History of Plays

Theatre has fascinated the world since its beginning. Being a combination between art and entertainment it rapidly became popular among people. It originated thousands of years ago from rituals and quickly transformed in a form of entertainment in which the spectator did not require initiation. European theatre originated in ancient Greece, particularly in Athens. It had a very broad variety: music, theatre, oratory, sports, gymnastics and many more. They were all combined in festivals and this is how theatre was born. Ancient Greek theatre consisted of three types of drama: tragedy, comedy and satyr play. It emerged sometimes in the 6th century BC. The mythology contributed immensely to the themes of the plays. Most of the theatre festivals were dedicated to Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility.

Theatre became very popular in Rome in 4th century BC. Under the Roman Empire the popularity of theatre boosted. One of the first things Romans used to build in their occupied territories were theatres. The first important Roman plays were based on comedy and tragedy. Ancient Roman and Greek theatres influenced each other along the centuries and contributed to the modern European theatre we know today. One thing the Romans contributed with was the abolition of the traditional Greek chorus in the play. They preferred to have the main attention on the actor and this is the place where actor craze was born. Unfortunately, only three early Roman tragedies survived: Quintus Ennius, Marcus Pacuvius and Lucius Accius. During early Middle ages the Church started to stage dramatized versions of biblical events on specific times of the year. These types of performances developed into liturgical dramas, the first known being Whom Do You Seek. Hrosvitha becomes the first known female play writer. In the 10th century she writes comedy plays adapted after Terence’s works but introducing religious objects.

The Feast of Fools was a celebration that contributed immensely to the comedy. It allowed lesser and upper clergy to switch roles and perform plays in which they made fun of their superiors. During late Medieval ages many cities from Europe produced a large amount of plays in which the actors were local people. Morality plays became very popular, the best known being Everyman. In 1558 Queen Elizabeth I banned religious drama and many European countries followed. This movement forced the countries to develop their own plays.

Theatre evolved during the next centuries from the travelling troops to the rise of Shakespeare. Generally, plays followed the political and social trends of their time. During restoration, they were given full liberty whereas during puritan days they were strictly checked. In the 19th century more and more cultural waved shaped the theatre world. From romanticism to symbolism, this century gave a tremendous amount of plays that are popular even today. The 20th century game a number of aesthetic movements like naturalism, realism, expressionism and postmodernism that shaped the theatre all over the globe. Theatre will remain one unique form of art and entertainment that has something to offer to every taste.

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