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History of drama

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History of drama

  1. 1. CONTENTS: thousands of fine plays and films, but their form and often their content are based on the PROLOGUE: The Origins of Drama, The Cult of innovations of the ancient Athenians. Dionysus, Dithyramb. The Cult of Dionysus THE GOLDEN AGE OF GREEK DRAMA: Thespis, Athenian Drama. The theatre of Ancient Greece evolved from religious rites which date back to at least 1200 Competitions, Amphitheatres, How Plays Were BC. At that time, Greece was peopled by tribes Performed in Ancient Greece. that we in our arrogance might label 'primitive'. TRAGEDY: Aeschylus: The First Playwright, In northern Greece, in an area called Thrace, a Sophocles, Aristotle's Poetics, Euripides. cult arose that worshipped Dionysus, the god of fertility and procreation. This Cult of Dionysus, COMEDY: Aristophanes and Old Comedy, New which probably originated in Asia Minor, Comedy and Menander. practised ritual celebrations which may have included alcoholic intoxication, orgies, human EPILOGUE. and animal sacrifices, and perhaps even THE PHYSICAL SPACE: Stages, Properties and hysterical rampages by women called maenads. Costume. The cult's most controversial practice involved, it is believed, uninhibited dancing and emotional displays that created an altered PROLOGUE: mental state. This altered state was known as 'ecstasis', from which the word ecstasy is The Origins of Drama derived. Dionysiac, hysteria and 'catharsis' also Twenty-five hundred years ago, two thousand derive from Greek words for emotional release years before Shakespeare, Western theatre was or purification. Ecstasy was an important born in Athens, Greece. Between 600 and 200 religious concept to the Greeks, who would BC, the ancient Athenians created a theatre come to see theatre as a way of releasing culture whose form, technique and terminology powerful emotions through its ritual power. have lasted two millennia, and they created Though it met with resistance, the cult spread plays that are still considered among the south through the tribes of Greece over the greatest works of world drama. Their ensuing six centuries. During this time, the rites achievement is truly remarkable when one of Dionysus became mainstream and more considers that there have been only two other formalised and symbolic. The death of a tragic periods in the history of theatre that could be hero was offered up to god and man rather said to approach the greatness of ancient than the sacrifice of say, a goat. By 600 BC these Athens - Elizabethan England and, perhaps the ceremonies were practised in spring throughout Twentieth Century. The greatest playwright of much of Greece. Elizabethan England was Shakespeare, but Athens produced at least five equally great playwrights. The Twentieth Century produced The Dithyramb
  2. 2. was located in a region called Attica. Greek and Athenian theatre are sometimes referred to as An essential part of the rites of Dionysus was Attic Theatre. the dithyramb. The word means 'choric hymn'. This chant or hymn was probably introduced Thespis into Greece early accompanied by mimic gestures and, probably, music. It began as a In about 600 BC, Arion of Mehtymna (Corinth) part of a purely religious ceremony, like a hymn wrote down formal lyrics for the dithyramb. in the middle of a mass describing the Some time during the next 75 years, Thespis of adventures of Dionysus. In its earliest form it Attica added an actor who interacted with the was lead off by the leader of a band of revelers, chorus. This actor was called the protagonist, a group of dancers, probably dressed as satyrs from which the modern word protagonist is derived, meaning the main character of a dancing around an altar. It was probably performed by a chorus of about fifty men drama. Introduce a second speaker and one dressed as satyrs -- mythological half-human, moves from one art, that of choric chant, to half- goat servants of Dionysus. They may have another, theatre. Tradition ascribes this played drums, lyres and flutes, and chanted as innovation to one Thespis, and even gives him a they danced around an effigy of Dionysus. Some date; he is said to have performed Athens about accounts say they also wore phallus-like 534 BC. Whether this is true of not, his name has achieved immortality in theatrical jargon - headgear. It was given a regular form and raised to the rank of artistic poetry in about 600 BC. 