Dramatic works, or theatre plays, present conflicts between different characters, without the need for an author to describe or introduce them, and without a narrator to say what each one of them thinks or feels. The characters talk to one another and act themselves, in different moments and places.
In this type of texts, the author remains hidden behind the fictitious personalities that he creates, and only the characters talk: they express their own feelings, present their ideas and opinions, describe objects, situations and people, tell stories, etc.
In general, a dramatic work is written to be performed on the stage by actors that borrow their body, their voice and movements to the characters. Performances are scheduled for a certain time and a given location. However, throughout history, there have been plays that were never acted on stage, and others that were not even meant for this purpose, but rather only to be read.
Literary genres have evolved and changed throughout history, as did the society, the language, and people themselves. Following the literary culture and tradition, each period was dominated by particular types and species of lyric, epic-narrative or dramatic works. Authors sometimes chose to deviate from the generic literary guidelines of their time and constantly tried to change and renew them; this has been the case especially in the past two centuries: the 19th and the 20th.
Moreover, due to the authors’ efforts to renew the already popular genres, in their search for a higher level of originality and creativity, there is a tendency for new, mixed species to appear; thus, we now have lyric novels, epic-lyric poems, epic plays, lyric texts with dramatic tension, etc. Practically, there are no fixed limits, set once and for all; although there have been times when the genres were more standardized – like, for example, during the classical centuries, from Antiquity to the modern age – the evolution and change didn’t stall, so that those centuries were always followed by periods characterized by profound changes and socio-cultural crises. This is the case for our age: the breaking of generic boundaries has happened very fast and in a revolutionary way.
On the other hand, we must always consider that in a single work we can identify chapters, excerpts or paragraphs that fit into a certain genre, although the work as a whole belongs to a different genre.
For instance, in Cervantes’ The Gypsy Girl, which is a narrative work, there are fragments that belong to the lyric genre. These insertions are used in order to highlight some of the issues that the author wants to approach, like love or the beauty of Preciosa; there is also a poem whose central topic is poetry itself, which describes what poetry is and presents its main features.
We also need to take into account the fact that these genres are rarely seen in a pure state. We conclude that a given work belongs to a certain genre depending on the predominant characteristics found in the text, whether they are typical for one genre or another. A novel, for example, can have a structure characteristic for the epic genre, and can be predominantly narrative, but at the same time it can contain lyric or dramatic elements.