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says Müller, 'according to the idea which we have formed from the finished drama, one actor appears to be no better than none at all. When, however, it is borne in mind that, according to the constant practice of the ancient drama, one actor played several parts in the same piece (for which the linen masks introduced by Thespis must have been of great use); and, moreover, that the chorus was combined with the actor, and could maintain a dialogue with him,-it is easy to see how a dramatic action might be introduced, continued, and concluded by the speeches inserted between the choral songs.' It is thought by some authorities that these actors might at first be chosen from among the professional rhapsodists who were in the habit of traversing the country, and reciting the works of Homer and other poets. This they often did with characteristic gesticulation, sometimes several together, each representing a different hero, and reciting his speeches in character.
Thus was tragedy born, and in a comparatively short time it reached its full development in the works of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, all nearly contemporary during the fifth century B.C. The first of these made the next important innovation and improvement in the character of the drama, by introducing another actor,-thus giving the dramatic element its due development. * Tragedy, as he received it, was still an infant, though a vigorous one: when it passed from his hands, it had reached a firm and goodly youth.' Sophocles introduced a third actor, and otherwise improved on his predecessor. Euripides invented the prologue, which Müller thinks was a step in the backward direction: and he and his immediate successors made further additions and improvements, tending to render the Greek tragic drama as complete in form as it could well be, consistently with the stringent rules which Greek notions of art imposed
Comedy, like tragedy, had also its origin in the worship of Bacchus, but, according to the best authorities, took its rise in an entirely different way, and in connection with quite another festival. Tragedy, as we have seen, had originated in the winter celebrations of the worship of Bacchus, when the powers of nature were struggling to free themselves from the thralls of griping winter; and, as in a struggle of life and death, the minds of the people seemed filled with sadness and apprehension, finding utterance in the tragic chorus. Comedy, on the other hand, took its rise in connection with the joyous ingathering of the vintage, the fruit of nature's triumphant efforts, when all was mirth and jollity. The festivals of this joyous period were held in autumn, and by the country people; comedy thus, unlike tragedy, having a rustic origin. At these joyous country festivals it was the custom of the people, having drunk freely of the gifts of their generous god, to go round in procession from village to village, carrying aloft an image of the phallus, the emblem of nature's productive powers, the chorus singing songs
of thanksgiving to the liberal Bacchus. After doing their god due honour, it was the custom of the people to indulge in the wildest and often most licentious revelry ; and the chorus, turning their attention to the spectators, quizzed and satirized them in the most unrestrained manner. It was from this custom, it is said, that the regular comedy took its rise; its origin being generally ascribed to Susarion, a native of Megara, who had removed to Icaria in Attica, and who, according to one account, was the first to contend with a chorus of Icarians in order to obtain the prize—a basket of figs and a jar of wine. According to another account, quite consistent with the above, Susarion, somewhere between 580–564 B.C., was the first to regulate this amusement, and thus lay the foundation of regular comedy. The name applied by the Greeks to a drunken revel like the above was kõmos (comus), so that comedy literally means the revellers' song.' The
derivation of comedy from kömē, a village, because it is said the actors went about from village to village satirizing the follies and vices of the people, rests on no good foundation. We have no such means of marking the gradual rise of comedy to perfection as we have in the case of tragedy. By what means it was gradually developed, can only be inferred, as Müller says, from the drama itself, which still retained much of its original organization, and from the analogy of tragedy.
Comedy, however, took much longer than tragedy to attain to the perfection of art, retaining its original form—that of personal satire—till the time of the greatest Greek comedian, Aristophanes (444-380 B.c.). In this form, known as the old comedy, the characters were real persons, introduced under their own names: most of the comedies of Aristophanes are of this class. This form of the comic drama inevitably became unbearable; and after passing through the stage of what is known as the middle comedy, in which real characters were introduced under assumed names, the comic art gradually reached perfection in the new comedy, essentially resembling the modern comic drama, in which the characters are purely fictitious, the only requirements being that they should be true to reality, and conformable to the rules of art.
As we are not writing a history of the Greek drama, nor even of the drama in general, but have introduced the above statements only because we deemed it necessary briefly to lay before the reader what is known of the origin of the European drama, we shall not enter into further details on this part of the subject. Suffice it to say, that the great difference in form between the ancient Greek or classic drama, and the modern English or romantic drama, is, that in the former was introduced what is known as the chorus, which, from the supreme part it played originally at the festivals of Bacchus, gradually came to be regarded as an altogether subordinate part of the main drama. This chorus consisted of a group of persons, in some way connected with the dramatis persona, who, at intervals in the progress of the drama, gave utterance to certain moral reflections suggested by the scenes, or were used by the dramatist as a means of letting the audience know any details that were necessary to the full understanding of the plot. Even after the regular Greek drama had made considerable progress, the chorus seems to have continued to chant its part in the play, and, true to its name, enlivened the performance by dancing to its own music. Only one other difference between the classic and modern or romantic drama can we mention here: it is, that the former generally endeavoured to adhere rigidly to what are known as the dramatic unities of time, place, and action. The first of these enacts that, to keep up the illusion, everything represented in the drama should happen on the same day; the second, that, for the same reason, all the actions should take place on the same spot, or very nearly so ; and the third, that there should be only one main action or plot, to which everything else must be subservient. This difference between the Greek and the English drama is not, however, merely formal; it arises from the very different principles on which ancient Greek and modern English, or rather Gothic, art is based. A writer quoted by Hazlitt says, that the great difference between ancient and modern poetry is, that the one is the poetry of form, the other of effect. The one seeks to identify the imitation with the external object-clings to it, is inseparable from it—is either that or nothing; the other seeks to identify the original impression with whatever else, within the range of thought or feeling, can strengthen, relieve, adorn, or elevate it. Hence the severity and simplicity of the Greek tragedy, which excluded everything foreign or unnecessary to the subject. Hence the Unities.'