'actors' and 'Thespians' are synonymous. Introduced into Athens shortly before 500 BC, dithyramb was soon recognised as one of the competitive subjects at the various Athenian Athenian Drama Competitions festivals. For more than a generation after its In 534 BC, the ruler of Athens, Pisistratus, introduction the dithyramb attracted the most changed the Dionysian Festivals and instituted famous poets of the day. By this time, however, drama competitions. Thespis is said to have it had ceased to concern itself exclusively with won the first competition in 534 BC. In the the adventures of Dionysus and begun to ensuing 50 years, the competitions became choose its subjects from all periods of Greek popular annual events. A government authority mythology. In this way, over time the dithyramb called the archon would choose the would evolve into stories in 'play' form: drama. competitors and the choregos, wealthy patrons who financed the productions. Even in ancient Greece, the funding of the arts was a way of tax THE GOLDEN AGE OF GREEK THEATRE avoidance. In return for funding a production, By 600 BC Greece was divided into city-states, the choregos would pay no taxes that year. separate nations centred in major cities and regions. The most prominent city-state was Athens, where at least 150,000 people lived. It was here that the Rites of Dionysus evolved into what we know today as theatre. Since Athens
  3. 3. Amphitheatres religious lessons. Much like Biblical parables, tragedies were designed to show the right and During this time, major theatres were wrong paths in life. Tragedies were not simply constructed, notably the theatre at Delphi, the plays with bad endings, nor were they simply Attic Theatre and the Theatre of Dionysus in spectacles devised to ‘make 'em laugh and Athens. The Theatre of Dionysus, built at the make 'em cry.’ Tragedy was viewed as a form of foot of the Acropolis in Athens, could seat ritual purification, Aristotle's catharsis, which 17,000 people. During their heyday, the gives rise to pathos, another Greek word, competitions drew as many as 30,000 meaning 'instructive suffering'. They depicted spectators. The words theatre and the life voyages of people who steered amphitheatre derive from the Greek word themselves or who were steered by fate on theatron, which referred to the wooden collision courses with society, life's rules, spectator stands erected on those hillsides. orsimply fate. The tragic protagonist is one who Similarly, the word orchestra is derived from refuses out of either weakness or strength to the Greek word for a platform between the acquiesce to fate: what for us nowmight better raised stage and the audience on which the be described as the objective realities of life. chorus was situated. Most often, the protagonist's main fault is hubris, a Greek, and English word meaning false or overweening arrogance. It could be the How Plays Were Performed arrogance of not accepting ones destiny (i.e. as in Oedipus Rex), the arrogance of assuming the Plays were performed in the daytime. The right to kill (Agamemnon), or the arrogance of annual drama competitions in Athens were assuming the right to seek vengeance (Orestes). spread over several, entire days. Actors Whatever the root cause, the protagonist's probably wore little or no makeup. Instead, ultimate collision with fate, reality, or society is they carried masks with exaggerated facial inevitable and irrevocable. expressions. They also wore cothornos, or buskins, which were leather boots laced up to the knees. There was little or no scenery. Initially, most of the action took place in the The Culture That Created Tragedy orchestra. Later, as the importance shifted from Tragedy did not develop in a vacuum. It was an the chorus to the characters, the action moved outgrowth of what was happening at the time to the stage. in Athens. One hand, Greek religion (see Bullfinch's Mythology. It is in library) had dictated how people should behave and think TRAGEDY for centuries. On the other, there was a birth of free thought and intellectual inquiry. Athens in Between 600 and 500 BC, the dithyramb had the fourth and fifth centuries BC was bustling evolved into new forms, most notably the with radical ideas like democracy, philosophy, tragedy and the ‘satyr’ play. Tragedy, derived mathematics, science and art. It boasted from the Greek words tragos (goat) and ode philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, (song), told a story that was intended to teach Epicurus, and Democritus. There were the first
  4. 4. known historians Thucydides and Herodotus. instructive suffering) which has come to mean The scientists and mathematicians like Thales, the quality in something that arouses sympathy. Hippocrates, Archimedes, and later Euclid Often used today to describe something sad but (euclidean geometry), Pythagoras (the not necessarily tragic. Satyrs, trilogies of Pythagorean theorem), Eratosthenes, Hero (the tragedies were interrupted by satyr plays steam engine!), Hipparchus and Ptolemy. In (which made fun of characters in the tragedies these respects -- a blossoming of free thought around them). Hence the word tragedy. after years of religious dicta -- ancient Athens Comedy from Komodos which means resembled Renaissance England, which not 'merrymaking,' and 'singer.' coincidentally spawned the next great era in theatre. In essence, the ancient Athenians had begun to question how nature worked, how Aeschylus, the First Playwright society should work, and what man's role was in the scheme of things. Tragedy was the poets' Until 484 BC the Athenian drama competitions answer to some of these questions -- How consisted of a trilogy of dithyrambs and a satyr should one behave? How can one accept the play. Their style of presentation was choral injustices of life? What is the price of hubris? rather than dramatic. However, around 484 BC Read a soliloquy from a Greek tragedy, or from there appeared on the Athenian theatre scene a Hamlet or Macbeth, and what you will hear is playwright named Aeschylus. Aeschylus turned these questions being asked. the dithyramb into drama. He added a second actor (the antagonist) to interact with the first. He introduced props and scenery and reduced The Form of Tragedy the chorus from 50 to 12. Aeschylus' Persians, written in 472 BC, is the earliest play in The traditional tragedy in Aeschylus' time (circa existence. Aeschylus' crowning work was The 475 BC) consisted of the following parts: Oresteia, a trilogy of tragedies first performed in 458 BC. They tell the legend of Agamemnon, the Greek war hero who was murdered by his 1. Prologue, which described the wife Clytemnestra, and the pursuit of justice by situation and set the scene his children, Orestes and Electra. Thematically, the trilogy is about the tragedy of excessive 2. Parados, an ode sung by the chorus human pride, arrogance or hubris. This hubris is as it made its entrance required to murder a person for personal gain, as Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus do, as 3. Five dramatic scenes, each followed well as the hubris to in turn hunt down and kill by a Komos, an exchange of laments by the them, as Orestes and Electra do. In the end, the chorus and the protagonist Furies, vengeful emissaries of the gods, 4. Exodus, the climax and conclusion themselves bring Orestes and Electra to trial. Aeschylus makes a point that has been echoed Aristotle - arousing of fear and emotion, by historians and dramatists, psychologists and purging (catharsis) - the unities: unity of time crime writers for centuries since: that the root place and character - Pathos (Greek for of evil and suffering is usually human arrogance.
  5. 5. On a dramatic level, the plays convey the with him. Sophocles' plays are about the folly of suffering of a family torn apart by patricide and arrogance and the wisdom of accepting fate. matricide. Sophocles believed in the Greek gods, but his plays are suffused with existential insights that have been voiced many times since. For The Periclean Age instance, compare this observation by Antigone: What joy is there in day repeating Aeschylus' death in 456 BC coincided with the day, some short, some long, with death the only beginning of the Periclean Age, a period during end? I think them fools who warm their hearts which Athens' population grew to 150,000, its with the glow of empty hopes. government embraced democracy (although two-thirds of its population were slaves), and the arts flourished. In a span of 60 years, With that of Macbeth's famous speech: Thucydides and Herodotus wrote their histories, the sophists, Socrates and Plato expounded their philosophies, and Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes wrote some of the world's best Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, plays. Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; Sophocles And all our yesterdays have lighted fools In 468 BC, Aeschylus was defeated in the The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! tragedy competition by Sophocles. Sophocles' contribution to drama was the addition of a Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player, third actor and an emphasis on drama between That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, humans rather than between humans and gods. Sophocles was a fine craftsman. Aristotle used And then is heard no more: It is a tale Sophocles' play, Oedipus Rex for his classic analysis of drama, The Poetics. Sophocles' plays Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, are suffused with irony. In The Oedipus Trilogy, Signifying nothing. Oedipus seeks the truth about his father's murder. The truth that awaits him, however, is that he is the murderer. Click here for a summary of the 'Oedipus Trilogy'. In Electra, the Euripides hunted murderer Aegisthus finds the identity of In all, Sophocles won 20 competitions, making a body under a blanket is Orestes, the man who him the Carol Lewis of Greek dramatic has relentlessly hunted him and his lover, competition. Although far behind Sophocles in Clytemnestra. He is relieved that he has the medal count with a mere five, Euripides has escaped justice. However, when he lifts the since eclipsed both Sophocles and Aeschylus in blanket he discovers the body is that of his lover popularity. The modern attraction to him stems Clytemnestra. Orestes has indeed caught up
