For the first two thousand years of Western Civilization, very few people could read. Everything they knew, they learned from personal experience or word of mouth, from priests and princes, politicians, storytellers, troubadours and minstrels, poets, and—by far most popular and influential—actors on a stage, performing plays about the world and humankind.
Ergo, from the Ancient Greeks to long past Shakespeare, great literary minds addressed the masses by writing plays—plays that told us who we were in those two thousand years, and how we came to be who we are now.
Even after the printing press, books were dear and rare, and we remained illiterate until the Nineteenth Century. Only after Dickens popularized the novel did the common people take up reading for themselves; only since the movies has the wholly human art become outmoded, impotent, and ignored—but not irrelevant.
Those Who Do Not Learn from the Past . . .
If we are to have a future, we must understand our hostory. We must know dramatic art emerged from Greek religion and sold the public on Athenian democracy; that it was banned by the church for a thousand years and revived by that same church to attract lost souls to mass, overflowed into the streets and secularized
Think about it.
Human history began when people first learned to talk, with cavemen telling tales around a fire, passing them down through generations for thousands of years, enhanced by gesture and expression, song and dance—memories prompted by wall paintings and rock art—until The Epic of Gilgamesh appeared in print in the Twenty-First Century (BCE).
A cold read continues that tradition.
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Books were copied out by hand, and people couldn’t read. What they knew of Poetry and Prose was spoken dialogue.
Ergo, poets and philosophers from the Ancient Greeks to long past Shakespeare who wanted to address the masses all wrote plays.
Ergo, these plays present first-hand accounts of what the world was like when they were written.
The implications of this revelation will astonish you.
Even now, although most people barely know their names, playwrights show us more of who we are as human beings interacting among ourselves than any other medium.
(Compare drama before movies to art before photography)
From history and religion to society and human nature, the Ancient Greeks (and lesser Romans) through the Dark Ages to Medieval Church plays, the Renaissance, on to Shakespeare, Moliere, on to Goethe, all the way to Ibsen’s Doll House—all wrote plays that not only captured the culture of their times as no other medium could; their content often changed the course of history.
Unless we know these plays, we can’t begin to understanding the world as it was understood by those who saw and heard them in their time. Since very few of us attend the very few (too often bad) productions offered nowadays, we need to read them.
After Ibsen, mass communication media producing “drama” and the theatre itself staging vapid spectacle for big bucks, playwrights modern plays are rarely seen and almost never read. —which doesn’t mean there are no playwrightsy don’t exist. There are thousands of them, O’Neillall equally as engaging and profound as the classics, and equally a part of our cultural heritage.
Poetry and prose were for the very few until the Nineteenth Century, when Charles Dickens published novels in monthly chapters.
Even today, great playwrights express now, despite the
Heritage posts explore the relationship Democracy, for instance, emerged from Dionysian rites, when Thespis (the world’s first actor) stepped from the dithyrambic chorus to challenge the gods, and Athenians started producing plays that argued for humankind (attended by all citizens, free of charge).
Actors playing characters in plots imagined and composed by the greatest critical and creative minds of their times, expressing what they thought and felt and knew about humanity, in “pleasing language” and uplifting tone.
The Golden Age of Greece degenerated over time, its lesser forms of drama copied by the Romans, who ridiculed early Christians in their comedies and worshiped pagan gods
eople couldn’t readEven Poetry and Prose , Live on Stage. Politics, religion, manners, humor, horror, wonder, poetry and prose,
From its roots in Ancient Greek religion to the 2016 flap involving Mike Pence and the cast of Hamilton, stage plays have reflected and profoundly affected human civilization.
Democracy, for instance, emerged from Dionysian competition, after Thespis challenged the gods, and Athenian tragedies argued the case before all citizens, free of charge.
Theatre defined the Golden Age, and for the next two thousand years most people learned about the world by seeing and hearing plays: they couldn’t read!
For five hundred years the monolithic Catholic Church banned all theatrical performances, tainting theatre for all time as immoral and profane. Then three priests played Angels and the Marys and over the next five hundred years religious plays developed into playlets in the church that spread outdoors to pageant wagons throughout the Christian world until the Renaissance, when secular theatre emerged and blossomed into Shakespeare, Moliere, Goethe, and their peerless peers, until the Industrial Revolution produced cheap paper, people learned to read, and Charles Dickens wrote the first popular novels.
, bring cheap paper, a literate public created a literate .
Roman comedians mocked of the many ways world history how our culture has how theatre That’s just for starters.
Modern playwrights create masterpieces that could humanize mankind if people saw and heard (or read) them; but we don’t.
Cold Reads & Human History
Cold Reads & Religion
Theatre “holds the mirror up to nature,” shows human beings who they are, and in so doing, shapes the course of history—from its vital role in the foundation of Athenian democracy (and the Golden Age of Greece) to Shakespeare’s histories, riots at Hugo’s Hernani—John Wilkes Booth—Nora’s exit in A Doll House (the closing door heard round the world), to political propaganda, left and right, true or false, state-run or free. It’s a cornerstone of western civilization. Theatre and Culture
Plays connect us to our cultural history,
from their religious roots in the Golden Age of Greece
to their prohibition for a thousand years by Christian Rome,
to their medieval Church revival, flourishing into Shakespeare…