Theatre History Essay Research Paper Question 1

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Theatre History Essay, Research Paper Question 1 – Faith and the Theatre Throughout history, religion has played perhaps the most important role in the influence of cultural and societal trends. The ethics and values that a society holds dear are a direct result of the faith that binds that society together. Faith is something that governs, something that punishes, and when in jeopardy, it is something that people don t mind fighting over. Faith is a reflection of many things. Like literature, theatre has proven to be a reflection of faith. Both theatre and faith share common ground-they are both art forms of emotion, self-expression, and self-discovery. Faith influences society and society looks for an outlet of expression. Society often finds that outlet in theatre and

despite restrictions, theatre has always had a way of outlining the best and worst of a society s faith. Before the widespread growth of Christianity over the last 2000 years, a majority of the world was polytheistic. In the Abydos Passion Play, possibly the earliest surviving evidence of theatre existence, Osiris, son of the supreme god, Geb, is murdered in a jealous rage and then later resurrected. After his resurrection, Osiris is unable to live on earth and goes on to live in the afterworld, judging the souls of others (8). This story strongly resembles the Christian passion play and although there is no definite proof that it was ever actually acted out in theatrical form, just the story itself and what it could possibly imply is enough to make one uneasy (9). The fact that

the Abydos story is so much like the passion of Jesus Christ is interesting considering that they are separated by 2500 years and take place under totally opposite cultural roofs. This coincidence supports the notion generally agreed upon by most theatre scholars that as a social barometer, theatre has always been one step ahead of societal trends. As a twenty-first century Christian, it would appear that the theatre of ancient Egypt has had the last laugh. Theatre and faith would once again reflect each other in ancient Greece. As Christians, we believe that God is all knowing, all-powerful, and is always on our side. To polytheistic ancient Grecians, gods were merely a step above humans. Some were smarter than others were, some were meaner than others were, and all were

mischievous. Theatre in ancient Greece existed with a specific purpose in mind. More than just entertainment, it was a tool. Theatre was used to show Gods what it was like to be human. Plays were written taking the extremities of the human experience and delivering them in a way that the gods could understand. It was in this era that theatre began to take on a more noticeable form. Tragedies like Oedipus Rex and Antigone were written to show the gods how cruel twists of fate and suffering affected human beings. Dramas and comedies were written and performed at festivals such as the City Dionysia where plays were presented and awards were given (17). All theatre in ancient Greece was written and performed expressly for religious purposes. Festivals were held, sacrifices were made,

and orgies were to be had-all in the name of the gods. It is here that the relationship between faith and the theatre was at it s most tangible and deliberate. After the fall of ancient Greece, the theatre and it s implications began to get increasingly more political and as a result, more dangerous to be involved in. This was perhaps most notable in the theatre of ancient Rome. In the days of the ancient Romans, the Italian peninsula was split into two sections: Etruria and Attella. Etruria had a reputation for favoring physical stature while Attella favored mental stature. With the combined influence of these two regions, theatre became increasingly sensational. Less attention was paid to the classics and more attention was given to jugglers, flute playing, prizefighting, and