One famous ‘passion play’ from this period is the ‘Abydos passion play’-this is performed annually from about 2886BC until 400AD. It tells the story of the killing of Osiris by his brother Seth and Osiris’s resurrection. This play is typical of the themes of the period- birth, death, and the cycle of the seasons. Such dramas were performed to ensure the fertility of women, animals and the land. By about 450BC it is thought that comic elements were included in such plays e.g in the Abydos play Hurus is the comic element-a baby who eats so much he becomes enormous.
Some say that this is when the drama became free of the religious ritual.
Now the subjects dealt with were legends or history- but there was still a religious (or moral, or political) message.
This was when the dithyramb ( a choral song chanted at festivals to honour Dionysis the god of wine) was improved and developed by actor and playwright Thebis who added to the chorus a part for an actor who wore a mask and portrayed several characters, Because of this development a dialogue between the chorus and the actor became possible.The chorus also danced to make the action more dramatic.
Following a period of tragedy playing only comedy based on mythological characters were introduced.
In the rome, by 3C BC most theatre festivals were secular(non religious) and theatrical performances became crude dependent on jest, slapstick, wit, wordplay and song. Mime and pantomine became increasingly popular.
Stage 4-AD37-68 Rome
During the persecution of the christians under Emporor Nero in Rome, mime was used to ridicule the christian faith on stage.
After the triumph of Christianity the theatre of the time was considered to be so unworthy and debased that all performers of mine were excommunicated and in the 6 th Century AD all theatre closed. Acting and performing was deemed sinful by the powerful Catholic church.
Once again processions and rituals become the only way to express the supernatural and the succession of the seasons.
Now the Easter play was followed by depiction by depictions of the Nativity and the other Bible stories. The action took place initially at the church altar and in the other parts of the action was performed outside the plays existed independently of the church service.
The Mystery plays become important, often 50 or short plays depicting all kind of bible passages were performed over 2 or 3 days. Initially organised by priests they were taken over largely by guilds of workers involved in appropriate work- e.g. the shipbuilders world enact the building of Noah’s Ark etc
Morality plays becomes popular-these were in essence dramatised sermons and concerned with the struggle between good and evil. These were performed initially within churches and then outside.
In the 15 th and 16 th centuries interludes (farces dealing with non-religious themes) also become popular.
The Protestants defeated the Catholics and with their reign the morality and mystery plays were no longer popular.
Plays were now used to mock the Catholic faith.
In 1590 playwrights were prohibited from dramatizing religious issues although playwrights such as Shakespeare writing historical plays fared well during the time of Elizabeth 1 st (1533-1603)
Many powerful people including those who ran the City of London Authority regarded theatre as immoral and discouraged such entertainment.
In 1642 the Puritans closed all theatres and forbade dramatic performance of any kind. There was then an almost complete gap of 18 years before the theatre re-emerged under Charles 1 and flourishes once more.
After this time, at least in England, theatre has been less closely linked with religion (in some other countries such as America the link was very strong until much later .) In America the Puritanical settlers prevented the development of the theatre there until the early 18 th century. Touring companies from England had to be very creative in the way sold their work there – e.g. Othello was promoted as “a moral dialogue in five acts”