On Stage: A History of Theatre

By Vera Mowry Roberts | Go to book overview
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For many centuries, the Eastern Hemisphere was itself divided into two distinct parts--the world of Asia and the world of Europe. We have been dealing up to now with the theatre of Europe, and may seem to have implied that no other existed. Quite to the contrary, however, Asian lands developed, independently, unique and highly civilized cultures, including remarkably advanced theatre. A form of drama, roughly paralleling that of ancient Egypt, was evidently extant in China about 2000 B.C. It seems to have been a dance-drama commemorating religious festivals, military successes, and ancestors, and was confined to the nobles and the priests. The epic period of Hindu literature began about the same time as the institution by Pisistratus of the Great Festival of Dionysus at Athens. The greatest Hindu playwright, Kalidasa, flourished about 350 A.D. Chikamatsu, the Shakespeare of Japan, was born about thirty-five years after Shakespeare's death.

There were contacts, over many centuries, between these two worlds. India saw its first Aryan invasion from the north about the tenth century B.C., and Alexander the Great ( 356-323 B.C.) had conquered a large portion of that country before his death. In the eighth century A.D. the Arabs and Mohammedanism came to India. In the thirteenth century, it was threatened by the greatest conqueror of them all, Genghis Khan, who took his Mongol hordes even into Europe after consolidating his conquests throughout most of Asia.


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On Stage: A History of Theatre


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