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Does theatre serve a purpose and does it always have to have a moral? Is it Entertainment or Enlightenment that lies at the heart of the theatrical medium?

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Introduction

Does theatre serve a purpose and does it always have to have a moral? Is it Entertainment or Enlightenment that lies at the heart of the theatrical medium? For hundreds, even thousands of years theatre was concerned mainly with entertainment, it lay at the forefront at least, or did it? When looking at ancient Greece (the birthplace of 'modern' theatre as we know it), it's obvious that plays, performances and productions were there to entertain. With the use of masks prominent in Greek theatre it's clear that this form of display is used to entertain audiences with its direct depiction of comedy and tragedy. Along with insanely exciting stories of Gods, Heros and mythical monsters, which are apparent in Greek literature, it is obvious that the ancient audiences went to their sweeping amphitheatres to be entertained. But going back to ancient literature we see stories of duelling Gods, meddling villains and moral dilemmas (these stories would have certainly been translated onto stage because despite Greece's advanced civilization many still could not read). All these things are part of the ancient Greek religion, these things placed on a stage teach religion, they teach enlightenment. Thus, two and a half, even three thousand years ago we can see theatre being used in a rather rudimentary way to insight belief, raise social questions and encourage freedom of thought from everyday drudgery. ...read more.

Middle

These stories encouraged perseverance, which is a virtue; therefore in a rather roundabout way enlightenment did come through in Dark Age entertainment, but less as spiritual guidance and more as moral encouragement. These morals depicted in the shows would ultimately have been chosen and censored buy the Lord of the Manor and the soldiers commander, these morals would have always included the undisputed loyalty to the fight that was being fought. In every society there is always a factor controlling peoples motivation and movement, war, religion, money, but this factor is not always challenged and individual thought against it encouraged. As the Dark Ages moved into the Renaissance direct religious depiction in theatre was extinct; with state run religion in England now holding the people in a tight grip, the idea of someone playing God, His son or His spirit on a stage would have been a carnal sin and blasphemous beyond belief. Unlike in Greece, religion and theatre were never to meet, entertainment is indulgence and indulgence is a sin. Therefore to get a moral view across to an audience a performer had to become cleverer in his thinking and approach to this challenge, and thus large groups of touring players appeared which lead to domesticated theatre, as we know it. ...read more.

Conclusion

which progressed to: 'What can I do about society', 'Why should I do it and how'. It was Brecht who decided that it wasn't good enough merely letting an audience be entertained by observations of their society, the audience had to react to their society, it wasn't good enough to appreciate a show for it's story but take its story with you when you leave your seat. Brecht wanted his audiences to think about what they were witnessing. In the past they had watched a performance and liked it. The Greek theatregoers learned, the writers of the Renaissance thought but entertained, the audiences of Satire were intrigued but Brechtian audiences were to be inspired and moved to stamp their feet and cause a fuss, Brechtian audiences were to be moved into action. Over the ages it is apparent that theatre has been there to entertain, it is a distraction from reality to entertain an audience. Entertainment has always been theatres goal. But within this entertainment, learning, encouragement and enlightenment have been present in several forms. But what is enlightenment? It is merely the interpretation of a stimulus to add to the audiences belief of how life, the universe and everything works... this could mean anything! The only true definition of enlightenment is for an observer to connect on some level to a stimulus. That is theatres true purpose, to connect with its audience. Adam Rivers ...read more.

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