Origin of Greek tragedy and comedy
Drama, in the western world, begins with ancient Greece, where the two major forms of drama ……….. tragedy and comedy ………..were an aspect of religious ritual. Greek tragedy is believed to have begun in the sixth century B.C. with Thespis who introduced the first actor on the stage. The first dramatic dialogue lies in the conversation of this actor with leader of the satiric chorus. The dramatic element was subsequently added by Aeschylus in the fifth century B.C. and later by Sophocles of the same period. They added a second and third actor on the stage respectively. Euripides, a contemporary of Sophocles, used drama as a medium for dealing with the problems of human existence. As the Greek drama developed, the chorus was detached from the main action. Of these ancient Geek tragedies, thirty-two plays are now extant ………. seven by Sophocles, and eighteen by Euripides.
Greek comedy originated from the humorous side of the Dionysian rites. A actual feature was the singing procession, or comos. Their song along with a kind of mummery or play-acting developed into comedy. Greek comedy passed through three stages …….. Old Comedy, Middle Comedy, and New Comedy. The Old comedy was the comedy of political and personal satire. The satirical plays of Aristophanes were directed against Euripides. The Middle comedy was a transition from this to the comedy of social life and manners. The satire became impersonal. In the New Comedy, the love intrigue became the dominant theme. The best known writer of the New Comedy was Menander who died in the third century B.C. His plays are now extant in Latin translations by Plautus and Terence.
Drama and in Rome
The Romans wrote comedies and tragedies in the manner laid down by the Greeks. The characters were mostly stock figures like the comic slave, the braggart soldier, the proud cook, the young lover, the hunch-back, the cuckold and so on. The outstanding writers were Plautus (200 B.C.) and Terence (150 B.C.). Twenty plays of Plautus are now extant, including the “Menaechmi”, from which Shakespeare took the plot for “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”. Only six plays of Terence are extant. The most important writer of Roman tragedy was Seneca, who was a statesman and philosopher in the Stoic School. His ten plays are translated into English during the Elizabethan period.
Drama in England
Like other countries, the drama in England had its origin in the services of the church. In the Middle Ages, the services of the church used to be in Latin, and the Bible was therefore, beyond the comprehension of the common people. The clergymen started illustrating Biblical stories by dump shows in order to bring the religious doctrines within the comprehension of the laymen. They were enacted within the church and the actors were all clergymen and monks. In due course, dialogue, first in Latin, then in the vernacular, was introduced and thus the ritualistic representations in the church developed into full-fledged drama. Subsequently the place inside the church was found inadequate and so the representations were transferred to the churchyards. When this also proved insufficient, the drama passed from the church to the street, from the clergymen to the laymen.
The mystery and miracle plays
The Mystery and Miracle plays mark an advancement in the development of the medieval religious drama. The Mysteries dealt with themes taken from the Bible, whereas Miracle plays dealt with the lives of saints. The institution of the festival of Corpus Christi by Pope Urban IV in 1264 gave an impetus to the growth of these plays. Until the thirteenth century Miracle plays were annually performed at several important towns like Chester, York, Coventry, and Lancaster. Curiously enough, these religious plays combined serious theme with farce, buffoonery, and coarse humour. Devil and Vice were depicted in a funny manner....
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