It may not be deemed out of place to mention that the ancient theatres were immense semicircular buildings, open to the sky, the base of the semicircle being occupied by the stage, and the seats rising in tiers in the form of an amphitheatre, and often capable of containing thousands of spectators. The actors always wore masks suited to the characters they represented, the mouths of the masks being constructed on the principle of the speaking-trumpet, through which the voices of the performers sounded in a sort of loud chant, which was necessary in order that their speeches might be heard throughout the immense building. Hence the origin of the phrase dramatis personæ (from the Latin per, through, and sono, to sound), i.e. persons, literally and originally masks of the drama, each character having its own particular mask. Such is the origin of person, which literally means a 'speaking-trumpet.'
The Romans borrowed their drama, which is mainly of the comic order, chiefly from the Greeks. The Greek and Roman drama flourished down to a considerable time after the Christian era, and was so extremely popular in all the provinces and colonies, and was latterly of such a licentious nature, that the authorities of the Christian Church deemed it necessary to threaten with severe censure all those who frequented the theatres, and ultimately persuaded some of the Emperors to issue edicts against the performance of stage-plays. But neither church censures nor imperial edicts were found sufficient to eradicate from the people the inborn love of dramatic representation; and therefore the clergy determined to direct this passion into what they deemed a more proper channel, -an example which it would be wise in our modern clergy to follow oftener than they do. The modern European, like the ancient Greek drama, owes its origin to religion. The first known play on a religious subject, of which some fragments in Greek iambics are still extant, is said to have been written by Ezekiel, a Jew, shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. It is taken from the Exodus, or the departure of the Israelites from Egypt under their leader Moses, and is supposed to have been written by Ezekiel for the purpose of animating his brethren with the hopes of a future deliverance from their captivity under the conduct of a new Moses. The principal characters are, Moses, Sapphora, and “God from the bush.' Moses delivers the prologue in a speech of sixty lines, and his rod is turned into a serpent on the stage. The first known Christian writer of plays was Apollinarius, Bishop of Laodicea in the fourth century A.D., who is said to have turned some of the subjects of the Old Testament into plays. The oldest play extant on a Christian subject is written in Greek, entitled Christos Paschon, "The Passion of Christ,' and is somewhat doubtfully attributed to Gregory Nazianzen, Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople in the fourth century: it is written on the model of Euripides, and is said to have been intended to supersede the representation of the works of the Greek dramatists. In this play, which is a poor production, the Virgin Mary makes her first appearance on the stage, and is represented with many weaknesses, and as indulging in most undignified and unchristian language. We hear no more of miracle plays, as these religious dramas are called, until the tenth century, when Roswitha, a nun in the convent of Gandersheim in Saxony, wrote six plays in Latin on subjects connected with the lives of the saints, which were intended, however, solely for the amusement and instruction of her sister nuns. Although this is the only instance on record of the performance of religious dramas at such an early period, still it is probable that the practice of representing plays of this kind in churches and religious houses by the clergy for their own amusement, may not have been uncommon even at this early period.
It is known that from the time of Pope Gregory the Great (the eleventh century), it became quite common for the clergy to commemorate the passion of Christ by processions, choruses, chants, and dialogues, at first only in the churches, the laity taking no part in them. A writer in the Revue des Deux Mondes of July 1, 1868, says that it is in the mass, of which the dramatic character became most distinctly marked from the time of Gregory the Great, that the most recent research finds the germ of the modern drama. Ere long the gratification of the eye as well as the ear was ministered to in these periodical representations. By the side of Christ and His disciples were to be seen, figuring before the altar and in the procession, Adam and Eve bearing the tree of knowledge, John the forerunner and his lamb, Judas and his bag, the devil and the executioner, and ere long the patron saint of the locality on horseback, dragging after him some vanquished monster. Naturally this became not the least agreeable part of the service to the faithful ; and the clergy, perceiving this, soon began to represent in the churches a sort of tableaux vivants of the chief scenes in biblical history, first from the New Testament -as the miracle of Cana, that of the loaves and fishes, the Lord's Supper, the curing of the blind, the resurrection of Lazarus, and the more popular parables, such as those of the prodigal son and the foolish virgins. It could be shown that in France these vast representations embraced the whole of biblical history. Although these exhibitions can scarcely be said to be the origin of the religious drama-religious plays having been privately represented at an earlier period still there is no doubt that they tended in a great degree, along with other influences, to convert it into a regular and popular institution, fostering and sanctioning with the Church's approval the natural love of the people for dramatic representation.
