A closet drama is a play that was not written with the goal of being performed on stage. This type of literature is typically written for private silent reading or reading aloud among small groups of friends. Closet dramas can cover a wide range of topics, but because many of them were written around the same time, they often have similar themes and styles. Closet dramas were frequently used as a means of writing commercially unviable forms of theater.
Simply put, a closet drama is any play written with the intention of not being performed in front of a large audience. Listeners were frequently the actors in small group readings, and the text requires the reader to use his or her imagination to fill in the gaps left dialogue in private readings. A radio drama, on the other hand, is not designed to be physically acted but is intended for a general audience.
Closet dramas were popular as a way to get away from the pressures of commercially successful work. Instead of requiring the audience to congregate, a closet drama could be sent out to its audience as a bound book. As a result, these plays allowed for the release of works that were unpopular at the time. This is one of the reasons why so many of these plays are tragedies, as comedies dominated the stage at the time.
Some playwrights created closet dramas in order to write plays in ways that would not have worked well on the stage at the time they were writing. Others used this format to keep writing plays while they were in exile. Despite this, it was not uncommon for people to simply enjoy the form of closet drama without any outside pressure.
Despite the fact that these works were not written for staged readings, they are still occasionally performed on stage today. Faust Goethe is a popular example. Some classic plays, such as Seneca’s, may have been closet dramas as well.
Among the many closet drama writers, those who are most well-known are authors with other writing credits. Although each is better known for other types of writing, John Milton, Lord Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley all wrote in this style. This type of drama is still produced, but its popularity has plummeted.