  6. 6. largely from his point of view, which finds a New Comedy, whose main exponent was strong echo in modern attitudes. His plays were Menander. Aristophanes theatrical works were not about Gods or royalty but real people. He presented at the Athenian festivals. placed peasants alongside princes and gave Aristophanes and Cratinus used three actors, a their feelings equal weight. He showed the chorus that sung, danced, and sometimes reality of war, criticised religion, and portrayed participated in the dialogue. The Chorus's the forgotten of society: women, slaves, and address to the audience reveals the author's the old. Euripides is credited with adding to the opinion. In these speeches, he ridicules the dramatic form the prologue, which "set the Gods, Athenian institutions, popular and stage" at the beginning of the play, and the powerful individuals, including Aeschylus, deus ex machina, which wrapped up loose ends Sophocles and Euripides. Given the cultivated at the close. Aside from those devices, there is and scholarly culture of its ruling elite, Athens less contrivance, fate or philosophy in Euripides invited satire. Aristophanes assumed the task than in either Aeschylus or Sophocles. There is with zeal, aiming his lampoonery at those who instead a poignant realism, such as in this scene stuck their heads above the crowd: from the anti-war Trojan Women, in which a grandmother grieves over the daughter and grandson she has outlived. During his life, Take, for example, the Warriors, in 'Lysistrata': Euripides was viewed as a heretic and was often lampooned in Aristophanes' comedies. First Speaker: For through man's Extremely cynical of human nature, he became heart there runs in flood a bookish recluse and died in 406 BC, two years A natural and before Sophocles. noble taste for blood--- Second Speaker: To form a ring and COMEDY fight-- Tragedy was not the only product of Athens' Third Speaker: To cut off heads at flourishing theatre culture; comedy also thrived. sight-- Not only did the Greeks produce many lasting All in Unison: It is our right! comedies; they also cast the moulds for many Roman, Elizabethan and modern comedies. The Youth... Come, listen historical development of comedy was not as now to the good old days when children, well recorded as that of tragedy. Aristotle notes in The Poetics that before his own time comedy strange to tell, was considered trivial and common -- though were seen not heard, led a simple life, when it was finally recognised as an art form, in short were the orphan suddenly had many fathers: brought up well. Aristophanes and Old Comedy See, too, the treatment of intellectuals, in 'The Greek comedy had two periods: Old Comedy, Clouds': represented by Cratinus and Aristophanes; and
  7. 7. Comedy, and its two main practitioners were Menander and Phlyates. Menander is the more Father: (enrolling his son in a "school for significant of the two. Most of his plays are now thinking") O Socrates! O--dear--sweet-- lost, but parts found their way into plays by the Socrates! Roman playwrights Plautus and Terence (whom Socrates: (meditating in a basket overhead) Julius Caesar called "a half-Menander"). From Mortal! Why call you on me? these works they were incorporated into Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, Stephen Father: Tell me, please, what are you doing up Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the there in that basket? Way to the Forum, even the writings of St. Paul: "Bad messages belie good manners". In 1905 a Socrates: I walk on air while I contemplate the manuscript was discovered in Cairo that sun. One cannot ponder cosmic matters contained pieces of five Menander plays, and in unless one mingles with theatmosphere, one's 1957 a complete play, Diskolos (The Grouch, ethereal spirit above ground. The ground 317 BC), was unearthed in Egypt. Menander's main contribution was to create a comedy is not a place for lofty thoughts. Gravity would model that greatly influenced later comedy. draw their essence down, as it does with Unlike Aristophanes, his characters were not celebrities but ordinary people. The chorus in watercress. Father: Well, well. Thought draws Menander's plays resembled a modern chorus - the essence into watercress. - singers and dancers who provided filler The Athenian audiences were well versed in between acts; Menander sometimes portrayed their highbrow culture and must have enjoyed them as drunken audience members. His these in-jokes immensely. Aristophanes' other characters were classic comedy archetypes, targets included Aeschylus and Euripides, whom such as the curmudgeonly old man in The Aristophanes portrayed variously as a windbag Grouch, who would become staples of comedy. and corrupter of youth with his heretical ideas. Most of all, the style of comedy that Menander created, with its emphasis on mistaken identity, romance and situational humour, became the model for subsequent comedy, from the New Comedy Romans to Shakespeare to Broadway. Comedy developed along similar lines as tragedy did, becoming more aimed at the common people and less concerned with its religious origins. By 317 BC, a new form had EPILOGUE evolved that resembled modern farces. The use of overt satire, topicality and the pointed By the time of Sophocles' death in 406 BC, 128 lampooning of celebrated characters to be years after Thespis' victory in the first Athenian found in Aristophanes' style were replaced by drama competition, the golden era of Greek mistaken identities, ironic situations, ordinary drama was waning. Athens, whose freethinking characters and wit. This period is called New culture had spawned the birth of theatre, would be overrun in 404 BC by the Spartans. It would
