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Transcript
HISTORY OF
THEATRE
Prehistory to 600 BC
The Origins of Theatre

Certain Actions = Positive
Circumstances
Have a Dance
on
Tuesday
“If we dance
the night
before a battle,
we will win”
Win a Battle
on
Wednesday
The Origins of Theatre

Pre-Action Performances
– Rehearsing a hunt
– Societal traditions

Post-Action Plays
– Describing a Battle
– Telling stories of Ancestors

Sympathetic Magic
– Imitation (voodoo)
Ritual Develops from Repetition
 Formal Theatre Develops when
Society

– Formalizes Rituals
– Develops Aesthetics
– Performs apart from ritual concerns

Present Day Examples:
– Weddings
– Criminal Trials
– Church Services
SHAMANISM
Prehistory
 Common to all traditional
cultures
 Shaman: a priestly figure
who communicates directly
with the gods through ritual
for the benefit of the
community
 Uses dialogue, music, song,
dance, illusion, clowning,
hypnotism
 Linked to the origin of
Western theatre through its
connection with the worship
of the Greek god Dionysus
 Modern Shaman Cleansing
Ritual

DANCE






Expresses the rhythms of
life
Common to all humanity
Animal imitation,
pantomime, gymnastics and
rhythmic movement
Entertained all early
humans
Addition of masks, costumes
and sound heightened impact
YouTube - Zulu Dance
RITUAL

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

Perhaps as early as 2500 BC
Repeated, unvarying and symbolic
actions
Early humans sought to achieve
success in battle and hunting;
ensure adequate rain and sun;
express their duty to the
community and the gods
Art and artifacts of preliterate
people around the world support
this universal human habit of
ritual
Appears to have been the original
theatre
Ritual in dramatic form was
performed annually in Egypt
The Origins of Theatre
in Egypt
•The Ikhernofret
Stone
•Ancient
Egyptian
limestone stela
•Notable for
its description
of how the
mysteries of
Osiris were
carried out
The Abydos Passion Play
Performed
annually
from 2500
to 550 B.C.
and full of
spectacle,
this passion
play is the
first of its
kind ever
recorded and
is the first
example of
theatre.
•Represents the
Pharaoh (King)
•The God of
Resurrection
•The Judge of
the Dead
•Represented by
a Mummy (Eternal
Life)
•Product of a
Virgin Birth
•YouTube OSIRIS
Osiris
Set
•Viewed as a god
of evil
•The God of
Storms
•Kills and
dismembers
Osiris in an
effort to claim
his throne
Horus
•Son of Osiris
•Nemesis of Set
•God of light,
sun, young men,
living pharaohs,
etc.
•Avenges his
father’s death by
doing battle with
Set. Their battle
is commemorated
in the Abydos
Passion Play
STORYTELLING





Prehistory
Closely related to ritual
Entertainment and education
Because of the human tendency to
imitate and elaborate, tales such
as India’s “Ramayana” and
Homer’s “Odyssey” provided a
great storehouse of plots for
later dramatists
YouTube - Native American
Storyteller - Tales of Wonder
GREEK THEATRE
600 BC (ish)
 Aristotle: dithyramb
(a hymn sung and
danced to honor the
god Dionysus at annual
festivals, relating
episodes from the
god’s life)
 Evolved from earlier
ecstatic dances by
female celebrants
of shamanism

GOLDEN AGE OF GREECE
500-400 BC
 Greeks of Athens invented Western
drama
 Athenian playwrights used myths and
heroic legends drawn from Homer and
other sources, but shaped them to
reflect contemporary issues
 Theatre was a civic responsibility:
writer and actor helped the people
confront current political or religious
problems