Another powerful influence tending in the same direction, and which, working along with and modifying the above, gave to a certain extent the religious drama its ultimate form, was the Feast of Fools and the Feast of the Ass, instituted by Theophylact, Patriarch of Constantinople, about 990, in order, according to Hone, to wean the people from the ancient spectacles, particularly the bacchanalian and calendary solemnities, on the principle, we suppose, of similia similibus curantur. These feasts, the orgies connected with which lasted from Christmas to the end of January, rapidly became highly popular, and were celebrated, in France at least, in the maddest, most sacrilegious, and most licentious manner. The most sacred persons and offices were burlesqued, and the churches were made the scenes of the coarsest buffoonery; indeed, during the continuance of these feasts, the people seemed to be so many devils let loose for the purpose of holding hellish revelry, and making game of all that is generally considered sacred. “The Feast of Fools,' says a writer in Blackwood's Magazine for December 1869, was carried on with the utmost licence of action and language, the maskers singing obscene songs, taking lascivious postures, playing dice and eating sausages and puddings on the altar, wearing spectacles with orange-peel in place of glasses, and mocking the practice of incensing by burning an old shoe or excrement in the censer, and incensing the priest with its smoke. The mock office being finished, they leaped and danced through the church like madmen, sometimes stripping themselves quite naked in their dances. They then recited a farce in the atrium or cemetery of the church, where they shaved their heads and arranged their beards.' The Feast of the Ass, as celebrated in France, consisted almost entirely of dramatic show. The clergy, luubited in different vestments to represent the ancient prophets and other celebrated characters, including John the Baptist, Virgil, Balaam-in honour of
whose ass it was instituted—Nebuchadnezzar, and others, moved in procession through the body of the church chanting versicles, and conversing in character on the nativity of Christ, till they came into the choir. At Rouen they performed the miracle of the furnace: Nebuchadnezzar spoke, the sibyl appeared at the last, then an anthem was sung, which concluded the ceremony. The Feast of the Ass, as it was performed at Beauvais every year on the 14th of January, commemorated the flight of the Virgin into Egypt with the infant Jesus. To represent the Virgin, the most beautiful girl in the city, with a pretty child in her arms, was placed on an ass richly caparisoned. Thus mounted, she preceded the bishop and his clergy, all marching in procession through the streets to the Church of St. Stephen. There they ranged themselves on the right side of the altar, when mass was performed, the various parts of the service being terminated by the burden Hin-han, to imitate the braying of an ass. At the conclusion of the service, the officiating priest, instead of saying Ita missa est, repeated Hin-han three times, and during the service various hymns were sung in praise of the ass. These facts prove, that even so early as the eleventh century, exhibitions of a dramatic nature, connected with Old and New Testament subjects, were quite common in the west of Europe, and that the people took part in them both as spectators and actors. Originally,' says the writer above quoted, 'in the church dramas proper, as distinguished from the Asinaria, the language employed was Latin. But toward the close of the eleventh century Latin began to give way to the popular tongue; and in a dialogue between the wise and foolish virgins, written in France in the eleventh century, the Provençal dialect is adopted. . . . As the language of the people superseded the Latin, so did the wild, irregular, and undisciplined sentiment of the people overcome the restrictions of the Church, and run riot into licence and folly.' To such a scandalous extent was the farcical element in these exhibitions carried, that the Church authorities, who themselves had set the stone rolling, deemed it necessary to interfere, and endeavoured by edicts and bulls at length to purge or put a stop to them. But this was impossible. The clergy, however, gradually withdrew from taking any prominent part in them; and finally the religious orgies were prohibited altogether from being performed in churches. On the withdrawal of the clergy, societies of laymen were formed for the purpose of representing plays founded on biblical subjects, such as the 'Fraternity of the Gonfalone, founded in Rome in 1264, and the 'Brothers of the Passion' at Paris.
On the whole, consistently with the most recent researches, the above is the most satisfactory way to account for the origin, or perhaps revival, of the strictly modern religious drama,—the precursor, in England at least, of what is known as the regular drama. Apparently it was in France that it received the strongest impulse, and soonest became established as a popular institution; but by the fourteenth century the representation of miracle plays and mysteries had become common over nearly the whole of Europe: indeed, the Church itself, as a writer remarks, might be said to have become a theatre. It was mainly at the principal Church festivals that these dramas were enacted; and it is worthy of notice how considerable a resemblance, in this and other respects, the origin and early history of the modern European religious drama bear to those of the Greek drama. Each in its origin formed an integral part of the religious services connected with the commemoration of the sufferings and triumph of One whom his worshippers considered their greatest benefactor, and for a long time each continued to be intimately associated with the festivals of the religious institution out of whose form of worship it was developed.
Various other causes are given by Dibdin, the uncritical historian of the