  8. 8. later be torn apart by constant warring with the palace or house in front of which most plays other city states, eventually falling under the are set. At first, it must have been a temporary dominion of Alexander the Great and his building re-erected each year (skene means Macedonian armies. Theatre continued, but it merely ‘tent’ or ‘hut’). The number of doors in would not return to the same creative heights its facade is disputed; most tragedies require until Elizabethan England two millennia later. only one, but it most likely that there were in fact three. Actors and chorus could enter by paths, called parodoi or eisodoi, to the right and THE PHYSICAL SPACE: left of the skene. Chiefly they made these entrances on horse-drawn chariots. The roof of the building could be used as an acting area, for watchmen, gods and others. There is some Stages and Styles of Presentation: oblique suggestion in two texts of the period According to tradition, the first tragedian, that permanent screens with architectural Thespis, performed his plays on wagons with images were used, not ‘sets’ for specific plays, which he travelled, and seats were set up for but permanent fixtures. It is conceivable, too, performances in the agora or market place of that there was some rather underground Athens. By the end of the sixth century BC, passage, allowing ghosts to appear from below. however, a permanent theatron of ‘watching There have been many disputes as to the place’, was set up in the precinct of Dionysuson existence of a stage (logeion) in front of the the south slope of the Athenian Acropolis. Since skene, raising the actors above the orchestra at first any construction above ground was where the Chorus performed. The evidence is made of wood, and since the theatre was later sparse, but is probable that this stage existed, rebuilt many times, the surviving remains of this although it will not have been so high as to earliest Theatre of Dionysus are extremely prevent easy interaction between actors and scanty. It has therefore to be reconstructed on Chorus. Other features of the orchestra were a the analogy of other Greek theatres and on the central altar several images of gods, which evidence of the plays performed there. The only could be noticed in the plays, when required. features which necessarily existed in the early fifth century are wooden seats for spectators on the hillside, and a level earth-floored orchestra, or ‘dancing area’ in the centre. The orchestra is The Theatre in Epidaurus usually believed to have been circular, like a III. The Theatre in Stone. threshing floor. The orchestra at Epidaurus, for example, has a diameter of just over 20 metres. Various items of stage machinery are If the spot chosen necessitated another shape, mentioned by late authors, but the only devices it could be rectangular like that at Thoricus. for which there is 5th century evidence are the ekkylema and the mechane. The former was a Most of the surviving plays also make use of a low platform on wheels, which could be pushed building, the skene or scene building. This was into view to reveal, in the form of a tableau, the used as a changing-room for actors and as a consequences of events (normally killings) sounding board, but also served to represent
  9. 9. within the palace. It is a quite artificial device, stonework crumbling, and fire blazing from a but it seems to be an accepted convention as nearby tomb. early as the Oresteia. This play contains striking tableaux of Clytemnestra with the bodies of Dionysus (inside the palace) Spirit of Agamemnon and Cassandra and of Orestes with Earthquake, rock, rock the floor of the Earth! the bodies of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. Chorus I: Soon the palace Thereafter it is used in many tragedies and in of Pentheus comic parodies of tragedies. Will be shaken The mechane was a kind of crane that could to its fall. transport an actor through the air to give an effect of flying. It seems to be little used in Dionysus is surviving tragedy, though there are a few over the house: examples. Fifth century tragedians probably did Bow down not use it for epiphanies of gods, though the before him! ‘god from the machine,’ the deus ex machina became proverbial at an early date. Though Chorus II. We bow before some simple effects like those mentioned here him. were occasionally used, it is very important to remember that all the real power of the drama See the stone lay in the author’s verse lines. The poetic effects lintels were left to work upon the imagination. Crowning the The character’s words alone established the pillars time of day, just as they did the settings. Reeling and Therefore, it was with natural phenomena. In shaking two of Euripides’ plays, the Bacchanntes and Madness