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By Glynne Wickham

During this masterly survey, Glynne Wickham outlines the improvement of drama in the course of the international over the past 3,000 years, from its origins in primitive dance rituals all of the technique to the very finish of the 20th century. hugely readable, incisive and deeply imbued with a private perspective that stresses the primacy of concert, Wickhams erudite paintings is predicated on a lifetimes sensible event as a instructor, researcher director. A background of the Theatre is the perfect creation to the topic for all fanatics of the theatre, and an authoritative textbook for college students.

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The appearance late in the fourth century of a comedy of manners (called New Comedy) marks the final stage of this protracted evolutionary process. By then the gods and goddesses, whose original grandeur had derived from their being created within men's imaginations as metaphors to describe the great universal truths about the human condi- and who could be brought to life as forces at work in the world by recourse to dramatic art, had lost most of their awesome and frightening aspects. On their way to tion, being rationalized into recognizably human figures, they came to be depicted as mortals among mortals in paintings on walls and vases, and identified by their own, particular emblems — Athena by her spear, shield and helmet for example, or Dionysus by his long hair, vine leaves, and escort of prancing satyrs and Bacchants (see Figs.

T. e. beside himself in the sense of the words. full the audience]. is The grows wider. The elements are taken in, water and wind join in, plants and trees, tame animals and circle calendar of Attic life. Participation in the contests both for and spectators was then regarded primarily as a civic duty and only in a secondary sense as an entertainment or pastime, though this order of the authors and for the actors wild animals, the stars precedence came slowly to be reversed. Accordingly the contests were heavily subsidized with no attempt made to recoup costs by admission charges until the end of the fifth century: even then the charge was nominal and free places continued to be held back for those unable to meet Government and wealthy individuals agreed on the appointment of a cboregos — tation of the plays, although the author normally claimed The cboregos did not have nor reward the principal actors: the his right to direct rehearsals.

All these stage-conventions to survive the collapse of the Greek and were destined Roman civilization and to spring to life again in the theatres of medieval Europe and those of the Renaissance. them acceptable make performance there. Theatre buildings, exposed to these influences, were steadily 'modernized' and eventually 'Romanized'. Spectacle acquired a higher priority in public esteem than that which Aristotle had permitted to it, as did acting itself. Troupes of mimes (some known batics for as Phlyakes) combining farce with dance, acroand juggling, found that by travelling from one theatre to another (and thus acquiring new audiences) they could translate their art into a profession, living off their 6 earnings and importing HELLENISTIC THEATRE Following the conquests of Alexander the Great fourth century bc, Greek mon in the became the indispensable com- language of most countries bordering on the Mediter- ranean.

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