Plays are different from most written work because they have a different purpose. Most books, short stories and even poetry is written to be read by a single person, silently. Plays are works of drama that are written to be presented in public by a group of performers. The performers each pretend to be one of the characters in the story that the play is telling about.
Plays written many years ago, such as those written by the Greeks or Shakespeare, are filled mostly with dialogue, which is the words of the characters in the play. Today's plays have dialogue and other written words which are not spoken such as, stage directions and setting. Stage directions tell things like when the characters should enter or leave the stage and if they should come in or exit from the right or left. Stage directions also give the performers ideas of how to say their lines such as "with emotion" or "angrily". The setting describes the costumes of each performer and their surroundings on the stage.
Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, divided drama into five main elements: plot, character, thought, language and spectacle.
The more familiar division of drama, also established by the Greeks, is comedy and tragedy. The smiling and frowning faces on the masks worn by Greek actors still symbolizes drama today. A comedy typically deals with common people, has a light mood, can make you laugh and is entertaining. It usually ends happy. A tragedy typically deals with kings and princes, has a very serious mood and deep subject. It usually ends with the death of the leading character.
Shakespeare divided his dramas into three categories: comedies, tragedies and histories which were plays presenting national history in dramatic form. In Italy, dramatists mixed elements of comedy and tragedy and came up with a third form called tragicomedy. Other forms of drama were developed over the years and today's audiences can enjoy seeing many different types of plays.