of Heracles, the plot demands an Bromios’ war earthquake which destroys the house, and the cry rings from within. Prometheus Unbound ends with Prometheus and the chorus swept down to Hades in a Dionysus: Kindle the storm. To present such a spectacle realistically flaming torch of the light; would have been a technical miracle, though Burn, burn not beyond Greek ingenuity. Yet, more down the palace of Pentheus. important, it would have been alien to every tradition of Greek theatre. As it was based so This is enough. Once the earthquake has firmly upon the power of the word upon the achieved its dramatic purpose, it can be imagination and emotion. In the ‘earthquake’ ignored. Characters entering subsequently do plays, the effect is conveyed by the speeches of not comment on the fact that the house lies in characters and choral songs. The chorus of the ruins. This lack of observation would be Bacchantes describe vividly what is happening incongruous if the effects of the earthquake had to the palace -- the noise of the earthquake, the been shown realistically. Compare also the
  10. 10. language in which Aeschylus paints the great ‘Farewell brother!’ ‘We split, we split, we split!’ storm at the end of Prometheus Bound. "See, word is replaced by deed; The Elizabethan stage-manager could produce Earth shudders from the shock; the convincing thunder and lightening, but in the peals scene the picture of a shipwreck is conveyed in words alone. I all these examples, the language Of thunder roll from the depths, and used is not that of realistic (illusionist) drama. lightening When the doomed Prometheus or the Master Flicker afire; the whirlwind tosses and Boatswain embark on their respective speeches, the audience knows that mighty Dust heavenwards, with the four winds tempests have erupted; they need no other dancing indication. A giddy reel, challenging each other Lighting, Properties and Costume. To fight; sea and sky are as one." The sun provided lighting. Torches were used, more as properties in order to heighten the We should remember, too, the way which power of the appearance of certain passages or Shakespeare, without the doubtful benefit of characters, the furies, for example. The actor elaborate effects, gives the impression of storm was dwarfed by his surroundings. Tiny at the beginning of The Tempest. movements and the nuance of facial expression used by modern actors would have been invisible to the audience. Gestures had to be Master: Boatswain! large and sweeping and costumes had to be large and flowing in order to allow free, athletic Boatswain: Here, master! What movement, and to make a strong visual cheer! impression upon the audience. As facial Master. Good, speak to the expression would have been lost beyond the mariners; fall t’it, yarely, or we run ourselves first few rows, masks were used. They were aground: bestir, bestir. broadly and simply designed to be visible a long way off. The principal traits of the characters Boatswain: Heigh, my hearts! portrayed could be expressed in the mask, and Cheerly, my hearts! Yare, yare! Take in the a simple convention arose whereby types of topsail. Tend to the master’s whistle. character had their own types of mask. This convention of human types, a view of human Blow, till thou psychology in a way, continued to shape burst thy wind, if room enough! theatrical presentation well into the And at the end of the scene: seventeenth century in Europe. In the tragedies, these types were few and simple. There was the A confused noise within, ‘Mercy on us!’ ‘We protagonist, the noble man/woman; the split, we split!’ ’Farewell, my wife and children!’ messenger; the sightless seer, and the serious
  11. 11. or careworn man, the figure of respect and concerns, the celebration of local industry was not neglected. responsibility. More will be said of these masks elsewhere. Restoration And 18th-Century Drama History of Drama The theaters established in the wake of Charles II's return from exile in France and the Restoration of the monarchy in England (1660) Ancient Drama were intended primarily to serve the needs of a socially, politically, and aesthetically The origins of Western drama can be traced to homogeneous class. At first they relied on the the celebratory music of 6th-century BC Attica, pre-Civil War repertoire; before long, however, the Greek region centered on Athens. Although they felt called upon to bring these plays into line accounts of this period are inadequate, it with their more "refined," French-influenced appears that the poet Thespis developed a new sensibilities. The themes, language, and musical form in which he impersonated a single dramaturgy of Shakespeare's plays were now character and engaged a chorus of singer- considered out of date, so that during the next dancers in dialogue. As the first composer and two centuries the works of England's greatest soloist in this new form, which came to be dramatist were never produced intact. Owing known as tragedy, Thespis can be considered much to Moliere, the English comedy of both the first dramatist and the first