Theatre History Essay Research Paper Question 1 — страница 3

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is one particular art form that has always been greeted with a large degree of speculation. When the value of theatre diminishes, so does the consideration for the writers behind it. No one doubts that a primary function of theatre is to make people think. Other than the gods themselves, nothing else was more important to the people of ancient Greece than the concept of thought. In Greek philosophy, the closer people were to figuring out the meaning of how, the purpose of why, and the quest for when, the closer they were to deciphering the mysteries of the gods. Theatre was a way of communicating to the gods what it was like to be human – by idealizing the human experience in either tragedy or comedy (15). Naturally, a medium that could not only please the gods, but also

entertain and inspire thought at the same time was highly regarded. As a result, playwrights were particularly popular people in ancient Greece. Playwrights like Aristophanes and Aeschylus and were kings among men. Theatre was such a strong enterprise during this era that competitive festivals such as the City and Rural Dionysia were often held and awards were given to the best writers (18). Sophocles, Euripides, and Thespis, winner of the first City Dionysia tournament, were often among the honored (17). We know of many other playwrights that were also honored but unfortunately their work has long since been lost. Only a small handful of plays from this era still exists today. The next step in the evolution of the playwright s place in society occurred in ancient Rome. In

contrast to ancient Greece, the culture of ancient Rome was very practical. For the most part, Romans were uninterested in theoretical discussion (51). They wanted things they could see, things they could touch. For this reason, Roman theatre tended to be less about inspiration and more about sheer entertainment. Romans, much like the Greeks before them, largely rejected foreign cultures and although they did embrace the classical mentality of theatre as a medium to please the gods, their own societal characteristics made them reject most of what was distinctly Greek (51). The writings of the Roman literary critic Horace tell us that Roman theatre was much more highly sensational and focused more on form than on substance. Eventually, an increase of sex and violence led to much

corruption and in 325 A.D. the emperor Constantine had theatre outlawed. It was because of this corruption and emperor s harsh decision that the reputation of the Roman playwright was significantly less than it was in Greece. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the invading Visigoths destroyed almost all evidence of drama (73). In fact, even less Roman drama exists than what little we have from Greece. Of what did survive, a man named Seneca wrote a large portion of it. Despite the stigma of sexuality and violence that theatre acquired during the Roman Empire (and to this day has never fully escaped) the plays of Seneca, while brutish and realistic, deal for the most part with morality (57). Seneca s use of soliloquies, asides, and the interpretation of the superhuman world

served as the basis for a lot of renaissance literature. What was not looked upon as a main attraction in it s own time is now considered masterful. The Middle Ages, while not perhaps the most popular arena for playwrights to be living in, are an important study of the playwright s place in society. As the growth of Christianity spread throughout Europe, the attention of Europeans alike was directed to the church. Unfortunately, the stigma of theatre left behind by the Romans remained. Theatre was associated with pagan religions and often times, traveling shows featuring mimes troupes made fun of Christian theology (71). Because of this, theatre as a whole almost did not survive. Luckily, theatre manifested itself into nomadic tribes exhibiting novelty acts such as juggling,

tumbling, and simple storytelling to stay alive. Eventually, as Christianity grew, it s teachings began to work their way into these traveling shows and it was soon discovered that theatre made for a good form of ministry. The Church soon began incorporating theatre into a kind of Christian play called Liturgical Drama (85). The boost of theatre in church was aided by short plays on Christian morals written by members within the church. In particular, a canoness at the monastery of Gandersheim, Germany named Hrosvitha and a Benedictine abbess named Hildegard of Bingen were amongst the forerunners of this movement (87). These liturgical dramas were performed during Church services. The primary focus of all medieval drama was to serve the church and the playwrights of this area are