The Development of Dramatic Art

The Development of Dramatic Art

The Development of Dramatic Art

The Development of Dramatic Art

Excerpt

The aim of this book is to trace the development of dramatic art from its origin to the present day. Therefore it includes within its scope only those forms of drama which contributed directly or indirectly to the development of the art as it appears on the modern stage. No play is discussed merely because it is a fine example of dramatic art. Certain plays that are mediocre have been analyzed because they have contributed in some degree to the development of the art. The omission of a play is not to be construed as a tacit criticism of its artistic value. Oriental drama, English and American drama of the nineteenth century and even plays of such dramatists as Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Congreve, Sheridan, Alfieri, Calderon and others are not treated because modern dramatic art would not be essentially different had they never been written.

The ultimate origin of modern drama is found in certain primitive Greek rituals. These ritualistic practices developed into Greek tragedy and Aristophanic comedy. New Comedy was an outgrowth of these two forms and it was preserved in the plays of Plautus and Terence. The so-called Senecan tragedies were the only serious plays by a Roman playwright to survive the downfall of the Roman Empire.

About the tenth century a new form of drama developed from the Christian rituals. The classical drama remained in manuscript form, while medieval drama developed as the living form of the art. During the Renaissance the classical form was rediscovered and revived in Italy. Its influence then spread to France, Spain and England where it combined with the medieval form and produced drama more or less classical in proportion as its influence was operative.

With the closing of the theatres in England in 1642 and with the decay of the vitality of Spain, the French theatre assumed the leadership of dramatic art and held it for many generations. By . . .

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