actor. Of the manners was typically a witty, brittle satire of hundreds of works produced by Greek tragic current mores, especially of relations between playwrights, only 32 plays by the three major the sexes. Among its leading examples were innovators in this new art form survive. She Would if She Could (1668) and The Man of Aeschylus created the possibility of developing Mode (1676) by Sir George Etherege; The conflict between characters by introducing a Country Wife (1675) by William Wycherley; The second actor into the format. His seven surviving Way of the World (1700) by William Congreve; plays, three of which constitute the only extant and The Recruiting Officer (1706) and The trilogy are richly ambiguous inquiries into the Beaux' Stratagem (1707) by George Farquhar. paradoxical relationship between humans and the cosmos, in which people are made The resurgence of Puritanism, especially after answerable for their acts, yet recognize that the Glorious Revolution of 1688, had a profound these acts are determined by the gods. effect on 18th-century drama. Playwrights, retreating from the free-spirited licentiousness of Medieval Drama the Restoration, turned towards ofter, sentimental comedy and moralizing domestic tragedy. The London Merchant (1731) by Medieval drama, when it emerged hundreds of George Lillo consolidated this trend.A prose years later, was a new creation rather than a tragedy of the lower middle class, and thus an rebirth, the drama of earlier times having had important step on the road to realism, it almost no influence on it. The reason for this illustrated the moral that a woman of easy virtue creation came from a quarter that had can lead an industrious young man to the gates traditionally opposed any form of theater: the of hell. Christian church. In the Easter service, and later in the Christmas service, bits of chanted dialogue, called tropes, were interpolated into Satire enjoyed a brief revival with Henry Fielding the liturgy. Priests, impersonating biblical and with John Gay, whose The Beggar's Opera figures, acted out minuscule scenes from the (1728) met with phenomenal success. Their wit, holiday stories. Eventually, these playlets grew however, was too sharp for the government, more elaborate and abandoned the inside of the which retaliated by imposing strict censorship church for the church steps and the adjacent laws in 1737. For the next 150 years, few marketplace. Secular elements crept in as the substantial English authors bothered with the artisan guilds took responsibility for these drama. performances; although the glorification of God and the redemption of humanity remained prime
  12. 12. 19th Century Drama and The generally lumped together as the avant-garde, Romantic Rebellion attempted to suggest alternatives to the realistic drama and production. The various theoreticians felt that Naturalism presented only superficial In its purest form, Romanticism concentrated on and thus limited or surface reality-that a greater the spiritual, which would allow humankind to truth or reality could be found in the spiritual or transcend the limitations of the physical world the unconscious. Others felt that theatre had lost and body and find an ideal truth. Subject matter touch with its origins and had no meaning for was drawn from nature and "natural man" (such modern society other than as a form of as the supposedly untouched Native American). entertainment. Paralleling modern art Perhaps one of the best examples of Romantic movements, they turned to symbol, abstraction, drama is Faust (Part I, 1808; Part II, 1832) by and ritual in an attempt to revitalize the theatre. the German playwright Johann Wolfgang von Although realism continues to be dominant in Goethe. Based on the classic legend of the man contemporary theatre, television and film now who sells his soul to the devil, this play of epic better serve its earlier functions. proportions depicts humankind's attempt to master all knowledge and power in its constant struggle with the universe. The Romantics The originator of many antirealist ideas was the focused on emotion rather than rationality, drew German opera composer Richard Wagner. He their examples from a study of the real world believed that the job of the playwright/composer rather than the ideal, and glorified the idea of the was to create myths. In so doing, Wagner felt, artist as a mad genius unfettered by rules. the creator of drama was portraying an ideal Romanticism thus gave rise to a vast array of world in which the audience shared a communal dramatic literature and production that was often experience, perhaps as the ancients had done. undisciplined and that often substituted He sought to depict the "soul state", or inner emotional manipulation for substantial ideas. being, of characters rather than their superficial, realistic aspects. Furthermore, Wagner was unhappy with the lack of unity among the Romanticism first appeared in Germany, a individual arts that constituted the drama. He country with little native theatre other than rustic proposed the Gesamtkunstwerk, the "total art farces before the 18th century. By the 1820s work", in which all dramatic elements are unified, Romanticism dominated the theatre of most of preferably under the control of a single artistic Europe. Many of the ideas and practices of creator. Romanticism were evident in the late 18th- century Sturm und Drang movement of Germany led by Goethe and the dramatist Wagner was also responsible for reforming Friedrich Schiller. These plays had no single theatre architecture and dramatic presentation style but were generally strongly emotional, and, with his Festival Theatre at Bayreuth, Germany, in their experimentation with form, laid the completed in 1876. The stage of this theatre was groundwork for the rejection of Neo-Classicism. similar to other 19th-century stages even if The plays of the French playwright René better equipped, but in the auditorium Wagner Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt paved the way removed the boxes and balconies and put in a for French Romanticism, which had previously fan-shaped seating area on a sloped floor, been known only in the acting of François giving an equal view of the stage to all Joseph Talma in the first decades of the 19th spectators. Just before a performance the century. Victor Hugo's Hernani (1830) is auditorium lights dimmed to total darkness-then considered the first French Romantic drama. a radical innovation. The Modern Drama Contemporary Drama From the time of the Renaissance on, theatre Although pure Naturalism was never very seemed to be striving for total realism, or at least popular after World War I, drama in a realist for the illusion of reality. As it reached that goal style continued to dominate the commercial in the late 19th century, a multifaceted, theatre, especially in the United States. Even antirealistic reaction erupted. Avant-garde there, however, psychological realism seemed Precursors of Modern Theatre Many movements to be the goal, and nonrealistic scenic and dramatic devices were employed to achieve this
  13. 13. end. The plays of Arthur Miller and Tennessee characters and events, and language is Williams, for instance, use memory scenes, fragmentary-much like everyday conversation. dream sequences, purely symbolic characters, The settings are indistinguishable from reality. projections, and the like. Even O'Neill's later The intense focus on seemingly meaningless works-ostensibly realistic plays such as Long fragments of reality creates an absurdist, Day's Journey into Night (produced 1956)- nightmarish quality: similar traits can be found in incorporate poetic dialogue and a carefully writers such as Stephen Poliakoff. A gritty social orchestrated background of sounds to soften the realism combined with very dark humour has hard-edged realism. Scenery was almost always also been popular; it can be seen in the very suggestive rather than realistic. European drama different work of Alan Ayckbourn, Mike Leigh, was not much influenced by psychological Michael Frayn, Alan Bleasdale, and Dennis realism but was more concerned with plays of Potter. ideas, as evidenced in the works of the Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello, the French In all lands where the drama flourishes, the only playwrights Jean Anouilh and Jean Giraudoux, constant factor today is what has always been and the Belgian playwright Michel de constant: change. The most significant writers Ghelderode. In England in the 1950s John are still those who seek to redefine the basic Osborne's Look Back in Anger (1956) became a premises of the art of drama. rallying point for the postwar "angry young men"; a Vietnam trilogy of the early 1970s, by the American playwright David Rabe, expressed the anger and frustration of many towards the war in Vietnam. Under he influence of Brecht, many postwar German playwrights wrote documentary dramas that, based on historical incidents, explored the moral obligations of individuals to themselves and to society. An example is The Deputy (1963), by Rolf Hochhuth, which deals with Pope Pius XII's silence during World War II. Many playwrights of the 1960s and 1970s-Sam Shepard in the United States, Peter Handke in Austria, Tom Stoppard in England-built plays around language: language as a game, language as sound, language as a barrier, language as a reflection of society. In their plays, dialogue frequently cannot be read simply as a rational exchange of information. Many playwrights also mirrored society's frustration with a seemingly uncontrollable, self-destructive world. In Europe in the 1970s, new playwriting was largely overshadowed by theatricalist productions, which generally took classical plays and reinterpreted them, often in bold new scenographic spectacles, expressing ideas more through action and the use of space than through language. In the late 1970s a return to Naturalism in drama paralleled the art movement known as Photorealism. Typified by such plays as American Buffalo (1976) by David Mamet, little action occurs, the focus is on mundane

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