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Their origins remain obscure, though by the 5th century BC they were institutionalised in competitions held as part of festivities celebrating the god Dionysus.
Historians know the names of many ancient Greek dramatists, not least Thespis, who is credited with the innovation of an actor ("hypokrites") who speaks (rather than sings) and impersonates a character (rather than speaking in his own person), while interacting with the chorus and its leader ("coryphaeus"), who were a traditional part of the performance of non-dramatic poetry (dithyrambic, lyric and epic).
Many of these plays were written in verse, particularly iambic pentameter.
It is this narrower sense that the film and television industries, along with film studies, adopted to describe "drama" as a genre within their respective media.
"Radio drama" has been used in both senses—originally transmitted in a live performance, it has also been used to describe the more high-brow and serious end of the dramatic output of radio.
The two masks associated with drama represent the traditional generic division between comedy and tragedy.
They are symbols of the ancient Greek Muses, Thalia, and Melpomene.