the business, let alone become major successes.

However, the most successful playwrights are often high-status figures in their industry, in stark contrast to the status of the screenwriter in Hollywood. While this may be considered to be a result of the more literary approach that has characterised the theatre since its roots in poetry, it is also because of the hard fact that according to Dramatists Guild, the playwright has the final say on a production — a situation which leaves less room for the director to be as much of an auteur as the film director, since the playwright’s vision takes precedence.

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Simple English

A playwright is a person who writes plays for the stage. Because the name of such a text is drama, another word for this person is dramatist. Sometimes, dramas are written to be read and not played. In that case, they are called closet dramas.

The word wright does not come from write. It is an ancient English term for a builder. For example, a wheelwright makes wheels. In a similar way, a playwright makes plays. When the term was first used, it was meant as an insult. Today it has lost this meaning.


The first playwrights in Western literature whose plays still exist were the Ancient Greeks. They were written around the 5th century BC. These playwrights are important as they wrote in a way that is still used by modern playwrights. Important among them are Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes.

The most famous playwright may be William Shakespeare. A lot of later work is based on his tragedies and comedies. For example, Kiss Me, Kate is based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, and his Romeo and Juliet has been made again many times. Tom Stoppard created the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in 1966 which is a modern adaptation of Hamlet.

Modern playwrights

Modern playwrights are usually less famous than past playwrights. Since television and movies were invented, theater has become less popular. Because it is less popular, not as many tickets are sold now, and producers often do not have enough money to make plays, and many playwrights are not known.[1]


  1. "The Plays What They Wrote".,soloski,44226,11.html. Retrieved 2008-03-07. 

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