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The Origin and Development of English Drama
The origin of English drama seems vague. There is no certain evidence proving its origin. However, it can be traced back from century of succeeding Norman Conquest to England on 1066.
Many historians believe that drama came to England along with them. There was information that when the Roman where in England.
they established vast amphitheatre for production some plays, but when they left, the theatre gone with them
Originally, the term drama came from Greek word meaning ‘
“action” or “to act” or “to do”. William J. Long argues that “drama is an old story told in the eye, a story put into action by living performers”.
Thus, drama is the form of composition design for performance in the theatre, in which the actors take role for certain characters, perform certain action and utter certain dialogues (Abrams and Harpham, 2015:95).
In England, drama had a distinctly religious origin
from the church as the part of services. Apart from its origin, the Latin Church had condemned Roman theatre for many reasons.
Thus, drama could not develop until tenth century when the church began to use dramatic elements as part of their services in the certain festival or ritual.
The motives of the church began to use dramatics elements seem unclear.
But, it was certain that the purpose was didactic, that is, to give deep understanding about the truth of their religion to the believer.
The oldest existing church drama was “Quem Quarritis” trope
(whom are you seeking), when the three Marrys visited the empty tomb of Christ and met angel. Their conversation with angel consists of four sentences in Latin then adapted..
and performed by the clergy in very simple performance. This simple beginning gradually grew more elaborate.
This drama called liturgical drama, in which the story simply taken from the scripture.
The earlier play were given inside the church, the story were written by the clergy and performed by the clergy using Latin language.
However, drama were not performed in all churches, only in certain cathedrals and monasteries where there were enough clergy to perform the plays.
From the liturgical, drama evolved to Miracle and Mystery play
In France, Miracle used to represent the life of the saints and Mystery used to represent any scene taken from the scripture.
Meanwhile in England, there was no distinction between this two. The term Miracle play was used to represent any story taken from the scripture or the bible and the life of the saints.
The earliest recorded Miracle play in England was “Ludus Santa de Katherina”
\which performed in Dunstable around 11110. It was not known who wrote the original play.
but the first version was prepared by the French school teacher, Geoffrey from St. Albans. The plays were given in Latin or French.
The Miracle play attracted so many people and increased its popularity. The plays were before given inside the church began to move to the porch then to the churchyards.
But when the plays began interfere the church services and had become too elaborate, the scandalized priest forbade the play in the church.
By the thirteenth century, the Miracle play began move outside the church.
After the Miracle play move outside the church
the secular organization or town guilds began to take responsibility in its production. Few changes were made during this period. By the fourteenth.
and fifteenth century, the plays were given in vernacular pr local language. The actors were no longer clergy but the amateur actors which trained and selected carefully.
The plays were given in the series of mansion in the town square. The plays were performed o moving platform called pageants and.
the act area called pletea. The stage were divide into three parts; hell, earth and heaven. Hell in the left side, earth in the centre and heaven in the right side.
Usually the stages were identified by certain props. For instance, the head of dragon with red jaws or monstrous mouth with fire breathing represent hell where the devil characters will be dragged to the hell.
The idea of salvation and damnation which later adopted in Dr. Faustus was inherited from this period. The costumes were distinguish in three realms;
heaven, earth and hell. The heavenly characters such as God, angels, saints or certain Biblical character wore the church garments with certain accessories.
The earthly characters wore the contemporary medieval garment appropriate to their rank. Meanwhile, for devil character wore black garments with wings, animals claws, beaks, horns or tails.
On 1311, the Council of Vienne revived the feat of Corpus Christi
This festival held in June every year and last for three or four days, sometimes extend to six days. The Miracle plays were presented in all large town city in England.
It was arranged to exhibit the whole story from creation to the Day of Judgment in a cycle. There were four famous cycle existed in England.
The York with 48 plays, the Chester with 25 plays, the Wakefield with 32 plays .
and the Coventry with 42 plays. During this religious period drama were written according to the Bible and no change was tolerated. This religious performances lasted till the sixteenth century.
The later development of drama was Morality play
it is a dramatization of personified abstraction generally vice against virtue. In these plays, the character were allegorical personified such as death, sin, good and bad angel.
seven deadly sins, etc. The purpose of this drama was didactic, to give moral lesson to the audience. The morality plays generally ended with the virtue win against the evil.
This play was marked by the introduction of personage called “vice”, who was mischievous, comic and humorous character.
Vice was the predecessor of the modern clown or jester. The examples of morality plays are “Everyman” and “The Castle of Perseverance”.
The introduction of Morality play also introduce so called “interlude”. Interlude is the short version of morality play.
Generally interludes were given during break of the scene. It was a short stage entertainment in a sense of humor and was considered as the forerunner of comedies.
The example of interlude was “The Four P’s” by John Heywood which performed around 1497.
The final stage of the evolution of English drama was the artistic period
In this period, the purpose of the pay was not to point out a moral but to represent human life as it is. During this period, English drama was influenced by classical drama.
The first comedy was “Ralph Roister Doister” written by Nicholas Udall on 1556. The play divided into acts and scenes and wrote in rhyming couplets. This first comedy had become the model and predecessor of English comedies.
The first tragedy “Gorboduc” was written by Thomas Sackville and Thomas Northon around 1562. It was written in blank verse and divided into acts and scenes.
After this era, the English drama developed gradually into regular form of drama which flourish during Elizabethan reign and which known till today.