Drama Questions for IB or A level

Getting on top of the drama exam

I've been trawling the exam boards and internet sites for examples of A-level / IB exam/essay questions on Drama. These questions are suitable for 16-18 year-olds.

If you are 'lost for ideas' also take a critical look at my TWO compilations of key quotations :

Tragedy: Selected Quotations

Comedy: famous quotes

Exam / Essay Questions:

1. Using two or three plays you have studied, compare the presentation of two or three characters [e.g. introduction, dramatic interactions with other characters], saying in each case how the presentation furthered the dramatists' purposes, and how it rewarded your study.

2. 'While the momentum of the play is carried by major characters, there is often a significant minor character who is a catalyst for change or enlightenment.' Compare the role of a significant minor character in in plays you have studied, showing how these characters contribute to the dramatic action.

3. 'People often act first and reflect afterwards'. In what ways have the connections between action and reflection been more and less important to the plays you have studied?

4. Human illusions have always been a powerful subject of plays, both tragic and comic. In what ways have the plays in your study considered this aspect of human behaviour and with what effects?

5. A play is often a complex web of conflicting emotions. Compare the ways in which playwrights in your study have presented emotional conflicts so as to make an impact on the audience.

6. 'Characters in a play are often motivated by strong passions or desires.' Compare and contrast plays you have studied in the light of this statement. Discuss, in each case, the dramatic effects created by the exploration of such motivation.

7. Compare and contrast the presentation of any three or four characters in plays you have studied. Explain how, and how effectively, each character seems to you to further the dramatic force of the play in which he or she appears.

8. 'What do women and men really want?' Discuss the dramatic techniques through which similar or different desires of the genders have been expressed in plays you have studied, saying how the presentation of them creates an effect on the audience.

9. Plays which succeed with audiences must communicate some aspects of the thoughts and motivations of the characters. How far and by what means have dramatists in your study conveyed the interior lives of their characters?

10. All characters in plays are mouthpieces for their author. From a consideration of some characters from the plays you have studied, say how far you agree.

11. A necessary part of drama is not only to present conflict between the characters in a play, but also to create conflicts within each member of the audience. Compare and contrast two or three plays you have studied in the light of this comment.

12. 'In real life, we are frequently unsure of the motives behind the actions of our fellow human beings, but in a play we must be sure, or the character will become blurred.' In plays you have studied, compare how far and by what means dramatists have ensure that the audience will be very clear about the motives of significant characters.

13. Consider how dramatists make characters speak in plays you have studied, and say how the language and tone of these dialogues, conversations and monologues contribute to each play as a whole.

14. The audience's response to characters in drama is due, in part, to the relationships of these characters with others in the play. Compare the ways in which dramatists in your study use such interactions to present full and complex character portrayals to enhance the theatrical experience.

15. A drama critic recently drew attention to the 'threatening encounters' as a powerful feature of a new play. Discuss encounters [threatening or otherwise] in plays you have studied and consider them as features of the drama created in each case.

16. The 'past' of characters - their implied or recollected experiences - are often used by dramatists to enlarge and enrich character portrayal. Evaluate the use and the importance of characters' lives prior to the events of plays in your study to explain or complicate the events included in the plays.

17. Using plays you have studied, write an essay on the presentation of the relationships between male and female characters [or between characters of the same sex], giving some idea of the dramatic effects achieved by these means.

18. Because a play is simply not words on a page, actions and gestures play a significant part in engaging the audience. Considering the plays you have studied, compare and evaluate the role of action and gesture in enhancing the central thrust of the play.

19. The interactions among characters in a drama is often associated with the acquisition, the holding or the loss of power. By what means and with what effects have plays in your study addressed power relations?

20. What part does fantasy play in the lives of the characters in plays you have studied; how is this fantasy presented and to what effect on the audience?

21. In every play there are characters who the audience regard as either essential or expendable. In plays you have studied, discuss why characters can be seen in either of these ways because of their relationship to the play's meaning.

22. In what ways do the plays you have studied dramatise either the depths to which human beings can sink or the ridiculousness of some human actions?

23. Discuss the extent to which, and the ways in which, each playwright's presentation of female characters differs from that of male characters, making clear effect in each play.

24. The playwright cannot depend, as does the novelist, on a narrative voice rounding out a a character by means of description and analysis. How are the personalities and views of characters effectively conveyed in the plays you have studied?

25. 'A play stands or falls on the dramatists' ability to create believable characters.' How far have you found this statement to be true in the plays you have studied?

26. Through an analysis of some of the characters in two or three plays you have studied, compare the ways in which the struggle between internal and external forces is presented.

27. How do characters and the choices they make contribute to meaning in two or three plays that you have studied?

28. The difference in a play between what is being said and what is being done can provide one focus of interest for the audience. In plays you have studied, by what means and to what effect have dramatists made good use of such differences?

29. 'Drama explains individuals, not relationships'. Paying close attention to how individuals and relationships are presented in two or three plays you have studied, say how far you find this statement to be true.

30. Dramatic conflicts arise when dominant individuals or groups regard themselves as the norm against which others are to be measured. With reference to specific scenes from at least two plays you have studied, discuss the significance of such conflicts and how they are explored.

31. Drama is often the expression or investigation of power: characters can, at different moments in a play, be oppressors or victims, dominant or subservient, users and used. In terms of power and its effects, discuss three or four characters from the plays you have studied, and say what this power-play adds to the play as a whole.

32. In plays a character who appears briefly, or who does not appear at all, can be a significant presence, contributing to action, developing other characters or conveying ideas. To what extent have you found this to be true of at least two plays you have studied?

33. 'Comedy exposes human weakness; tragedy reveals human strength'. How and to what extent does this claim apply to at least two plays you have studied?

34. A change in status of the characters in a play [a success, for example, or a loss or exposure] helps to convey the ideas and/or values of the dramatist. How and to what extent has change in status contributed in this way to at least two plays you have studied?

35. 'In drama there are more interesting roles for men than women'. Discuss to what extent you agree with this statement and what it is that makes a role interesting. Refer closely to at least two plays you have studied.

36. Consider the ways in which scene changes may highlight the development of characters and their relationships in two or three plays you have studied.

37. Isolation, either mental of physical, can lead to despair or enlightenment. In the plays you have studied, show how playwrights have used isolation of any kind to heighten the dramatic effects of their plays and develop their characters.

38. How far, and in what ways, do plays you have studied support the idea that communication between human beings is difficult or perhaps impossible?

39. How have plays you have studied presented 'what happens inside a human being' in dramatic terms?

40. One dramatist has maintained that theater ought to pursue a re-examination, not only of aspects of an objective external world, but also aspects of the inner worlds of human existence. What choices have been made in the plays you have studied to pursue one or the other, or both, of these aspects, and what theatrical techniques have been used to carry out this choice?

41. In achieving a strong dramatic effect, a playwright will sometimes work to elicit from the audience heights of admiration or depths of loathing for certain characters. Compare by what means different dramatists have have managed to construct such powerful characterisations and the effect of those on the play.


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