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The term “dramatization” is used to describe a play or film that’s adapted from a novel or a real event.

Dramatizations take the events of a novel, short story, or even a long poem and create a theatrical production or film from them. The story may be altered to fit the new form. This means that new dialogue and additions scenes may be added, or they may be taken away. It’s impossible to dramatize every scene from a novel or every line from a real-like encounter. 

Dramatization pronunciation: Drah-muh-teh-zay-shun


Dramatization Definition

A dramatization is a film or play that was adapted from real-life events or another literary form. These productions take the events that took place in the real world and make them as interesting as possible for the viewing audience.

The producers usually attempt to stick as close as possible to the original story or to the real-life events, but not always. It’s not uncommon to see changes made in order to make a film or play more interesting. 

Types of Plays and Films

There are many types of plays and films that one might find are dramatizations of other events. Some of these are listed below: 

  • Tragedy: dark, sorrowful, and dramatic. Tragedies are usually based around human suffering, disaster, and death. They usually end traumatically for most characters involved. Sometimes there is a traditional tragic hero. Ex. Romeo and Juliet and Brokeback Mountain.
  • Comedy: light in tone, intended to make the audience laugh. They usually have a happy ending with offbeat characters doing absurd things. Comedy might be sarcastic, fantastical, or sentimental. Farce is a sub-genre of comedy. Ex. A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Borat.
  • History: focuses on actual historical events. Can have elements of both tragedies and comedies. They were popularized by William Shakespeare. Ex. King John and Frida.
  • Tragicomedy: contains elements of both comedies and tragedies. The play might be series, with some comedic moments and a happy ending. Ex. O Brother, Where Art Thou? 
  • Melodrama: emotions are more important than details in melodramas. Ex. Ghost. 

Examples of Dramatizations 

Into the Wild by John Krakauer 

This well-loved novel was published in 1996. It was based on an article published in Outside magazine in 1993, telling the story of Chris McCandless. The book was later dramatized into a film in 2007. It starred Emilie Hirsch, Marcia Gay, and William Hurt, along with Kristin Stewart, Jena Malone, and Vince Vaughn. Here is a quote from the novel: 

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.

The article, novel, and film depict Chris as he leaves home, donates all his money, and begins a journey across the United States to get away from the constraints of modern civilization. The story culminates in Chris’s tragic death alone in Alaska. 

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 

This novel was published in 2003 and was later dramatized into a touring play. It has been performed around the world to rave reviews. Critics have described the play as “a contemporary cultural phenomenon,” “a spellbinding production,” and as deeply moving. The story follows Amir, a boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul. Here is a quote from the novel:

When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.

 Audience members learn about the fall of the Afghan monarchy, the Soviet invasion, and the rise of the Taliban. There are many important themes in the story, including father-son relationships, that were dramatized in the play. 

Richard III by William Shakespeare 

This history play, like Shakespeare’s others, is a dramatization of real-life events. Richard was King of England from 1483 to 1485, dying in 1485 at thirty-two years old. The play dramatizes his life, crimes and has created a legacy for the monarch that lasts to this day. Here is a quote from the play:

Now is the winter of our discontent 

Made glorious summer by this son of York, 

And all the clouds that loured upon our house 

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried. 

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths, 

Our bruisèd arms hung up for monuments, 

Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings, 

Our dreadful marches to delightful measures

Read William Shakespeare’s poetry


How to use dramatization in a sentence?

One might say, “Have you seen that new movie? It’s a dramatization of a Civil War battle.” Or, “When dramatizing something, you have to stay as true as possible to the original source material.” 

What is a method of dramatization? 

One might adapt a novel or short story into a film or play. This means taking the most important elements of the original story and using them in the film/play. Some material is always lost, but the heart of the story should remain. 

What does dramatized content mean? 

It means that the content has to be adapted from another source and likely changed to suit the new medium and the director/producer’s intent. One should be aware that the images they’re seeing may not be historically accurate or accurate to the original source.

Related Literary Terms 

  • Aside: a dramatic device that is used within plays to help characters express their inner thoughts.
  • Drama: a mode of storytelling that uses dialogue and performance. It’s one of several important literary genres that authors engage with.
  • Soliloquy: a dramatic literary device that is used when a character gives a speech that reveals something about their thought process.
  • Dramatic Monologue: a conversationspeaker has with themselves, or which is directed at a listen or reader who does not respond.
  • Style: the way a writer writes. An individual writer’s style is original and unlike any other.

Other Resources 

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