A Short History of the Drama

A Short History of the Drama

A Short History of the Drama

A Short History of the Drama

Excerpt

Religious Dances, it may be observed, are sometimes ecstatic, sometimes pantomimic. . . . Pantomimic dances, with their effort to heighten natural expression and to imitate natural process, bring the dancers into the divine sphere of creation and enable them to assist vicariously in the energy of the gods. The dance thus becomes the presentation of a divine drama.--HAVELOCK ELLIS, The Dance of Life .

Among certain peoples of the Malay Peninsula, there is sometimes enacted a play which has for its subject the punishment of coquetry. A young girl appears, wreathed with flowers and ready for the dance. She is looking for a husband. A youth approaches with gifts for her, and sings of birds, sunshine, and the joys of wedded love. She does not listen, but with a toss of her head she dances away. Still entreating her the youth follows; but she eludes him, and he retires in confusion and anger. A second admirer comes on, and a third; but each is rejected by the reckless maiden, who flouts their offerings and humiliates them. Presently the situation is changed by the appearance of three other young girls, who quickly capture the disappointed suitors and dance off with them. The girl then sees her mistake and begins to cry. At sight of her contrition the first man returns and renews his suit; but this time he proposes to make her his second wife only; and with this offer she has to be content.

Drama defined . It requires no great stretch of imagination to link this bit of primitive play-acting with the art of the drama as we know it today. The single "scene" described above may be given without any special setting or costumes, without music, footlights, prompter, or scenery. In its whole length no word need be spoken for its complete understanding.

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