AskDefine | Define playwright

Dictionary Definition

playwright n : someone who writes plays [syn: dramatist]

User Contributed Dictionary



play plus wright (creator)


  1. A writer and creator of theatrical plays.

Alternative spellings


writer of plays for the theatre


Related terms

Extensive Definition

A playwright, also known as a dramatist, is a person who writes dramatic literature or drama. These works may be written specifically to be performed by actors or they may 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 crafts plays. The homophone with write is in this case coincidental.

Early playwrights

The earliest playwrights in Western literature with surviving works are the Ancient Greeks, some of their earliest plays having been written around the 5th century BC. Such notables as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes established forms that are still relied on by their modern counterparts.
While the most famous playwright in the English language is William Shakespeare, whose classic tragedies, comedies, and histories are still being performed hundreds of years after they were written, the term 'playwright' appears to have been coined by Ben Jonson in his Epigram 49, To Playwright, as an insult, to imply an inferior hack-writer for the theatre. He always described himself as a poet, since plays during that time period 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. However, it 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. 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. Despite this, some playwrights are still able to create an immense following, such as Tyler Perry
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.


External links

  • Playwriting 101 - A playwriting tutorial written by playwright and screenwriter Jon Dorf.
  • The Playwriting Seminars - playwriting site written and maintained by Virginia Commonwealth University, USA.
  • Guide to Plays and Playwrights - A forum to discuss classic and contemporary playwrights and playwriting techniques.
  • Free Play Scripts - Free play scripts and resources on drama available for educational purposes and school productions by playwright D. M. Bocaz-Larson.
playwright in Tosk Albanian: Dramatiker
playwright in Welsh: Dramodydd
playwright in Danish: Dramatiker
playwright in German: Dramatiker
playwright in Esperanto: Dramisto
playwright in Hebrew: מחזאי
playwright in Dutch: Toneelschrijver
playwright in Norwegian: Dramatiker
playwright in Simple English: Playwright
playwright in Slovak: Dramatik
playwright in Finnish: Näytelmäkirjailija
playwright in Swedish: Dramatiker
playwright in Turkish: Oyun Yazarlığı
playwright in Yiddish: דראמאטיקער
playwright in Chinese: 剧作家

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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