Theatre has been around centuries. Entertaining masses of people through performances has been an art form since the days of the Greeks. Spanning all over the world, every society enjoys some form of theatre. This article will discuss the origins of theatre and how theatre became what is it today.
The Greeks are considered to be the creators of theatre. In the earliest years of performance entertainment, the Greeks sang hymns to worship their gods which were turned into choruses to be performed for the masses. The tyrant Pisistratus became the first to create a festival of entertainment. This festival was aimed to worship the god Dionysus and included competition in music, dance, poetry, and singing. The first plays were performed in Athens Greece. The plays consisted of one actor known as the protagonist and a chorus of people who helped move the story. The oldest surviving play is from 472 BC called “The Persians.” The drama was broken up into three different categories, tragedy, comedy, and satyr. The Greeks were the creators of theatre and helped expand the art form into societies across the world.
Through the expansion of the Roman Republic, Romans encounter Greek theatre in several of its territories. 240 BC marks the dawn of Roman drama. Greek theatre was still prominent in the newly conquered Roman territories. By the start of the second century, the Romans had a school of writers for comedy and tragedy dramas. The Romans adopted much of the style of the Greeks when writing their dramas. One change that the Romans made is they did away with the chorus and split their dramas into episodes and added music to them to help with transitions. Many of the comedies that were written by the Romans at this time do not exist anymore. Tragedies from well-known writers at that time survive to this day and are used to help understand what theatre performances were like.
Byzantine Empire and Medieval theatre
The Byzantine empire played a large part in preserving and adapting the texts and styles of Greek writers. During the Medieval period saw the disorganization of traditional theatre and the rise of staged dramas of biblical events. The biblical dramas were performed on days of Christian celebration to help emphasize the importance of the holy day. These liturgical dramas were sung and did not include actors. Hrosvitha wrote comedies based off of religious events around the time of liturgical dramas in the tenth century.